Tourlestrane rightly so will be the pre-championship favourites
With the County scene shut down for a couple of weeks, attention was turned to the clubs with the Draws for the Belfry Senior Championship and Kennedys Intermediate the main attraction. Similar to last year we will have one group of four and two groups of three.
Since the group system was introduced there has always been a group of death and this year is no exception with three teams that have won the Owen B trophy in the last five years Curry, Tubbercurry and St Marys together with Eastern Harps who are emerging again after a few years in hibernation all in the same four team group. Without doubt this is the most interesting group as all these sides would be harbouring thoughts of the ultimate prize at the end of the year.
Three of these four will qualify for the knock out stages proper with the top team going straight to a semi-final and the next two in the quarter final. I would expect St Marys (I'm not going to play mind games) to progress but it will be very tight, where I feel a lack of scoring power up front might hinder Eastern Harps chances as St Mary's, Curry and Tubbercurry have match winners in their forward division. The rate of attrition in this group could be severe as there will probably be three tough games in a row for these teams compared to the other two groups with only two games and a week off. In Group Two, emergent St Molaise Gaels will fancy their chances of progressing in a group with Coolera/Strandhill and Calry/St Josephs. Coolera/Strandhill are a side that can match most teams when at full strength and with Niall Murphy to the fore they will join St Molaise Gaels in the Quarter finals.
In Group three County Champions Tourlestrane look to have a straight forward route to a quarter final where they will be joined by Coolaney/Mullinabreena with Drumcliffe/Rosses Point likely to face a relegation battle unless they can totally transform themselves after a poor championship last year.
Considering this group, Tourlestrane rightly so will be pre-championship favourites and won't have to expend too much to reach the knock out part of proceedings.
The Kennedys intermediate draw operates with the same format as the Senior with St Michael's Shamrock Gaels, Castleconnor and Bunninadden in the four team group, where St Michaels will probably lose out. In Group two Geevagh and Easkey will leave St Farnans facing a relegation battle. Finally in what is a very difficult group three St Johns and St Patrick should edge past Enniscrone/Kilglass. While this year's intermediate championship looks wide open, it will come down to the set of players that commit to their club for the year, we saw last year in St Molaise Gaels that they got organised early with only one thing on their mind that is to get back to senior level. Whichever set of players replicate this and give up on the J1's will emerge victorious, where I think St Johns have the most potential if they can get the response from the players.
Last week GAA news was dominated with the retirement of the best out and out forward I have ever seen, Colm Cooper. That is a big statement about any player but I feel Cooper is the most complete skilful player that Kerry ever produced for the inside line. While folklore will throw up many other names beyond the last 50 years where people were influenced by the opinion of a voice on a radio, Cooper on the other hand did it at a time of defensive systems and where the game is played at the highest levels of intensity Gaelic football has ever been played. There have been many excellent contenders in my time, namely Canavan, Linden, Matt Connor, Mickey Sheehy and John Egan to name some but none compares with Cooper.
As he is now retired the time is right for the coaching and developing side of Croke Park to immediately commission a coaching video centred on the skills and vision of Colm Cooper, as there would be no more powerful tool available to demonstrate how to play with your head up, keep your composure, both feet, all the skills of the game, play as a team player not an individual and how to be the ultimate sportsperson.
There is no doubt his retirement will be a huge loss for the game.