Corofin the team to beat in 2017 county championship

The 2017 county senior football championship kicks off tonight (Thursday ) in Pearse Stadium when city side St Michael's take on Leitir Mór, followed by nine more senior ties scheduled for the weekend.

Corofin, aiming for a potential five-in-a-row of senior county championships this season, are understandably colossal odds-on favourites to win the Frank Fox Cup next autumn.

Kevin O'Brien's charges, who were easily outgunned last February in the All-Ireland semi-final, are 1/3 to regain the county title.

Their nearest challengers, according to the bookies, are Mountbellew-Moylough, who are under the guidance of former Moycullen manager Michael Donnellan, and are available at 10/1.

The other possible contenders according to the money men are Salthill-Knocknacarra, Tuam Stars and Annaghdown, who are all priced at 14/1 to end Corofin's reign.

It is only early May and there is a long road ahead for the eventual winners, but most GAA supporters in the county will be rooting for an underdog to come out of the chasing pack and surprise us with a new name on the county cup next October.

Based on what we have seen over the past few years, and with the quality of forwards at Corofin's disposal that would appear unlikely.

However, that same was said about Kerry in 1982 when they were on the back of four All-Ireland successes and boiling hot favourites to collect another title, and Offaly softened their cough that September.

We will just have to wait and see if Corofin have the hunger, desire, and strength in depth to go on and challenge for another title. Or is there a fresh ambitious club side out there to take them down this summer?

St Michael's v Leitir Mór

Thursday (11 May ) 7.45pm Pearse Stadium

It is good to see two club sides prepared to play a championship game away from the customary weekend fixtures.

St Michael's is a hard working and progressive club with some top club men and women who put in many long hours and show great commitment to keep the club punching hard for GAA in a city where there is a lot of competition for young people's energy and time.

The senior team still has a good few stalwarts down the middle, such as Alan Glynn, Frank Daly, Eddie Hoare, Jamie Downes, Greg Rogan and county forward Eamon Brannigan.

It will be interesting to see if, or where, county hurler John Hanbury will play this evening too.

Leitir Mór, to be captained by big Ferdia Breathnach, can also call on the Padraig Marc O' Fatharta and Eamonn Ó Loinsigh.

However, county U21 star Seán Andy O' Ceallaigh, who is Stateside, will be a big loss to any club side.

Hard to look past the city side.

Verdict: St Michael's

St James v Caltra

Sunday 3pm Kenny Park

The city side has been doing well in recent weeks with some good league form.

Terry O'Regan is the gaffer again this season and he will be looking for big performances on Sunday from county midfielder Paul Conroy and his former Galway teammate Johnny Duane.

The Jimmies have a good few other accomplished players such as Eoin Concannon, Mike Elwood, Tommy Walsh, Alan Deacy, and dual player Owen Teagle, and when they click, they are difficult to beat.

Caltra are still looking to Galway's Michael Meehan for inspiration up front and there will be a few neutrals in attendance in Athenry to run the rule over the current Galway panellist.

Manager Gabriel Naughton is a good character and he will have them in good fettle with Brian Kilroy and Brian Laffey still donning the club colours. If Caltra can call on the two Mannions - Cathal and Padraig - for championship action, it would be a huge boost to them.

However, assuming that those two men are unavailable, a St James' win looks the more likely.

Verdict: St James

Salthill-Knocknacarra v Milltown

Sunday 3.45pm Tuam Stadium

In the first of an attractive double header at Tuam Stadium, Val Daly’s Salthill-Knocknacarra, who were narrowly beaten in last year’s county final, are expected be too strong for a Milltown team that is still overly dependent on Diarmuid Blake, Mark Hehir, Darren Mullahy, James Kavanagh, Cathal Blake and Micheal Martin.

Milltown have struggled to unearth a few new gems over the past few seasons and it will be interesting to see what difference new manager Dessie Dolan (senior ) will make over the coming weeks and months.

The city men will look to Seán Armstrong, Marcus McDonnacha and Robert Finnerty to provide them with a scoring edge up front.

Other players such as Gavin Duffy, Barry Kelly, Conor Halloran and Conor Healy are all experienced campaigners and will be keen to go one better in 2017 than they did last October.

In the second game at Tuam on Sunday (5.30pm ), Cortoon Shamrocks will try to stop Corofin.

Cortoon will look to quality players such as the Varley twins, Martin Boyle, David Finnergan, Joe Donnellan and Donal O’Neill to produce big performances, but it is unlikely they will have the defence to stop all Corofin’s options up front.

Verdict: Salthill-Knocknacarra

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