Posts Tagged ‘#GAA Blog’

FBD Connaught League: Leitrim v Mayo, Ballinamore, 2pm, Ref: S. Hehir (Galway)

BALLINAMORE in January. Is there a more a glamorous phrase in the English language? For die-hard Mayo and Leitrim fans, the answer is probably not.

The excitement around tomorrow’s game and the inter-provincial leagues in general seems slightly more heightened this year, maybe due to increased coverage (mainly online), the host of new managers on the scene or possibly a certain interview that was published during the week.

Whatever the reason, this is the time of year for optimism whatever county you call home. Judging from the results of the MayoGaaBlog poll on Mayo’s prospects this year, we are not lacking in that department.

A continuation of this optimism will be partially dependent on the emergence of two or three realistic challengers for starting positions before the trip to Salthill in May.

This time last year Colm Boyle hadn’t featured for Mayo in nearly three years. Renewed by Davitts run to the Intermediate All – Ireland, he got his chance against Leitrim in Ballyhaunis and went on to be one of the stars of the championship. This is the kind of opportunity the FBD league provides.

Here are just four of the players who will be looking to make a similar impact tomorrow.

Keith Rogers –The Ballaghderreen man was named in the line up to face Leitrim in the FBD league last year but didn’t start that game. The 2009 minor should get his opportunity this year on the back of his driving performances from centre-back for the county champions. Kept Alan Dillon quiet in the county final and still had time to get forward and kick a point. Not too shabby at all.

Michael Walsh – James Horan’s inclusion of the likes of Walsh, Micheal Forde (Sligo IT) and Conor O’Shea in the squad over the last two years will hopefully start to reap some rewards in 2013. A former champion boxer from Ardnaree, you could say Walsh is conditioned to play with a slight competitive edge, whether from corner back or in a more advanced position. His inspirational performance in the drawn Junior County Final was proof, if needed, why Horan thinks so highly of him.

Evan Regan – Regan is another of the young brigade who will have benefited from his involvement last year, especially in terms of strength and conditioning. He will certainly get his chance in an attack that is a crying out for a free scoring forward. A relative veteran for his age with nearly two years of senior football behind him, this could be the year his talent reaches the county stage.

Barry Regan – After the injury to Andy Moran, fears that Mayo would struggle without a genuine ball winner in the full-forward line became a reality in the All – Ireland final; a player with a physical presence like Barry Regan could be an option. Well able to win his own ball and with a huge boot, the top scorer in the Mayo championship certainly deserves a shot.

Who do you think will be the players to force their way into the reckoning this year? Feel free to comment below.

SO one month and two days since that day in Croke Park, a line will be finally drawn under Championship 2012 with the naming of this year’s All-Stars. Since way back in 19-dickity-2 when Johnny Carey (what a name) wrote his name into Mayo GAA history by becoming Mayo’s first All – Star, people have questioned the rationale behind the selection process.

The critics out there point to the exclusion of some of the greats of the game who were never acknowledged as one of the reasons to question the merit of the All-Stars, and there have been cases in recent times of players being picked on criteria only known by the selection committee.

If the rumour mill is correct, Dillon, Cafferkey, Higgins and Keegan will be the Mayo players to pick up awards. If this proves to be correct and Kevin McLoughlin and to a lesser extent Barry Moran are not honoured, then those critics will have a fairly compelling argument.

Whatever happens shouldn’t detract from anything that rewards players (think Christy Ring and Nicky Rackard All – Star winners) who deserve every accolade they get and much more.

So let’s see what happens before we get too riled up and for the winners I say cars, women and drugs (not the bad Lance Armstrong ones) for everyone; no money though, must keep things amateur.

Here’s my selection;

 

Paul Durcan – David Clarke undoubtedly made the save of the summer  from Bernard Brogan, but it was Durcan consistency and pinpoint kickouts throughout the summer that set him apart and gave Donegal such a strong platform.

Keith Higgins – He always had the pace and the attacking instincts but this year the Ballyhaunis man added a physicality that has brought him to a new level. One of the main reasons Mayo managed to recover their composure in the final.

Ger Cafferkey  – You might say it’s strange to pick two of the full back line that was so brutally exposed in the opening moments of the final but Caff deserves to be there. Only when you see him live do you appreciate what a tight marker he is. Classy footballer, hopefully will be there for years.

