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Short straw handed to the Cille's in SFC draw

Meath GAA: club championship draws

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Ratoath players and supporters celebrate after last year’s Senior Championship triumph in Pairc Tailteann. Picture: Sportsfile

Ratoath players and supporters celebrate after last year’s Senior Championship triumph in Pairc Tailteann. Picture: Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Ratoath players and supporters celebrate after last year’s Senior Championship triumph in Pairc Tailteann. Picture: Sportsfile

It will be a clash of champions in the opening round of the Meath SFC when Ratoath start the defence of their Keegan Cup crown against the 2019 intermediate title holders Nobber.

The stand in Pairc Tailteann (with social distancing applying) was the setting for the Meath football and hurling championship draws on Sunday afternoon, with the football championship set to commence on the August bank holiday weekend and the group stages completed before the end of the month.

With no club activity for more than three months this year's championship could throw up its share of surprises. One thing that is certain, though, is that with only the top team from each group qualifying for the knockout stages the senior and intermediate grades will likely be the most competitive for quite a while.

With former county star Brian Farrell, who helped Nobber to the IFC last October, now in charge of Ratoath, it will add further intrigue to that particular clash. Incidentally, that particular pairing is a repeat of the 2015 intermediate final which Ratoath won convincingly.

The group is completed with the clash of Simonstown Gaels and Skryne. Simonstown, winners in 2017 and 2018, will fancy their chances against the longest serving club in the senior ranks and the clash between the north Navan side and champions Ratoath could well decide who advances to a semi-final.

East Meath outfit St Colmcille's, who only saved their senior status with victory over Rathkenny in a relegation play-off at the end of last season, have drawn the short straw in Group D. Their opening-round tie doesn't come much tougher than Gaeil Colmcille who have been knocking at the door for quite some time now. The Kells men may be past their best at this stage, but they are still one of the most formidable outfits in the grade.

And it doesn't get any easier for the Seasiders after that opening round as 2018 champions Dunboyne and an emerging Dunshaughlin are also in what is undoubtedly the toughest of the four groups.

Curraha will start their third season in the senior ranks with a clash against Wolfe Tones. The teams also locked horns last year and it was Curraha who produced a massive shock by recording a 1-19 to 1-7 victory in Pairc Tailteann.

Summerhill, beaten finalists for the last three years, are also in the group and they have neighbours Moynalvey as opposition as they attempt to get their hands on the cup they last won in 2013.

Seneschalstown, who retained their senior status by the skin of their teeth in 2019, have Na Fianna as first-round opponents. That's a tough opener for the Yellow Furze outfit against a Na Fianna side that will be spearheaded by county panellists Shane Walsh and Ethan Devine.

The group is completed by the clash of 20-times Keegan Cup winners Navan O'Mahony's and Donaghmore/Ashbourne. Davy Nelson is back at the helm in O'Mahony's, while former Dublin star Mick Deegan is in charge of Ashbourne.

The top team in Group A will take on the winners of Group C in one semi-final, with the Group B winners playing Group D in the other semi.

The bottom team in each group will contest the relegation semi-finals, A4 v C4 and B4 v D4. The two losers play each other to decide who drops down to intermediate for 2021.

The SFC Final is scheduled for Sunday October 4th.

A total of 20 teams will contest this year's IFC, two more than 2019, including five newcomers.

Rathkenny, St Patrick's and Longwood all dropped down from senior, while the two club that contested the 2019 junior final, Clann na nGael and Moylagh, are promoted.

Rathkenny will be hoping to make a quick return to the senior ranks and any team with a player of the calibre of Donal Keogan must have an outstanding chance. However, the north Meath side have a tough opener against 2019 runners-up Trim and the outcome of that clash could go a long way in deciding who emerges from Group A.

The group is completed by the meeting of Bective and Drumbaragh.

St Patrick's Stamullen will also be keen to make it back to senior at the first attempt, but they have a sticky enough opener in St Michael's. Former senior kingpins Walterstown are also in the group and they take on newly-promoted team and last year's junior runners-up Moylagh.

Dunderry and Castletown appear to be the more fancied of the teams in Group B. Dunderry, runners-up back in 2016, have Mickey Newman's Kilmainham in the opening round, while Castletown play Blackhall Gaels. Castletown only lost to Nobber in last year's semi-final following extra time and will be favourites to make it back to the knockout stages.

If there is a 'group of death' in any of the grades it has to be Group D of the IFC, with Oldcastle playing Syddan and Ballinabrackey against Duleek-Bellewstown.

Oldcastle operate in Division 1 of the A League and were intermediate semi-finalists in 2019. They will provide stiff opposition for Syddan who they defeated in the Division 2 league decider in 2018.

Ballinabrackey are also a Division 1 outfit who have gone close to outright success in latter years. Duleek-Bellewstown, who were somewhat unfortunate to lose to Trim in the knockout stages last year, will hardly fear them, but it is a tough opener for the east Meath side and this group could well be decided on score difference.

The final group has demoted Longwood against Meath Hill in an opening round and newly-promoted junior champions Clann na nGael playing Ballinlough, defeated finalists in 2018.

The winners of Group A, B and C qualify for semi-finals, while the winners of Group D and E play a quarter-final. The semi-final pairings are A1 v C1 and B1 v winners of quarter-final.

The bottom teams in Group D and E play off and the losers of that one take on the bottom team in Group B in one relegation semi. The bottom team in Group A and C play in the other semi. The clash of the two losing semi-finalists will decide who drops out of the grade for the following year.

The intermediate final is scheduled for Saturday October 3rd.

This years JFC has a new format and is for first teams only. It could be tough going for a number of clubs, including Slane and St Mary's who competed at Junior B level in 2019.

St Mary's face a stiff opener in Dunsany who were beaten semi-finalists in last year's JFC. However, the Donore men should be able to hold their own with the two other teams in the group, Kilbride and Drumconrath.

Slane are included in a very tough Group C, with Cortown their opening-round opponents. St Vincent's, who came agonisingly close to making a return to intermediate ranks two years ago, are in the same group and they take on Moynalty in the opening round.

The winners of each group qualify for the semi-finals and there is no relegation from this grade.

Drogheda Independent