With the final round of group games in this year’s Shay Murtagh SFC down for decision this weekend there are a host of intriguing contests on the cards. Come Sunday evening the line-up for this year’s knock-out stages will be sorted out.
With both groups delicately poised there is a lot at stake for most teams when they cross the white line this weekend.
In group one Athlone and Killucan will battle it out in Moate at 6.45pm on Sunday. The winner will go straight to the semi-final while the loser will contest a quarter-final. Killucan under the guidance of former Westmeath stars Dermot Brady and Aidan Lennon were hugely impressive in their last outing against Maryland. Athlone for our part will have to show significant improvement from our Kinnegad performance if we are to take the direct route to a semi-final.
A large crowd is expected when Tubberclare and Maryland lock horns in a winner takes all contest in Pairc Chiarain, Athlone on Saturday at 6.45pm. The prize on offer is third place in the group and more importantly a valuable quarter-final spot.
Finbar Egan’s Maryland have lost a bit of form recently having tasted defeat in their last two outings while Tubberclare have surprised many by beating Kinnegad and drawing with last year’s beaten finalists St Loman’s. With that said form goes out the window in a dog-eat-dog game like this.
Both sides have their share of injury concerns ahead of the game but Tubberclare are hoping to be able to call on the services of Fergal Wilson if needed at some stage on Saturday.
This game is sure to go down to the wire but I expect Tubberclare’s greater firepower up front to swing things in their favour.
At the bottom of group one St Loman’s and Coralstown/Kinnegad battle it out to avoid a relegation contest. A draw would be good enough for Kinnegad but Loman’s must secure both points on offer to avoid a relegation play-off. In a difficult game to call, St Loman’s might just be able to secure their first win of the season.
In group two, Mullingar Shamrocks and Garrycastle battle it out for top spot in Cusack Park at 6.45pm on Saturday evening. The reigning champions will be without the services of the recently married Dessie Dolan and his brother Gary who underwent surgery recently. Shamrocks have been without the services of Kieran Gavin and Denis Coroon for much of the summer and if they are available it would be a significant boost. Even without them I think Shamrocks could upset the odds here.
Castledaly, The Downs, and Tyrrellspass are all fighting it out for third spot. Castledaly need to beat Tyrrellspass on Saturday to be sure of qualifying. On recent form however I expect Tyrrellspass to claim the spoils here. Tyrrellspass need to win and hope that The Downs slip up against St Malachy’s if they are to qualify. I don’t expect The Downs to do them any favours.
St Malachy’s are already consigned to relegation worries and will find the going tough in their last group outing against The Downs.