Davitts to pose stiff test to Gaels Connacht ambitions

The games are coming thick and fast for Melvin Gaels but the Leitrim Intermediate champions will hope to continue their winning ways next Sunday when they take on Mayo side Davitt’s in the Provincial Club Championship in Pairc Sean Mac Diarmada at 2.30 pm.

The games are coming thick and fast for Melvin Gaels but the Leitrim Intermediate champions will hope to continue their winning ways next Sunday when they take on Mayo side Davitt’s in the Provincial Club Championship in Pairc Sean Mac Diarmada at 2.30 pm.

By John Connolly

The Kinlough men booked their place in the Gallogly Catering Division One Final last Sunday to finish the year unbeaten in club competitions in the county and they will want to continue that record when the Mayo men come to Carrick on Sunday.

Carrying a lot of injuries into the game against Coolaney Mullinabreena, Melvin Gaels didn’t look like a team under pressure as they produced a superlative first half display to wipe the Sligo men out of the game. Now, there were some cavets on the victory, mainly that Coolaney had just eight day to prepare for the game and once the first goal went in, their level of interest greatly dipped.

Davitts will be a very different proposition – their won the Mayo Intermediate crown for the first time in 30 years when over-coming favourites Burrishole who had County star Jason Doherty in their ranks.

But Davitts, chosing to play with the wind in the first half, built up a seven point lead at the break and then showed tremendous resilience to snatch the victory with two late points after Burrishole levelled with less than three minutes left to play.

Two points in the dying moments gave Davitts a famous 0-14 to 0-12 victory and for a side that have only lost twice this year, the self-belief in the Davitts team will seen them come to Carrick next Sunday more than confident.

Indeed, the words of Mayo captain Michael Conroy after the Mayo Final will have plenty of resonance for next Sunday - “We always had the players, of that there was no question. It was just to get it together. We weren’t afraid. There’s no man in that dressing room afraid of anybody, we don’t mind who we’re playing.”

And in many ways, Davitts seem to have the same characteristics of Melvin Gaels, even down to a reputation for toughness and you can be sure that they won’t take a step back on Sunday as Conroy revealed after the Mayo Final - “We had a reputation down through the years for being tough and rugged and, maybe at times dirty but we can play football too and we showed it today.”

No more than Melvin Gaels showed in their Leitrim campaign, Davitts showed the ability to turn in a pulsating half of football and then enduring tough physical challenges and the Mayo men will be difficult and searching opposition.

Conroy is one of the main men for Davitts, scoring five points in the first half of the Mayo Final and all but one from play but they also had strong performances around the middle of the field from centre-back Colm Boyle, midfielders Ronan McNamara & Paul Carey and centre forward David McDonagh.

One area that Melvin Gaels will seek to exploit is running with the ball at the Davitt’s defence after Burrishole made a lot of ground that way in the Mayo final, something Paul Brennan, Mulligan, Peter McGowan and so many others on the Gaels line-up are capable of doing to great effect.

Former Galway selector Pete Warren from Tuam is managing the Mayo men and no more than the effect Billy Gavigan has had on Melvin Gaels, Warren seems to have infused his team with confidence and a bit of steel under pressure.

One area that Melvin Gaels will seek to exploit is running with the ball at the Davitt’s defence after Burrishole made a lot of ground that way in the Mayo final, something Paul Brennan, Mulligan, Peter McGowan and so many others on the Gaels line-up are capable of doing to great effect.

Melvin Gaels will welcome Shane Ryan back into their defence but such was the dominance of their back-line against Coolaney that it must be tempting for Billy Gavigan not to break up the defence.

The main switch was bringing Paul Brennan back into the half-back line and it paid huge dividends as Brennan’s engine and enormous work-rate was seen to great effect with charging runs down the wing that Coolaney weren’t able to deal with.

A similar switch in the County Final against Gortletteragh transformed Melvin Gaels and Brennan in defence could be the big difference.

Peter McGowan also made a big impression as a starter and as a sub in the last two games and if he can combine with Mulligan, Brendan Brennan and David McSharry, Melvin Gaels are capable of running up big scores against anyone.

The favourites tag is not something that Leitrim team enjoy but Melvin Gaels have privately been targetting a Connacht title all year and given how impressed neutral observers were after their demolition of Coolaney, it is a tag they will have to get used to, to embrace and use if they are to win a first Connacht Club title for the county.

So impressive are they that it is hard to see how they will be stopped and while Davitts should be a stiffer challenge next Sunday, Melvin Gaels look more than good enough to seal their place in the Connacht Final just a week later on Sunday, November 6.