The Claregalway Hotel Senior Football Championship is heating up after the latest group games ensure there is still much to play for in round three.
In group 1, Seán Conlon’s Barna enjoyed a close win over a Salthill-Knocknacarra side that many saw as potential challenger’s for the Frank Fox Cup. Barna, who have been battling relegation over the last couple of seasons, appear to have a new lease of life under Conlon’s guidance. The 0-13 to 0-11 win sees Barna shoot to the top of the table with two wins from two and in pole position to qualify. The other game between St Michael’s and An Spidéal was another closely-fought encounter where the city side emerged winners by two points. Eddie Hoare was prominent on the scoresheet for Michael’s. This group now goes down to the wire in two weeks as all sides have the chance to qualify, albeit An Spidéal has an outside chance.
Group 2, viewed as the most difficult group from the beginning, has proved to be just that. Tuam Stars, who suffered a shock defeat to Caherlistrane, recovered to record a victory over a depleted Killanin. Despite winning by two points, the Stars should have been out of sight in the first half, but last year’s finalists failed to convert two penalties in the first half, both Jamie Murphy and Ben O’Connell dragging their spot kicks left and wide of the post.
Tuam were also playing with a man advantage as Seán Thornton was dismissed within 20 minutes for a second yellow. Tommy Carton’s side failed to close out the game and suffered a scare late on as Johnny Heaney had an opportunity in injury time to equalise with a free, but failed to convert. Corner-forward Cormac McWalter then sealed the victory for Tuam with a superb late point.
In the other game in the group Claregalway were comprehensive victors over Caherlistrane by 4-12 to 0-10, in which Barry Goldrick starred. Last weekend’s action leaves it all to play for in the final round with all teams on two points.
Group 3 contained the game of the weekend when Moycullen and Annaghdown locked horns. Moycullen, so impressive in their opening round victory over Micháel Breathnach’s, were eventual winners by the minimum.
In what was an extremely open game, Dessie Conneely and young James McLaughlin were most impressive for Moycullen. Conneely, a county panelist this year, finished with a tally of 1-06. Annaghdown, who had led at many stages of the game, now exit the championship at this early stage for the second successive season. Given the talent in their ranks, there will be a serious inquest. Mountbellew-Moylough ran out nine-point winners over Micháel Breathnach’s in the other game to secure their place alongside Moycullen in the quarter-finals.
The fate of the teams in group 3a and 3b were sealed over the weekend. St James’, so disappointing in their opening game against An Cheathrú Rua, turned their form around to seal top spot in group 3b with a high scoring 3-20 to 2-16 victory over Milltown.
In group 3a, last year's intermediate champions Oughterard booked a spot in the preliminary quarter-final in dramatic fashion. A point deep in injury time by wing-back Ryan Monaghan sealed the win for Tommy Finnerty’s side by 2-14 to 2-13.
The results of the weekend will see Milltown and Monivea-Abbey face each other in a relegation play-off quarter-final, while the preliminary quarter-final fixtures are Corofin v An Cheathrú Rua and Oughterard v St James’.