Focus on: Intermediate C’ship Section 1

Section 1 – Kilmaine, Tourmakeady, Hollymount, Killala.

TOP MAN: Kilmaine's Paul Doherty holds the key to their hopes of improving on last year's Intermediate final defeat.

TOP MAN: Kilmaine's Paul Doherty holds the key to their hopes of improving on last year's Intermediate final defeat.

LAS T year’s Intermediate losing finalists, the 2006 Intermediate champs, a team who were Senior champs fifteen years ago and last year’s County Junior champs all come together in what we thought would be a hard group to predict.

But our predictions have been aided by the fact that this is the only senior or intermediate group to have got up and running courtesy of Kilmaine’s clash with Tourmakeady last Saturday. If we’re being honest we thought Tourmak’ would win that but Kilmaine won, and at a canter – 1-13 to 0-6.

It was going to be hard to judge how Kilmaine would bounce back from last year’s Intermediate final defeat – where they nearly caused a massive upset against Aghamore – but this result indicates they are in rude health.

They lost the management team credited with so much last year – Norman O’Brien and David Loughlin left in the winter – and newspaper reports seemed to suggest a club at odds with itself.

League form appeared to confirm that with Kilmaine rooted to the bottom of Division 1C, losing three of their four games against Kiltimagh, Achill and Islandeady and their only point coming from a draw with Louisburgh.

STILL GOING STRONG: Eight years after leading Mayo to NFL glory, Noel Connelly is still going strong for Hollymount.

STILL GOING STRONG: Eight years after leading Mayo to NFL glory, Noel Connelly is still going strong for Hollymount.

Tourmak’ were going altogether better in Division 1B with only one defeat from four games. But, like Fermanagh showed against Down in the Ulster championship last week, league form has a habit of making an ass of your predictions.

So it transpired in Tourmakeady on Saturday night.

Kilmaine, of course, haven’t become a bad team overnight. In Paul Doherty they have one of the best club players around. He’s on the Mayo Junior team and so are his club colleagues Frank Burke and Derek O’Dea.

Of course Kilmaine have to cope without their two best known players of the recent past. Pat Kelly is playing with Castlebar Mitchels after a stint with St Vincent’s in Dublin while Brian Maloney, to the best of our knowledge, is still with Vincent’s.

Are they capable of going on a similar run to last year? Perhaps. They certainly have got through what looked on paper like the most difficult of their three games.

Tourmakeady would have been our favourites to qualify on top of this group at the outset but that was thrown on its head on Saturday evening and how. They do have the blessing of having their next two games at home but you get the feeling the Naughtons, Prendergasts and Heneghan’s will have to get through a lot of work in the interim period.

So where do Hollymount and Killala fit in? Killala have finally made it to Intermediate after knocking on the door for what seems like an eternity. I don’t see them challenging for the title by any means but they could cause a headache or two in this group.

They’re not helped by being in a low league division – 1D – not ideal preparation for this group. The Hannicks – Marcus and Rory – are their best known players but guys like Karl and Pat Dooher, Noel Ryan and a young player in Andrew Farrell are good players too.

And Hollymount? They’ve fallen from their senior perch and, unlike their parish partners Garrymore, haven’t a great collection of players coming through at underage. The sooner they amalgamate with Carramore – whom they play underage with as St Gerard’s – the better for both clubs.

They’ll hold their own at Intermediate. Noel and Ray Connelly are still going strong. Clifford Connolly is one of their talented younger players while John Healy is a young player with potential.

Kilmaine, in spite of their impressive win over Tourmak’, are not guaranteed success next time out with a trip to take on arch rivals and neighbours Hollymount in the Saucer. That, my friends, will not be one for the faint hearted.

Tourmakeady may, and we’re not putting a fortune on it, take care of Killala in the other round 2 all of which will leave a huge game by the shores of Lough Mask when Hollymount travel to the Gaeltacth for the final group game.

Again, don’t come near the ground if you have any heart problems. We trust, that by then, Tourmakeady may be able to look something more like the team of hold and will hold off Holly’. But if there’s one thing Noel Connelly and Co like, its a challenge. Interesting times await.

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