BALLINASLOE Town have a good record in Connacht Junior Cup finals and on Sunday in Milebush Park (3pm), they will be attempting to achieve a third success when they take on surprise packets Castlebar Celtic.
The East Galway side are defending a title they won in such dramatic fashion last year when a Liam Lynch goal deep in additional time gave them a 2-1 victory over Westport United.
The Roscommon League side picked up their first provincial crown in 2004 with a 2-1 victory over Manulla and in recent years have been a permanent fixture in the closing stages of the competition. Indeed, this is the fifth season in succession in which they have got to the last four or better.
As well as winning the Connacht Junior Cup in 2013, they secured a hat trick of domestic trophies, including the Premier League title for the third year in succession, but for a number of reasons, the success story of Ballinasloe Town has not been as rich this season.
Just two weeks ago, Dysart took their league title as Enda Concannon’s charges paid for a poor start to the season and finished as runners up. They made an early exit from the FAI Junior Cup, but have progressed to the Roscommon Cup final having seen off Ballaghadereen by 3-1 last Sunday.
Their path to the Connacht Junior Cup final saw them overcome Cartron United (4-0), Strand Celtic (2-0), Ballyheane (4-3 on pens), Moore United (5-1) and Corrib Celtic (3-2) with the last victory a particular test of their character.
One up early on, they found themselves reduced to ten men when central defender Mike Lynch was red carded for a last man challenge that resulted in the concession of a penalty. Matters were certainly going the way of Corrib Celtic as they led by 2-1 as the game entered the closing minutes. However late goals by Mark Duffy and Daragh Concannon allowed Ballinasloe to escape as they displayed a tremendous never say die spirit.
With the long serving Lynch out for Sunday due to an automatic suspension, the likelihood is that Des Hope will reposition from left full to central defence – just like he did that day in Annaghadown.
From an injury point of view, Gary Egan is carrying a knock and was left out of their side for the cup win at the weekend, while it is the same situation with Kenneth Kenny, who is also hopeful of taking a place in the starting eleven.
Full preview in this week’s Connacht Tribune
Galway let 11-point slip in a thrilling minor battle
IT would be a tad simplistic to dub what was a hugely entertaining Connacht minor football semi-final as a game of two halves, given that Galway led by 11 points at one stage before Roscommon stormed back to eventually claim a remarkable victory at Tuam Stadium last Saturday.
The reality is a little more nuanced, in that Galway, on their first outing of the year, impressively carved Roscommon’s defence apart with an array of stylish attacking play for a 20-minute spell while playing with the wind at their backs. Outside of that period, though, Galway would just manage to register a solitary point from play.
Roscommon also let four decent goal chances slip through their fingers before they eventually did raise a green flag, drawing two saves while also hitting the post. Critically they hit the last three points of the half to leave a slightly more manageable eight between the sides.
During Galway’s purple patch, pacy corner forwards Eanna Monaghan and Niall Mannion both left their markers chasing shadows, as Galway reeled off nine scores without reply having understandably started quite sluggishly. Goals by Sean Bermingham and Monaghan looked to have Alan Flynn’s side in the box seat, but Roscommon showed remarkable character to claw their way back despite a second half black card that threatened to stall their comeback.
However, when Robert Heneghan’s thunderous 47th minute shot hit the roof of the net while Roscommon were still a body short, the large travelling support rose the decibel levels another notch and their team responded magnificently.
Read full coverage in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie
Difficult draw for champs St Thomas’ in senior title race
COUNTY SHC champions St. Thomas’ will have it all to do to defend their crown after they were drawn in a group containing two heavy-hitters in Cappataggle and Liam Mellows – along with the team that last dumped them out of the senior championship in 2017, Killimordaly.
St. Thomas’ claimed a famous three-in-a-row last year when defeating a resurgent Turloughmore in the county decider and, while they have avoided the 2020 finalists, they have been pitted against last year’s semi-finalists Cappataggle and 2017 winners Liam Mellows.
Both Cappataggle and Liam Mellows have consistently competed at the business end of the championship in recent years, with Cappy pushing Thomas’ all the way in last year’s semi-final, with the champions just edging the contest on a 1-15 to 0-17 scoreline.
While St. Thomas’ also saw off Killimordaly by 1-23 to 2-16 in the quarter-final stage in 2020, they will still be wary of a Killimordaly outfit that dumped them out of the championship at the preliminary quarter-final stage in 2017.
In the aftermath of that defeat, Kevin Lally took over the managerial reins and in the ensuing three years St. Thomas’ cemented their status as one of the county’s top clubs with three senior championship title wins on the bounce.
Over the winter, however, there has been a change in management, with Lally and trainer TJ Ryan stepping down and former hurler Kenneth Burke, who has a growing reputation as a mentor and coach, taking over.
Burke is also a son of former manager John Burke and what he offers is a continuity from two previous managerial set-ups that have been hugely successful.
The 2021 senior and intermediate championships commence on the weekend of September 11 and 12 and, as always, they promise much.
See the full draw and analysis in Tribune Sport this week. The Connacht Tribune is now on sale in shops, or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie
Weld rolls back the years as Coltor proves best in feature
HE may be disposed as the ‘King of Ballybrit’, but Dermot Weld hasn’t lost his touch for training big-race winners at the Galway Summer Festival.
Monday’s feature – the €100,000 Connacht Hotel Amateur Handicap – saw a maximum field of 20 runners face the starter and through the stable currently dominant at Galway threw six darts at the bullseye, it was Weld who hit the target with 14/1 shot Coltor.
A second consecutive win for jockey Finian Maguire in the most prestigious event on the racing calendar for amateur riders, however, looked unlikely as one of Willie Mullins’ half-dozen challengers travelled by far the best of the field around the home turn.
The well-fancied Foveros and Aubrey McMahon had just picked off the lone UK challenger, the pace-setting Litterale Ci, leaving the six-year-old poised to give the Mullins yard a fourth win in the last five runnings of the two-mile contest.
Though hard at work on market drifter Coltor, Maguire finally got the penny to drop inside the final 100 yards and Weld’s challenger swooped close to the line to deny Foveros by the three quarters of a length.
It was Weld’s first win in Monday’s feature since the Jane Mangan partnered Midnight Music obliged in 2012, prior to which he had won the race three times in a row between 2007 and 2009. This was his eighth victory in the race as a trainer.
“It’s a lovely race to win, it has been a very lucky race for me as a trainer and I also won it four times as an amateur jockey, starting as a 15-year-old,” said Weld.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
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