Provincial junior campaign leaves Mayo champions Lahardane with familiar trip to Castlebar
Lahardan MacHales will make a familiar trip to Hastings Insurance MacHale Park, Castlebar, on Sunday (November 19) for a clash in the AIB Connacht junior football championship semi-final against Galway champions Menlough, writes Caoimhín Rowland.
The throw-in time at the county town venue is 1 p.m.
For the Nephinsiders it will be a chance to repeat 2017’s successes when, under the management of John Maughan, the black and amber won the Connacht junior championship after capturing the Mayo title.
The opposition on Sunday will be fearsome, as this is a Menlough side who dismantled rivals Clonbur in the Galway junior final by a wide margin, 3-14 to 0-4. Neill McHugh’s side followed on from that impressive win to beat Tuam Stars in the junior promotion playoff.
Sunday will mark the Galway side's fourth game in as many weeks, while Lahardane have been resting and recuperating since their afternoon in the sun against Shrule/Glencorrib.
Dangerman Mark Noone, who scored two goals on county final day, will need to be on top form for Menlough. Noone has been a revelation at wing-forward for Lahardane. His speed and link-up play with Adrian Leonard is second to none and with club stalwart Barry Leonard leading the defensive charge, this is a side that knows what it takes to win a Connacht junior championship.
The older men are ably assisted by a younger generation of players, and with Dara Walsh, Kyran Jordan, Matthew Maughan and Kieran Lynn in the ranks, there is a sense of enthusiasm coming from the parish of Addergoole.
Menlough, just like Lahardane, were recently an intermediate club. Robert Hughes is one of the north Galway side's most experienced and prolific stars and has achieved something of cult status, his Maurice Fitzgerald-esque outside-of-the-boot slicer in Tuam Stadium in 2006 having been recently been uploaded online.
Still a consistent free-taker for his club, Lahardane will need to reduce any opportunities for the wily Hughes to notch scores from dead ball opportunities. Hughes scored five in the Galway junior county final against Clonbur.
Another player to keep an eye out for is Donal Loftus, who has been scoring for fun in big games for his club.
Menlough are the more physical of the two sides, but Lahardane enjoy playing on the wide expanse of Hastings Insurance MacHale Park.
However, on a soggy afternoon – as Sunday is expected to be – and following a three-week break from action, it might just be the Galway men who advance to the final.