Just three weeks after failing in their bid to be crowned All-Ireland Club Champions Garrycastle are back in action this weekend as the first round of the senior club championship gets under way.
The reigning champions are still very much the team to beat and it will be a tall order to stop them from making it four in a row. Mullingar Shamrocks would seem the team most likely to bring their winning run to an end but one could not rule out St Loman’s chances either. One talking point ahead of the championship is the players who won’t be taking part this year due to emigration. It is a sign of the economic climate that every club in the county has been adversely affected, some more than others.
With a break of seven or eight weeks between the first and second round it is vital to get off to a winning start and every team will be hoping to hit the ground running this weekend.
The action begins on Friday with two games down for decision. Bunbrosna take on Coralstown/Kinnegad in Shandonagh at 7pm. Bunbrosna enjoyed a narrow win over the Downs in their last league outing but Jack Cooney’s side will be determined to mark their return to senior ranks with a win and should just about manage to do so.
Also on Friday Maryland take on St Malachy’s in Ballymore at 7pm. Maryland are favourites to take the spoils here and with Callum McCormack and Kieran Martin in their ranks they should have enough firepower to do so but they can expect a determined challenge from an improving St Malachy’s side.
Cusack Park will host a double header of games on Saturday and Sunday evenings. Killucan and Castledaly go toe to toe at 5.15pm on Saturday. Derek Heavin’s Castledaly are slight favourites for this one but I have a feeling that Graham O’Connor’s Killucan might just edge it. The three Greville brothers, Frank Boyle, Conor Jordan, and Padraig Leavy provide a strong foundation for Killucan.
Athlone take on The Downs in the second game. Both sides have been badly hit with emigration with the likes of Jack Hogan and Greg Crowley missing for The Downs while Athlone will be without John Connellan, Noel Mulligan, Dermot Bannon and John Molloy who are all Down Under. There is never much between us anytime we meet. Things have been going reasonably well for Athlone under new manager Tom Coffey so far this year and after last year’s disappointing campaign we need to get off to a winning start but it will be very tight.
On Sunday evening at 5.15pm in Cusack the tie of the round takes place as the two Mullingar sides are in action. Shamrocks have been weakened with the loss of Denis Coroon (America ) and Darragh Daly (back injury ) and have a question mark over Kieran Gavin. St Loman’s on the other hand have been boosted by the return of John Heslin and can also count on the in-form Paul Sharry and Conor Lynam. This should be a fascinating clash between two teams who will fancy their chances this year. Don’t be surprised if the Saints come out on top.
The final game of the weekend sees Garrycastle begin the defence of their title against Tyrrellspass. The reigning champions have yet to appoint a new manager with Aidan Dunning taking charge for this game. While Tyrrellspass have been boosted by the return of David Glennon it is difficult to see anything but a win for the reigning champions here.