Tourlestrane can cause upset
As expected Tourlestrane will face Castlebar Mitchells in their Connacht Semi-final in MacHale Park next Sunday after the Mayo side navigated their quarter final over Leitrim winners Mohill.
On paper this looks like a Castlebar win but on closer examination they are without five key players that backboned the team in their last Connacht win 2 years ago particularly the Feeneys and Tom Cunniffe who played for New York against Sligo this summer.
In last weekend's game Castlebar was expected to be convincing winners over Mohill, however the Leitrim side were on course for one of the biggest shocks in Connacht club football when level going into the last quarter of the game but the experience of Castlebar came through.
Last Saturday's game will be a cause for concern for Castlebar however, as they struggled to overcome a team that they should have accounted for convincingly knowing now that they will be playing a superior battled hardened team in Tourlestrane.
These sides met at the quarter final stage last year when Castlebar were winners by 8 points in a game that Tourlestrane looked like they were playing a game of damage limitation, only scoring five points.
So, what's different since this time last year?
1. Tourlestrane's confidence will be high after winning the first two-in-a-row in Sligo football in nearly thirty years,
2. Liam Gaughan is a huge plus for the Sligo winners and is the most exciting player in the county at the moment,
3. County player Noel Gaughan is available this time after being suspended for last year's game,
4. Johnny Kelly is at the top of his game this year as he only came on as a late substitution last year as a black card replacement with time nearly up,
5. Tourlestrane are a settled team who won the Connacht League earlier this year and stick to their game plan that they have perfected this year,
6. Castlebar albeit an excellent side are a tired team who have been to the forefront of Mayo football winning 4 out of the last 5 county titles and are after coming off an exhausting Championship playing week in week out including mid-week games, this was demonstrated when struggling against the Leitrim winners last weekend.
All the above indicates that Tourlestrane have an opportunity to reach a Connacht Final this year, but if they are to do this, they will have to improve in their full back line.
I felt was very vulnerable against Eastern Harps in the County Final, as this is a strength area for Castlebar with Neil Douglas the main threat which also sees Barry Moran drifting into that area getting vital goals over the years in these types of games.
They will also have to limit the threat of Paddy Durkin who I believe is one of the top footballers in the country at bringing the ball from back to front getting in behind the game line setting up and executing vital scores.
If I was putting out a team to play Castlebar I would sacrifice a player to eliminate his threat such is his influence on a game.
Another area of concern is the Tourlestrane kick out which Harps targeted to good success in the final and will need to be improved on if they are to prevail.
Ball retention will also be vital, an area that Tourlestrane are normally competent but they will be disappointed at the amount of ball they coughed up cheaply in the county final and a repeat of this will hand the initiative to Castlebar.
While dominating the Sligo club championship winning ten titles since 1994, they have not made an impression in Connacht in that they haven't at the least contested a final, and while they will be underdogs for Sunday's game, I feel there is an opportunity as there is no pressure on them going into the 'lion's den' of MacHale Park, where all the pressure will be on their illustrious opponents.
Throw-in is 2pm.