Newly crowned Westmeath champions St Loman’s and experienced Roscommon kingpins St Brigid’s both got their respective provincial campaign off to a winning start last weekend. The Mullingar side had to fight hard for their one-point win over Carlow’s Old Leighlin while it was all too easy for St Brigid’s who were never tested by disappointing Sligo champions Tourlestrane.
In wintry conditions in Cusack Park it was the wind-assisted visitors who made the brightest start racing into a 0-4 to 0-0 lead after 10 minutes. John Heslin, who once again put in a man of the match performance, restored parity when he hit 1-1 without reply. Loman’s goalkeeper Stephen Gallagher saved from the penalty spot only to see the rebound beat him to the net to give the Carlow men a two-point lead. Both sides traded points but it was the visitors who held a slender 1-6 to 1-5 interval lead.
The second half was nip and tuck with the visitors holding a one-point lead with two minutes of normal time remaining. Substitute Jason O’Toole fisted over the equaliser before Heslin tapped over the winning score from a free deep in injury time.
The win was no more than St Loman’s, and in particular John Heslin, deserved. He finished with an impressive 1-6 out of his side’s tally of 1-11. The prize is a home quarter-final against the Dublin champions on November 10. Ballymun Kickhams and St Vincent’s will contest the Dublin decider this weekend and Declan Rowley will be under no illusion as to how difficult that quarter final will be. It will mark a huge step up in class and Loman’s will have to show considerable improvement if they are to cause a shock.
West of the Shannon there was considerable debate last Saturday evening as to whether the meeting of St Brigid’s and Tourlestrane would go ahead as planned in The Hyde given the inclement weather. There was certainly no debate about the outcome once proceedings got underway as planned.
The reigning provincial and All-Ireland champions made full use of the elements and their overall superiority to take a commanding 1-6 to 0-1 half-time lead. Frankie Dolan had provided the opening goal after 13 minutes but it was younger brother Garvan who put the final nail in the Tourlestrane coffin when he struck for his side’s second major just one minute into the second half.
The Sligo men did manage to bring a degree of respectability to the scoreboard with a number of late points but at that stage the Kiltoom side had emptied the bench and were already planning for a semi-final showdown with Leitrim champions St Mary’s.
Given the number of absent regulars the ease at which Brigid’s advanced is remarkable and a testament to the strength in depth that they possess. The likes of Richie Blaine, Mark O’Carroll, and Ian Kilbride will all be hoping to be in contention for the semi-final as Brigid’s go in search of four in-a-row of Connacht titles.