Neil McGee – Great year for the Gweedore man who’s been om the scene since 2005. Huge physical presence, his direct opponents rarely troubled him all year.

Frank McGlynn – Could have just as easily stuck him in the full forward line. A player who sums up the McGuinness era and who without the Donegal style, would never have flourished the way he has. Great defender, he also scored a not so shabby 1-4 in the championship.

Karl Lacey – The man who held the ball at the final whistle of the final game. He’s been on the scene for a long time; centre back has allowed him to exert the influence on the game that his talent demands.

Lee Keegan – A tossup between Keegan and Boyle. Scored a crucial point in the Connacht Final and came back from a horrific semi-final injury to inspire in the final.

Neil Gallagher – When everyone was talking about Aidan Walsh and Alan O’Connor in the build up to the semi – final, Gallagher thought them both a lesson in mid-field play and he continued that form into the final. Gallagher led the renaissance in high fielding this summer.

Barry Moran – Three man of the match performances against Leitrim, Sligo and Down. Was exceptional against Dublin where a big catch near the end lifted the siege. Disappointing in the final but should have done enough in previous games.

Kevin McLoughlin – Mayo’s best player all year. His importance was highlighted even more with the loss of Andy Moran. Work rate, intelligent use of possession and a lethal finisher. One of the most natural footballers in the game.

Paul Flynn – In a flat and un-motivated side Flynn was the stand-out performer. Scored heavily this year, his point in the second half of the semi – final was a highlight.

Mark Mc Hugh – McHugh is the pin-up boy of McGuinness’s regime. His foraging back in front of his own full-back line was the catalyst for so many of Donegal’s attacks. His immense fitness also allowed him to contribute handsomely to attack.

Michael Murphy – All the talk last year was of Murphy sacrificing his star quality for the sake of the system. This year he was back nearer to goal and realised his star potential in the All – Ireland final.

Colm McFadden – The Championship’s top scorer with 4-32. McFadden was a constant threat all year and performed on the biggest days. Should deservedly win player of the year.

Colm O’Neill – Recovered from last year’s injuries to show again what a brilliant player he is. In a year where Cork promised so much, a probable return of just one All – Star sums up a disappointing year.

Player of the Year: Colm McFaddan

Young Player of the Year: Paddy McBrearty

 

And Finally…

While presumably the Donegal team have been single-handedly raising Diageo’s share price, the relentless world of the GAA keeps moving on. From all accounts, Donie Buckley seems like a real addition and will give the squad a boost after the initial disappointment of Cian O’Neill’s departure. It’s Kerry in the first round of the league and before you know it we’ll be below in Salthill with the wonderful hope of a long summer spread out in front of us.

Ballaghderreen 1-9 Ballintubber 0-4

 

BALLAGHDERREEN put pay to Ballintubber’s bid for a historic three in a row with a comprehensive eight point win over the reigning champions. In truth it should’ve been so much more, Ballaghderreen setting the tone for their display in a first half where they dominated Ballintubber physically.

Five first half frees from Barry Regan, two of them monstrous kicks from over 50 yards, were pivotal in the end with Ballintubber struggling to find a free taker to replace the absent Cillian O’ Connor. In fact Ballintubber failed to convert any of their place kicks throughout the game with Padraig O’Connor, his replacement Darragh Sommerville and finally a semi concussed Alan Dillon failing to convert relatively simple chances.

Of all the forwards on show it was the aforementioned Regan who was the only one to catch the public and presumably James Horan’s, in an otherwise underwhelming game. Regan, who has had a brief flings with the county panel before, was a real physical presence in the inside line, while his ability to lick long-range frees gives him something few other players in Mayo possess.

Keith Rogers was a driving force from centre back for Ballagh’ and placed Alan Dillon on the back foot from the start. Dillon did score a trademark beauty in the first half but never fully got to grips with the game and his day ended early through an unfortunate clash of heads.

Midfield was an area that Ballintubber would have expected to dominate with county boys Gibbons and Geraghty. Things didn’t work out as planned though, with David Kilcullen and goal scorer Barry Kelly dominating the jaded pair and reminding everyone they too were once considered county class.

