Having narrowly missed out on promotion in 2016, the clear aim for 2017 was to get promotion to Div 1C. It was always going to be a challenge given any number of issues that can come to light in a six month campaign. There wasn’t much time to ease our way into the campaign, when faced with a home fixture against promotion contenders Killala. In an evenly matched contest the lads from Kilmeena ran out winners and we were up and running.
Then it was off to Tourmakeady a week later and in a tough uncompromising encounter, we salvaged a draw. Two games in and a steady start against tough opponents. Garrymore conceded the points in our next fixture, and then a visit to Ballintubber resulted in a comprehensive victory leaving us top of the table after the first set of league fixtures. Championship then started at the end of May and first up was Crossmolina. In the recent past, having suffered to these opponents, nothing was left to chance and a 9 point victory was a good return for a very focussed performance. Ballina was up next in the Championship campaign and they met the same fate in the face of an excellent Kilmeena performance.
Back to the bread and butter of the League, we hosted Ballycastle in a game we knew was going to be critical to our promotion hopes. We struggled for long periods, but we managed to ease out the visitors, and after we followed up with a big win in Kilfian, promotion was on the horizon at the halfway point of the campaign. Next in line was Charlestown in the Championship, and again a good solid victory was registered and top of the championship group was secured.
A few weeks later we hosted Crossmolina this time in the league, and in a stunning performance the boys in black and white ran out easy winners. This was followed up with a tough bruising encounter at Davitts, and after an excellent victory, we were on the cusp of promotion.
Going into September, and we were all set for a Championship quarter final against Ballycastle. The scene was set in Ballina and on a stormy day in a low scoring encounter we managed to rescue a draw at the death. The replay two weeks later was to prove to be the most frustrating day of the year. We were well beaten on a day when we Senior Review 2017 League Division 1D/Junior Championship (By John Doherty) seriously under performed. However, there was no time to wallow in self pity. Knockmore were coming to town in a huge promotion clash a week later, and in a sense we held our breath to see how this young team would respond. In the end there should have been no need to worry. This squad did what they always do in adversity – the response was as incisive as a surgeon’s knife, and Knockmore were put to the sword in a display full of vigour and sheer bloody mindedness. The points were secured and we stood on the brink of promotion.
A week later we were off to Ballina in our season defining game and the home lot were in no mood to facilitate our path to glory. In a game which swung back and forth, again perseverance won through and an outstanding year was capped with promotion. Now the focus was on becoming league champions and one victory in the last two games would secure the league. Kilcommin came to Kilmeena, but were no answer to the firepower of the Kilmeena men as we ran out comprehensive winners, and the league was secured. In the final game we travelled to play Charlestown, who in a senior studded lineout really gave us a game of it, which we edged through by the minimum margin. This was a serious achievement for this committed squad of players. The Championship ended in a very disappointing manner especially when the run was looking promising. However, the league campaign was exceptional in how we maintained our consistency We went through unbeaten and in the end were four league points ahead of our nearest opponents. Moving to a higher level and engaging with tougher opponents will not be beyond this squad and will be a challenge that this team will relish and enjoy in 2018.
Junior League Champions
Back Row L-R: Mickey Feeney, Jason Barry, Joey Smyth, Ross Mullin, Niall Feehan, Sean Ryder, Andrew Grealis, Stephen Staunton, Alan Ryan, Niall Ryan, Neil Duffy, John Reilly, Sean Barrett, Ronan Keane, Kevin Ryder, Patrick Golden, John Doherty and John McGlynn. Front Row L-R: Paul Groden, Declan Ryan, John Ryan, Darragh Keaveney, David Stenson, Liam Heanue, Chris Heanue, Kieran Hastings, James Keane, Jack Staunton, Pat Mulchrone, Paul Moran, Joe Ryan and Keith Joyce.