Clubs easing back after hibernation
Published 18/02/2014 | 05:40
It's a sure sign that Spring is in the air when the GAA warm-up competitions get into full-swing.
After months of inactivity on the club scene, Sligo teams dust off the cobwebs this week-end for the opening rounds of the Kiernan Cup, Benson Cup and Abbott Cup.
While clubs will be primarily concerned with getting into shape for the more serious stuff later on in the year, there will still be a keen competitive edge to the early-season games.
A total of fifteen matches are down for decision all around the county this week-end with many interesting clashes on the schedule.
And with many teams playing under new managers for the first time, there will be no shortage of motivation, even if county players aren't available for the warm-up games.
Senior League Division One teams will battle it out for the Kiernan Cup while the Benson Cup will be contested by League Division Two teams.
Teams for the third division will be in action in the Benson Cup.
The chance of silverware early in the year will be a huge incentive in all three competitions as teams ease their way back into competition after the Winter break.
The most eye-catching fixture of the week-end is the meeting of South Sligo rivals, Tourlestrane and Tubbercurry, in Group C of the Kiernan Cup on Sunday afternoon.
It's a repeat of last year's county championship final and offers Tubbercurry a quick chance to gain some measure of compensation for their defeat on that occasion.
While the match is unlikely to generate the same intensity or passion as the county final, it should still be an interesting pointer towards the new season.
Tourlestrane and Tubbercurry are among only a few clubs who haven't changed their manager this year so they will know exactly what they have to work with for 2014.
Nevertheless, some experimentation is likely during the warm-up competitions.
In the other game in Group C of the Kiernan Cup, Curry will be having their first outing under new boss, Denis Kearney, when they take on St. Pat's/Dromard on Sunday
The Mayo man brought great success to the club during his last spell at the helm, winning the senior championship in 2003 and 2006.
He also guided Curry to the 2003 Connacht Club final where they lost to Caltragh.
Kearney will be hoping to revive those glory days, although the club has lost quite a few players to emigration, including Jason Marren who has transferred to London.
Stephen Kilcoyne is back, however, and the club can also call on the services of experienced lads like Sean Davey, Kenneth Morley and Adrian Marren.
St. Pat's, under the management team of Adrian Kearins and John Kelly, will provide a tough test for South Sligo side in Sunday's opener.
Former Sligo boss, Tommy Breheny, will take charge of St. Mary's for the first time in his second spell at the club for their Kiernan Cup Group A clash with St. Molaise Gaels at Kent Park on Sunday.
Mary's have enjoyed phenomenal success in the all the under-age grades over the last few years and it will be interesting to see if Breheny can convert that to silverware at senior level.
St. Molaise Gaels were one of the surprise teams of 2013, reaching the Championship semi-final for the first time since 1978.
Manager, Jimmy Langan, will have them well prepared for another good year.
Last year's Intermediate Champions, Drumcliffe/Rosses Point, get their 2014 campaign under way at home to Coolera/Strandhill in Group A of the Kiernan Cup on Sunday.
They'll be hoping to carry on last year's momentum but have a tricky opener against Coolera, now managed by Gerry Monaghan.
Local rivals, Bunninadden and Eastern Harps, should provide an entertaining contest in Group B of the Kiernan Cup on Saturday afternoon.
The other game in this group sees Geevagh entertaining the Anthony Brennan managed St. John's on Sunday.
The big game in the Benson Cup, West Sligo rivals, Easkey and St Farnan's, come face to face at Easkey on Sunday.
Castleconnor will be hoping to get 2014 off to a winning start at home to Cloonacool while Eastern Harps and Shamrock Gaels meet at Keash.
In the other Benson Cup games, Calry/St Joseph's are at home to Owenmore Gaels while Ballymote, under new manager, Shane Quigley, host Coolaney/Mullinabreena.
St. Pat's take on Enniscrone in a West Sligo Derby in the Abbott Cup on Saturday while the other fixtures in this competition are St. Molaise Gaels v St. Mary's, Shamrock Gaels v Coolera/Strandhill and St. John's v St. Michael's.
All the Abbott Cup games are on Saturday.