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Sunday 17 December 2017

All eyes on upcoming Championship

As the Championship begins this weekend, it's all eyes on the Senior, Intermediate and Junior club action with some fantastic clashes in store.

The launch of the Championship was held on Friday evening with players representing the various sides taking part in what should be an excellent competition with ten teams contesting both the Senior and Intermediate Championship. While in the Junior, it's nine teams hoping for glory.

The Belfry Senior Championship sees three groups. In Group 1, it's the meeting of St Mary's, winners two years ago, Eastern Harps, Tubbercurry and Curry.

In Group 2, Division 2 winners Coolera/Strandhill face St Molaise Gaels, last year's Intermediate winners and Calry/St Joseph's.

Group 3 sees current holders and last Sunday's Division 1 champions Tourlestrane, who many favour for the double, taking on Drumcliffe/Rosses Point and Coolaney/Mullinabreena.

In the Kennedys Intermediate Championship, Group 1sees St Michael's taking on Shamrock Gaels, Castleconnor and Bunninadden.

Group 2 is the meeting of Geevagh, the finalists in the Division 2 final, Easkey and St Farnan's.

Group 3 sees St John's taking on recent Division 3 winners Enniscrone/Kilglass and St Patrick's.

In the Lola Montez Junior Championship, Group 1 consists of Owenmore Gaels, Tourlestrane and Eastern Harps.

Group 2 is Cloonacool, recent Division 4 winners Curry and St John's, while Group 3 sees Ballymote, Shamrock Gaels and St Mary's taking on each other.

All in all, it makes for an interesting Championship with south Sligo's Tourlestrane hoping to do back to back wins following their success over neighbours Tubbercurry on Sunday in the Division 1 final.

However, there are top-class teams, such as the likes of St Mary's, Eastern Harps, Tubbercurry, St Molaise Gaels, Curry, Coolera and Coolaney/Mullinabreena hoping to cause upsets.

At the launch on Friday in Lola Montez, Cathal Burns of St Molaise Gaels said the Grange outfit are looking ahead to this year's Championship.

"We're going into it fairly confident enough. We've a lot of injuries to a lot of key players the likes of Eoin McHugh, Paddy McGowan and Johnny Kelly, but there's a lot of young lads coming through there as well so there's a chance for them to try and progress into the senior team."

He said they've played a couple of friendlies in the build up to the championship.

"We have Cathal Herron back too so things are looking good. It's a tight group, Calry are a good side and Coolera are after winning Division 2 so they're going strong. They are always a good physical team and hard to get a result against.

"We are delighted to be back at Senior, it was unfortunate how we went down and how the group kind of fell.

"We dug in and got the results out last year and hopefully we can do the same this year," he added.

Ray Connolly of Coolaney/Mullinabreena, said that his side are hoping to get things off to a good start in the Championship.

"It was disappointing against Tubber in the League, we were confident going into the game that we'd get the result but we didn't perform on the day,

"Tubber played very well and they are a very strong team, we just never got going.

"Our heads went down after half time and we missed a couple of chances to get back into it but overall barring the last two games we had a pretty good League campaign."

He said they will be looking forward to getting another chance at Tourlestrane who defeated them last year.

"Any chance you get to play Tourlestrane it's a tough challenge but you like to test yourself against them but seeing as we did get so close to them last year, it will be the bench mark really but look Drumcliffe have to be taken care of first, we have to get the result there first.

"There hasn't been much to separate the two teams over the last while, so they will be a very tough game but it's a good game to get to know where you stand."

Ray said there's a lot of young players coming through.

"I feel we've a good strong squad, stronger than the last number of years. So it's just about getting things right on the day.

"Preparations are very good, Anthony always has us prepared very well and it's just really about performing on the day," Ray said.

Also looking forward to the championship is Brian Curran of Tubbercurry, who took on Tourlestrane in the Division 1 final on Sunday. He said: "We're looking forward to Championship, I suppose every year you want to get into it fairly confidently.

"The League final was a good step up into it.

"We have Pat on board this year, he's brought a bit of freshness and passion as well because he's a clubman.

"He's bringing a few younger lads on board, bringing himself and Reggie back, two very passionate Tubber men.

"We have lost a few lads but we've brought in a few lads from the Minor and U21s and stuff so we're still reasonably young.

"For the last two seasons after we won, it went back a wee bit as we got knocked out twice in the Quarter Final so we really need to get the head down this year and get a good start and take it from there.

"Tourlestrane are the strongest team in the county at the moment with the panel they have. They have 30/35 lads staying around home all the time.

"Thankfully we don't have any worrying injuries.

"It's very early days but if we get a good run at it and a bit of luck here and there, we can see how it goes."

With their recent success winning the Division 2 final, Coolera/Strandhill are going into this year's Championship on a high note.

Barry O'Mahony said there's a good mood in the camp.

"It was a good performance, one of the main things was getting out of Division 2 but it will be completely different playing against the senior teams.

"The likes of Calry and Molaise Gaels next Saturday should be a good test and hopefully we can do ourselves justice.

"Playing Division 1 and Division 2 are two completely different styles. "Fitness and everything, there's a lot to be said about Division 1 teams.

"We were down there this year and glad to get up so hopefully we can give teams like Molaise Gaels and Calry a good go."

Barry said another positive going into the championship is the return of many players.

"From 2015 to the last game there I think we lost 13 players from that panel.

"I think 8 of us were in America last year, a few of us are back now and there is a good team.

"There always is a good team with Coolera but as I said, the likes of Molaise Gaels and Calry are playing Division1 all year so they will be right up to the pace.

"Having Gary Cadden back is great, he's a very good player. I think going into the Molaise Gaels game, we know they are going to be up for it and we have to be right ourselves but hopefully we can cause a shock."

Denis Coffey of Curry said preparations are going well ahead of the championship. "Things are going good, we started a bit shaky in the League but got good towards the end.

"We are in a good position now and looking forward to it."

With success at U16 and Minor in the club recently, the mood in the Curry camp is good.

"It's brilliant, we did it back in 2009 when we won it ourselves and there were a few barren years there underage but the lads have done well.

"We're hoping to give it a good go, we're always looking to be very competitive when it comes to championship, this year is no different.

"It's difficult being in the group of four this year, the first time we've been in it but we'll be confident of being competitive of every group we play in.

"You want to believe you have the ability to get out of the group and see what kind of draw is next.

"Hopefully we'll have a few of the young players to come through too.

"Kevin knows us all so well too, he's very modern in how trainings there's a good mood in the camp and we're looking forward to it."

Darragh Cummins of Calry/ St Joseph's is also eagerly awaiting the championship.

He said: "Preparations are going well the last few weeks after I suppose a disastrous League. We had a lot of injuries and a lot of boys away but we've got the head down now.

"There are a good few derbies too with a good few town teams and a lot of lads I went to school with and that.

"We're constantly trying to lift the standards and stuff like that.

"Having Barry O'Boyle big is a big thing this year, he's a good player so that's good."

Championship 2017 begins this weekend as the Senior, Intermediate and Junior championship gets underway across the county with lots of contests in store.

Sligo Champion

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