Last weekend’s action on the playing fields means that the football championships on either side of the Shannon have reached the quarter-final stages. While a lot of football has yet to be played before any silverware is handed out, things have become a lot clearer, now that we have reached the knock-out stage.
One thing for sure is that we will have new champions in Westmeath as reigning champions Castledaly failed to progress from their group. In Roscommon, an under strength St Brigid’s scraped out a one point win over Western Gaels to maintain their interest in this year’s proceedings.
With the group games complete, it is Garrycastle and Coralstown/Kinnegad who topped the groups and earn a semi-final spot. Garrycastle, who won four of their five group one games, drawing with Mullingar Shamrocks, last weekend avenged their defeat in last year’s county final at the hands of Castledaly. This put an end to Castledaly’s interest in this year’s campaign.
Anthony Cunninghams men have a good mix of youth and experience. Mark McCallan, James Dolan, and Shane Mulvihill, three of the best young footballers in the county have been added to the more familiar names of Mullen, Dolan, Harte, Duignan, Henson, etc. James Dolan seems to be relishing his switch from defence to attack, chipping in with 1-1 last weekend.
Garrycastle await the winners of Tyrrellspass and Maryland, most likely Tyrrellspass. At this stage Garrycastle are my idea of the most likely winners of the Flanagan Cup this year, provided they have Dessie and Shocco on board for their remaining games. Both players have been dogged by injury again in recent times. Shocco took no part last weekend while Dessie was replaced in the second half.
The leadership provided by both of these players is vital to Garrycastle’s cause. With them on board I think it’s their title to lose.
Mullingar Shamrocks were lucky to snatch a draw against last year’s intemediate champions Maryland, last weekend. While Finbar Egan’s men deserve huge credit for their performance and for reaching this stage in their first year back in senior football, Shamrocks will know that huge improvement will be needed if they are to reach a title decider.
They now face near neighbours St Lomans in a quarter final. Shamrocks will be expected to progress to a semi-final but anything less than their best will not be good enough against a much improved St Loman’s.
Maryland are the surprise team in this year’s quarter-finals. Last year’s Underdog and intermediate champions won two and drew one of their five games. They now face Tyrrellspass in the quarter-final. The ‘Pass will be warm favourites even if they haven’t been firing on all cylinders this year, but that won’t worry the men from Drumraney who wear the underdogs tag quite comfortably.
Killucan and Bunbrosna, the bottom two teams in group one played out a draw last weekend, sending Bunbrosna into a difficult relegation match against the Downs. Bunbrosna were badly hampered by injuries and lads away travelling this year and look set to pay a heavy price.
In group two, Coralstown/Kinnegad topped the table. They await the winners of Shamrocks and St Loman’s in the semi-final. Despite losing to Athlone in round two, Colm Coyle’s men have been impressive in each of their other outings and are like a team on a mission this year. Whether they are good enough to go all the way remains to be seen, but they’ll give it a good shot.
Tyrrellspass only lost once in the group stages to Kinnegad, and with Martin Flanagan and David Glennon back on board should be too strong for Maryland in the quarters.
St Loman’s and Athlone went head to head last weekend for a place in a quarter-final. From an Athlone point of view having started the year with two wins, qualification should have been secured long before last weekend’s game. A good performance against Tyrrellspass yielded nothing while a dismal performance against The Downs deserved nothing.
On form this was a fifty/fifty game and to their credit St Loman’s, inspired by Conor Lynam and John Heslin deserved their five point win. Heslin in particular belied his youthful 17 years and looks set to have a bright future ahead of him.
Loman’s are now preparing for a showdown with Shamrocks and will push them all the way. For Athlone, a year that started so brightly ended in disappointment, and the wait for another county title continues.
St Malachy’s can count their lucky stars that the system for deciding table position was changed this year. Even though the Downs finished level on points with them and had a superior score difference, because St Malachy’s won the clash between the two teams they are safe.
The Downs for their part had a disappointing year but should avoid relegation at the expense of Bunbrosna.
The Roscommon championship has also reached the quarter-final stage. St Brigid’s, having lost to Roscommon Gaels in their opening fixture, dug out a one point win over Western Gaels on home turf last weekend to remain in the title race. They now meet St Aidan’s in the quarter-final.
Despite losing their last outing to St Faithleach’s, Padraig Pearses take on Castlerea in the quarters while Clann na nGael lock horns with Western Gaels. Faithleachs and Kilbride complete the line up for the quarter-finals.
Frank Young RIP
It was with great sadness that I, like all Gaels in the midlands, learned that Frank Young went to his eternal reward on Monday of this week. Frank had many strings to his bow, but it was through hurling with his beloved Southern Gaels that I was fortunate to get to know Frank.
A passionate hurling man, Frank was a popular and ever-present face at every game from U12 right up to intermediate, no matter where the game was or what the conditions were like. A true supporter, Frank only ever had words of encouragement to offer, even when at times the performance might have deserved a rollicking.
He helped to set up the Southern Gaels hurling club and along with a small but dedicated group managed to nurture hurling in Athlone and its surrounds since the early 1970s.
The huge turnout at his removal on Wednesday evening at St Mary’s church, and again on Thursday are testament to the high esteem he was held in by all who knew him.
Ni bheidh a leitheid ann aris.