Once an early second half flourish by Ballintubber petered out with the withdrawal of Dillon, the Ballaghderreen pressure was relentless. Wing back Drake missed horribly of the post when he broke through the cover but it didn’t prove the turning point that it could have been.

After two historic county titles in a row, Ballintubber had nothing more to give. Kelly’s goal and two final points from Rory Conway and David Kilcullen sealed Ballaghderreen’s deserved third county final, moving them to 7th in the overall standings level with Hollymount, Ballycastle and their East Mayo rivals Charlestown.

 

Man of the Match: Barry Regan – This game more than any showed the importance of a good free taker. Regan hit some huge points in the first half that gave Ballagh’ the platform for their win.

BALLAGHADERREEN: O Flanagan; S Drake; P Rogers; T Regan; P Kelly; K Rogers (0-1); D Drake; B Kelly (1-0); J Kilcullen; D Kilcullen (0-1, 45); A Hanley; S Finn; O Jordan; B Regan (0-5, five frees), J Dillon (0-1). Subs: C Doohan for T Regan (39 mins); R Conway (0-1) for J Dillon (25); B Solan for Finn (59).

BALLINTUBBER: B Walsh; L Tunney; Hallinan; P Earley; M Kelly; E Earley; R O’Connor; D Geraghty; J Gibbons (0-1); D Coleman; A Dillon (0-1); M Hoban; D McGing (0-1); D O’Connor; P O’Connor. Subs: J Duffy for M Hoban (28 mins); D Sommerville for P O’Connor (h-t); A Plunkett (0-1) for Dillon (50); K McGuinness for D O’Connor (55).

 

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KILTANE finally lost their fight to retain their senior status on Sunday afternoon with a 13 point defeat to Ballina in Knockmore. David Brady’s intervention clearly had the desired effect on the players for whom the fear of being first Stephenites team to be relegated from senior level in 114 years of club football should have been enough inspiration.

For Kiltane, it’s a sad end to a season that was looking so promising when they were unfortunate to lose out in the final of the Comortas Peile na Gaeltachta back in June. Cill Seadhna is as proud a club as there is and their achievement in remaining senior for so long against the odds, is a testament to the battling qualities of the Bangor men.

Yesterday’s result means that there will be no senior football played in Erris in 2013. It’s been a bad week all round for the barony with Cill Chomain returning to Junior after six years in the Intermediate ranks. Every club has been ravaged by emigration but it’s fair to say that clubs in the northern and western extremities of our county have been hurt the most. On the bright side, this could mean the revival of some tasty North Mayo derbies in the shape of Kiltane v Belmullet and Cill Chomain v Ballycastle, in Championship 2013. Oh and I suppose good news also for Shrule/Glencorrib; no more four hour round trips.

 

All-Ireland MFC Semi-Final: Meath 2-10 Mayo 1-11 

 

WITH five minutes of the second half gone, Michael Plunkett made a lung bursting run from corner back deep into the Meath half. As he drew the defence, Ballinrobe’s James Quinn moved inside the cover, took the pass from Plunkett and  blasted the ball over the bar.

The goal was on but at that stage a point seemed like a satisfactory result. It moved Mayo seven points clear and was an defiant response to losing two of their most influential forwards, Eoghan Lavin and Sean Regan, through a sickening clash of heads moments earlier.

In a game where Mayo rode their luck in the opening minutes to an alarming degree, that point and the loss of Lavin and Regan signalled the reversal of that good fortune. Inexplicably, Mayo failed to score for the next 28 minutes, by which stage Meath had plundered 2-4 and deservedly moved into a decisive lead.

The game was only a couple of seconds old when a long ball into the Mayo half was narrowly flicked wide of the post by James McEntee. This set the trend for the next ten minutes with first O’Sullivan and then full forward Stephen Coogan, foiled by the crossbar and goalkeeper Michael O’Malley.

It was an extraordinary ten minutes that should have seen Meath already home and dry but instead ended up with Mayo leading by three points thanks to some economical forward play, the pick of the points coming from the impressive Sean Regan.

