This weekend marks the beginning of the 2021 Claregalway Hotel Galway Senior Football Championship, kicking off later than usual due to the disruption to the football calendar caused by the pandemic.
Last season, for the first time since 2012 when Salthill-Knocknacarra won the Frank Fox Cup, were Moycullen were crowned champions when they overcame Mountbellew-Moylough in the final. It also ended Corofin’s long reign. This trio will again be the frontrunners in this year's championship, but the gap has closed significantly among all teams, and there is now no clear favourite to win the competition outright.
The draw for the 2021 championship took place a fortnight ago with the format slightly altered from last year. Eighteen teams comprise three groups of four and two groups of three. The top two teams from the groups of four will qualify for the quarter-finals. The change of format occurs in the groups of three. Last year, each team had two group games against those drawn in the same group and the top two in each group qualified for a preliminary quarter-final. This year the teams in group 4A must play all three teams in group 4B, and from a combined table of these two groups, the top two qualify for the quarter final. It is seen as a disadvantage for those teams in a group of three as it reduces their chances of qualifying.
Group 1: Tuam Stars v St James, Cortoon Shamrocks v Killannin
Group 1 sees last year's semi-finalists Tuam face the Jimmies in their opening fixture. Tommy Carton remains at the helm for the Stars following their continued improvement over the past two seasons. Killannin are also drawn in this group following their victory over the Stars in this year's league semi-final. Keep an eye out for the fixture of Tuam Stars versus local rivals Cortoon Shamrocks in a couple weeks time on their return to the senior grade.
Sunday September 5: At Kenny Park, Cortoon Shamrocks v Killannin 2pm; Tuam Stars v St James 4.45pm.
Group 2: Mountbellew-Moylough vs St Michaels, An Spideál vs Milltown
Val Daly’s Mountbellew-Moylough will be expected to top this group and their first outing is against a tricky St Michael’s who ran the black and amber close in a league semi-final last month. Milltown will always be competitive and face An Spideál ,who will be looking to the O’Laoi’s to provide leadership for them in what appears to be a really difficult group.
Sunday September 5: At Pearse Stadium, An Spideál v Milltown 12.30pm; Mountbellew-Moylough v St Michael's 6pm.
Group 3: Moycullen v Annaghdown, Claregalway v An Cheathrú Rua
The champions begin their campaign against an Annaghdown team which will have the bit between its teeth following a couple of really disappointing campaigns. As always, Damien Comer will be the go-to man for Annaghdown, and their progression could depend a lot on his form. Claregalway face An Cheathru Rua - a victory crucial for both teams is necessary in their hopes of qualifying from the group.
Saturday September 4: At Pearse Stadium, Moycullen v Claregalway 6pm; Sunday September 5: An Cheathru Rua v Annaghdown 3.15pm.
Group 4: Corofin, Oughterard, Salthill-Knocknacarra
Group 5: Barna, Monivea-Abbey, Caherlistrane
Corofin v Barna, Oughterard v Monivea-Abbey, Salthill-Knocknacarra v Caherlistrane
The pick of these ties is Corofin against Seán Conlon’s Barna who were one of the surprise packages of the 2020 championship. It could prove to be an extremely tricky fixture for Corofin against a team who were a whisker away from making the semi-final last season. Oughterard will be looking to establish themselves at senior level with a good start against a Monivea-Abbey team that will be high on confidence after avoiding relegation and the return of Cillian McDaid. Caherlistrane and Salthill-Knocknacarra will do battle in what could be a really intriguing contest with Salthill under new management and trying to come to terms with the injury to Robert Finnerty that may keep him out for some time yet.
Saturday September 4: At Tuam Stadium, Salthill-Knocknacarra v Caherlistrane 3pm; At Pearse Stadium, Oughterard v Monivea-Abbey 3.15pm; At Tuam Stadium, Corofin v Barna 5.45pm.
Killererin v Menlough; Michael Breathnach v Headford; Caltra v St Brendan’s; Leitir Mor v St Gabriels; Oranmore/Maree v Williamstown; Kilconly v Oileain Arann; Dunmore MacHales v Corofin; Kilkerrin/Clonberne v Glenamaddy.