Competitive adult team sport thankfully returns to Galway for the first time since lockdown began as the revamped Brooks Group sponsored senior and intermediate hurling championships gets up and running with 19 games to be played over the weekend.
With spectator numbers restricted to a handful of tickets issued by participating clubs, Galway GAA has announced plans to live stream a number of games each weekend on the internet at an affordable price.
The first of these will be opening game of the championship on Friday evening in Kenny Park, as Loughrea and Tommie Larkins lock horns in Senior A Group 1 at 7pm.
Galway manager Shane O’Neill is insisting club form will be a hugely important factor when he is putting together his inter-county panel again later in the year, so this year’s championship looks set to once again be a keenly contested affair.
The change in format to the senior competition will see players guaranteed a minimum of three games, with three groups of four in both A and B leading to the knockout stages. St Thomas are unsurprisingly the pre-tournament favourites given they are chasing a three-in-a-row, with Turloughmore the most fancied side to dethrone them.
Both of these clubs opening fixtures will take place on Saturday in Pearse Stadium and are available to live stream. Turloughmore, with Francis Forde and Cyril Donnellan added to their backroom team, take on the ultra-consistent Liam Mellows in a stacked group two, while Castlegar will be looking to make a bright start under new manager Fergal Lynch at 6pm against the champions in group three.
The other game in Group 1 sees Cappataggle take on Tynagh Abbey/Duniry on Sunday in Duggan Park, with Cappataggle fancied to start their campaign with a win. The two teams which came up from Senior B last year, Clarinbridge and Oranmore/Maree, face off on Sunday in group two where it will be interesting to see if Oranmore/Maree can continue on an upward curve that saw promotion gained in consecutive years.
The game between Sarsfields and Portumna on Sunday rounds off group three, with Sarsfields buoyed by the return of Joseph Cooney from Australia. Portumna are most definitely a team in transition after several household names retired, and they will be mainly looking to give experience to a young group coming through.
In Senior B the standout tie will take place in Kenny Park on Sunday when Craughwell take on last year’s surprise flops Gort, and in the same group, last year’s intermediate champions Kinvara start with a spicy local derby against Ballinderreen on Saturday.
The return, once again, of Johnny Glynn to the Ardrahan ranks will be keenly monitored in group two when his side takes on Killimorday, while Athenry square off against Beagh in Loughrea on Saturday.
In group three Mullagh take on Kilnadeema/Leitrim, while the Mannion brothers will lead Ahascragh/Fohenagh into battle against Padraig Pearses.