It took Meath until the 17th minute to get on the board, but true to their opening form this was quickly followed by a bad wide from the otherwise brilliant Cillian O’Sullivan. Meath’s ineptitude in front of goal seemed to encourage Mayo and they began to establish themselves in the game.  After Eoghan Lavin did well at centre field, a move involving Adam Gallagher and James Quinn ended with Diarmuid O’Connor squeezing the ball over the line.

Patrick Durcan was pushing forward all day and he got his reward with a point to push Mayo ahead by seven points for the first time. Gallagher was Mayo’s driving force and inspiration, while the full back line, in particular Gerathy and Moran were showing a propensity and worryingly, a need for coming up with last-ditch tackles.

Meath had closed the gap to four at the break but by five minutes of the second half it was out to seven again thanks to two points from Gallagher. That was to be as good as it got for Mayo as Meath gradually began to peg them back, with Cillian O’Sullivan causing huge problems for the Mayo defence and Ward unerring from place balls.

On a perfect day for football, a deftness of touch evaded both sides. In the end it was Mayo who were the sloppier, in particular their lack of precision in working the ball out of defence, which proved fatal in the end. It was a turnover that allowed Cillian O’Sullivan to reduce the gap to three points with six minutes remaining, before the crucial score of the game moments later.

As the recovered Sean Regan went to collect a looping pass near the sideline, he was blatantly pushed out of play by Patrick Kelly. However, no whistle came and despite Mayo regaining possesion, another lose pass out of defence was severely punished by O’Sullivan who broke through, his low shot ricocheting of the diving Adam Gallagher’s legs. The foot/leg block lacked intent or malice but the penalty was awarded. Fiachra Ward’s spot kick was Mendieta–esque in its tame trajectory, but it deceived O’Malley and glanced of him into the corner to draw Meath level.

In the end when Meath’s winner came there was a sense of the inevitable about it. As the game moved into injury time, Pauric Harran, who was influential all day, drove through the middle and after a scramble, the ball fell into the path of substitute Paddy Kennelly who smashed it home. Stephen Coen pulled one back at the death; it was Mayo’s first score in 28 minutes. If ever a statistic told the story of a game.

 

Man of the Match: Cillian O’Sullivan – The man from Moynalvey was a constant thorn in the Mayo side and spearheaded Meath’s comeback. Scored two points but was involved in many more.

Meath Scorers: Fiachra Ward (1-3), Patrick Kennelly (1-0), Jason Daly (0-2), Cillian O’Sullivan (0-2), Pauric Harnan (0-1), James McEntee (0-1), Ruairi O Coileain (0-1)

Mayo Scorers: Diarmuid O’Connor (1-0), Adam Gallagher (0-3), Stephen Coen (0-2), Eoghan Lavin (0-2), Sean Regan (0-1), Shane Hennelly (0-1), Patrick Durcan (0-1), James Quinn (0-1)

MEATH: Robert Burlingham (Simonstown Gaels); Declan Smyth (Dunsany), Brian Power (Ratoath), Shane Gallagher (Simonstown Gaels); Conor Carton (Donaghmore/Ashbourne), Shane McEntee (St Peter’s Dunboyne/Kilbride), Seamus Lavin (St Peter’s Dunboyne/Kilbride); Pauric Harnan (Jenkinstown Gaels), Adam Flanagan (Clonard); Cillian O’Sullivan (Jenkinstown Gaels), Jason Daly (St Peter’s Dunboyne/Kilbride), James McEntee (St Vincent’s/Curraha); Barry Dardis (Summerhill), Stephen Coogan (Dunderry), Fiachra Ward (Wolfe Tones).

MAYO: Conor O’Malley (Westport); Joe Geraghty (Ballintubber), Sean Moran (Kiltimagh), Michael Plunkett (Ballintubber); Patrick Durcan (Castlebar Mitchels), Cian Burke (Ardnaree Sarsfields), Kevin Lynch (Mayo Gaels); Brian Mullen (Westport), Adam Gallagher (Mayo Gaels); Eoghan Lavin (Kiltimagh), Stephen Coen (Hollymount/Carramore), Diarmuid O’Connor (Ballintubber); James Quinn (Ballinrobe), Sean Regan (Ballina Stephenites), Shane Hennelly (Shrule/Glencorrib).

REFEREE: Fergal Barry