Plunketts hoping it's third time lucky in Junior grade

John Savage

Published 12/07/2014 | 12:00

NOT for the first time since they slipped into the Junior ranks, Oliver Plunkett's start their Championship campaign under a heavy weight of expectation on Thursday night.

Their clash with Dowdallshill at the Gaelic Grounds lifts the curtain on an action-packed weekend and they are red-hot favourites to make a winning start against a side who have yet to win a league point this season.

For the third year in a row the Mell men are also a very warm order to win the Junior Championship outright, and they made a bold statement of intent over the close season appointing former Meath boss Colm Coyle as manager.

He no doubt sees the potential everyone else knows is bubbling under the surface on the Slane Road, but getting his new troops to realise that potential will be no easy task.

Two years ago in their first season in the grade Plunketts were odds-on to bounce straight back, but were stunned by Glen Emmets in the semi-finals, as the Tullyallen men went on to lift Christy Bellew.

It was a similar story last year as Naomh Fionnbarra staged an extraordinary comeback in the semi-finals at the Gaelic Grounds, but this time the Plunketts' conquerers were well beaten in the final by Hunterstown Rovers.

The Barrs now look like the team best placed to deny Plunketts again this term and with Bernard Osborne and William Woods returning to bolster the Division 3 leaders' attack, they are more than capable of regaining the title they last won in 2011.

Glen Emmets will also feel they can repeat their 2012 success, but it's difficult to see a winner coming from outside that trio.

With a good run and some luck-in-running Sean McDermott's, Lannleire and Westerns could be in then shake-up, but it would a shock if any of them went all the way.

With the top three all likely to win their groups, the action won't really heat up until the semi-finals.

Plunketts and Finbarrs look destined to meet in the last four again and don't bet against the Togher men pulling off another surprise. Either way the winners will be hot favourites to land Christy Bellew.

GROUP A

WESTERNS

Manager: Paddy McGuiness

Captain: Jonathan Brennan

Last Title: None

2013: Quarter-finals

The bookies say: 7/1

We say: Perched atop Division 3, so have to be respected, but a lot would have to go right for Paddy McGuinness' men to go all the way.

WOLFE TONES

Manager: Michael Kelly

Captain:Robert Daly

Last Title: None

2013: Group stages

The bookies say: 33/1

We say: Capable of troubling most teams on their day, but will be really up against it in this nightmare group.

GLEN EMMETS

Manager: Brian Lynch

Captain: Conor Grimes

Last Title: 2012

2013: Relegated from IFC

The bookies say: 7/2

We say: Will be keen to emerge as group winners, but their clash with Westerns looks impossible to call.

GROUP B

ST KEVIN'S

Manager: Patrick Gregory

Captain: Sean Crosbie

Last Title: 2006

2013: Group stages

The bookies say: 12/1

We say: Will certainly fancy their chances of topping this section and thus avoid a probable quarter-final date with Oliver Plunketts.

JOHN MITCHEL'S

Managers: Eddie Coyle, Des Halpenny

Captain:Robbie Coyle

Last Title: 1998

2013: Group stages

The bookies say: 14/1

We say: Capable of catching St Kevin's on the hop this weekend, but even if that doesn't go to plan, should make the quarter-finals.

CUCHULAINN G

Manager: Damien Rafferty

Captain: Francis O'Hagan

Last Title: None

2013: N/A

The bookies say: 25/1

We say: It's been a difficult maiden Junior campaign for Louth's newest club, and while qualification looks unlikely, the milestone of a first Championship outing will be a proud moment for all involved.

GROUP C

ST NICHOLAS

Manager: Gary Shevlin

Captain: Ciaran O'Brien

Last Title: 2008

2013: Quarter-finals

The bookies say: 16/1

We say: The 2008 champions have suffered a bit of a lull in recent seasons and this could be another tough campaign.

N FIONNBARRA

Manager: Wayne Kierans

Captain: Hugh McGrane

Last Title: 2011

2013: Runners-up

The bookies say: 5/2

We say: The form team in Division 3 with plenty of firepower and championship-winning experience on both sides of the white line. Second favourites, but could go all the way.

LANNLEIRE

Manager: Tomas Duffy

Captain: Brendan McEvoy

Last Title: 1985

2013: Quarter-finals

The bookies say: 8/1

We say: Have been there or thereabouts in recent seasons, but can suffer from a Jekyll and Hyde comples at times. Should make knockouts and then it just depends which Lannleire turns up.

GROUP D

OLIVER PLUNKETTS

Manager: Colm Coyle

Captain: Sean Brassil

Last Title: 1984

2013: Semi-finals

The bookies say: 6/4

We say: The favourites and the team to beat. Yes, we say that every year, but they're top of Division 2 and winning football matches. That wasn't the case when plying their trade in the top tier.

DOWDALLSHILL

Manager: Darren Kirwan

Captain: Justin Halley

Last Title: 2005

2013: Quarter-finals

The bookies say: 16/1

We say: League form has been very poor and it's difficult to see them turning it around in this group.

STABANNON P

Managers: Brendan McConnon, Kevin Donnelly

Captain: Aonghus Giggins

Last Title: 1943

2013: Group stages

The bookies say: 16/1

We say: Will fancy their chances of pipping Seans or Dowdallshill to runner-up spot, but the former will be favourites to join Plunketts in the quarter-finals.

S MCDERMOTTS

Manager: Shay Duff

Captain: Sean McMahon

Last Title: 1974

2013: Semi-finals

The bookies say: 5/1

We say: Look the most likely team to challenge Plunketts for top spot on paper, but face two tricky assignments against Dowdallshill and Stabannon.

Drogheda Independent

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