Blue Devils start provincial title defence

GAA: Connacht IHC

On the run: Cathal Freeman will be a key man for Tooreen on Sunday afternoon. Photo: Tooreen GAA

On the run: Cathal Freeman will be a key man for Tooreen on Sunday afternoon. Photo: Tooreen GAA

Fresh from their defence of the Mayo senior championship, Tooreen will start the defence of the Connacht intermediate title on Sunday in Athleague.

They will face the Roscommon champions on their home patch, with a trip to London up for grabs for the winners, where London champions St Gabriels are lying in wait - before the outright winners will play the eventual Galway champions in the provincial final.

Tooreen put together back-to-back Mayo titles with a 0-15 to 0-11 win over arch rivals Ballyhaunis a few weeks ago and will be looking to draw on their experience of last year's provincial success to propel them on Sunday.

It is 15 years since these sides last met in the Connacht championship, with Athleague claiming their first Roscommon title in 11 years, thanks to their win over Four Roads in the county final.

In that meeting a decade and a half ago, it took extra-time to separate the sides with Athleague coming out on top at the end of 80 minutes of action. Tooreen have three survivors from that game still in action this year, goalkeeper Stephen Leneghan and defenders Stephen Coyne and Shane Morley - while manager Paul Hunt and selector Brian Delaney were also involved in that game.

In their county final win, Tooreen had big performances from David Kenny and Cathal Freeman in the middle of the park with Freeman chipping in with three points, while Shane Boland raised the white flag half a dozen times - and younger brother Fergal also had three points to his name. At the back, team captain Stephen Coyne, along with Paul Delaney and Aiden Henry, will have to be on their toes to keep check on a dangerous Athleague attack.

The Roscommon outfit in their county final had built up an 11-point lead at the break thanks to goals from Eamon Flanagan and David Flaherty and had to hold on late as their opponents cut the gap back to just three at the full time whistle. They also have a number of other experienced campaigners like Alan Moore, David Delaney, David Connell and JP Murray and Robbie Fallon who will need to be watched closely by Tooreen on Sunday.


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