Champions Mountbellew-Moylough open title defence against Comer's Annaghdown

 James Foley of Mountbellew Moylough was a key figure in the club's success last season.

James Foley of Mountbellew Moylough was a key figure in the club's success last season.

Football focus turns to the first round of the Galway Senior Football Championship which throws in this weekend.

Sponsored by Bon Secours Hospital, this year's championship comprises three groups of six teams which is expected to throw up some interesting battles across the course of the next six weeks.

The top two teams in each group and the two best third-placed teams will progress to the quarter-finals.

Group 1 fixtures:

Tuam v Leitir Mór, Saturday 4pm, Clonbur

Tuam Stars enjoyed a fine league campaign under new manager Kevin Reidy, losing the semi-final to Annaghdown on penalties. It should bode well for this Tuam team who have Cormac McWalter and Brian Mannion back in the squad. Tuam will be expecting to get through this tough group.

Leitir Mór, on their return to senior, will be leaning on the experience of players such as Seán Andy O’Ceallaigh to steer the ship and keep them out of relegation trouble. An early campaign win against Tuam could go a long way to easing that prospect.

Corofin v Oughterard, Saturday 5.45 Pearse stadium

Corofin, under the new management of Kevin Johnston, have already won the division one league title. In something of a transition with Michael Lundy abroad and Liam Silke soon to depart for New Zealand, along with several younger members of the squad in America for the early stages of the campaign, Corofin will still be expected to at least reach the latter stages of the championship. Oughterard, under Alan Murphy for a second season, are embarking on their third campaign as a senior side, and will looking to improve this year. It will be tough given they are in a group with Corofin, Moycullen and Tuam, but with much of the same group that won the 2020 intermediate All-Ireland title, they will hope to continue their improvement throughout the season.

Moycullen v An Spideal, Sunday 1.30pm, Pearse Stadium

Senior champions for the first time in 2020, Moycullen will be out to prove this was no fluke, and with the return of their five county panel members, they should get a good start to their year. An Spidéal will be without the services of Antaine O’Laoi for much, if not all, of the season after he broke a bone in his foot. However their ambition will be to secure their position at the top table for 2023 and then see if they can push for a quarter-final berth. This will not be easy to do in a group with so many top teams.

Group 2 fixtures:

St James’ v An Cheathru Rua, Saturday 12pm Indreabhán

A good start to the year for either side here will allay relegation fears and a push for a quarter-final spot. An Cheathrú Rua have been tipped for relegation in the last number of years, but have always found a way to keep themselves up. They can be expected to again surprise at least one team in this group. St James’ will again be heavily reliant on Paul Conroy, but have lost their defensive talisman for the year with Johnny Duane travelling abroad for the season.

Salthill/Knocknacarra v Bearna, Saturday 7.30pm, Pearse Stadium

A poor league campaign under John O’Mahony, in his first season at the helm, has left many people unsure where this Salthill team is at the moment, but the return of Rob Finnerty and Tomo Culhane will guarantee scores for O’Mahony’s side. Bearna, after a brilliant 2020 season, struggled again in 2021. New manager David Donnellan will be hoping for the return of Cian Hernon later in the campaign as he is one of the most talented and diligent young defenders in the county.

Mountbellew/Moylough v Annaghdown, Sunday 6pm, Tuam Stadium

After finally ending their title drought in 2021, Mountbellew were undeservedly dumped out of the Connacht Championship when losing to Padraig Pearses by a point in the final. With most of their suspended players now eligible again and the return of their county players, a match against Damien Comer's Annaghdown is not what they would have hoped for on their return to club football. The talismanic Comer always causes trouble in the club championship and he will be a welcome boost to a side that reached the league final, but were completely outclassed on the day.

Group 3 fixtures:

St Michael's v Claregalway, Saturday 6pm, Tuam Stadium

In the most competitive and even of the three groups, both St Michael's and Claregalway will expect themselves to advance to a quarter-final. St Michael's have been quietly going about their business and improving for the last number of years, while this young Claregalway team under the captaincy of Barry Goldrick may finally have their act together. With a division two league title, they will be heading into the championship full of confidence.

Killannin v Milltown, Sunday 3.15pm, Pearse Stadium

Having reached the semi-final in 2021, Killannin, at the very least, will be hoping to get through to a quarter-final again. A smart and hard working team with the talents of Johnny Heaney and the Sweeney twins, Cathal and Patrick, they will not be far off. Milltown reached the league semi-final this year losing out to Corofin, but since then they have welcomed back Eoin Mannion, Liam Costello, Jack Kirrane and Mark Hehir - four huge talents who can win a game for their team on any given day.

Caherlistrane v Monivea-Abbey, Sunday 4.15pm, Tuam Stadium

This is a game many will see as a battle of the midfields. After Cillian McDaid's performances for Galway all year, will he be able to transfer his county form to club after a first injury free season since his return from Australia? Will he be able for the aerial prowess of Cian Darcy, and will Darcy be able for the powerful never ending running of McDaid? Both sides have talented sets of forwards and this could a shoot out on the day. Either way should be a very competitive game.


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