Lots of exciting fixtures in store
This weekend will see the first silverware of 2022 handed out in Sligo football with the contesting of the six finals in the newly established Spring Leagues.
The Spring Leagues were set up as early season competitions to provide the opportunity for club players to get game time before the beginning of the club leagues and while intercounty competition was still in full flow.
Theses leagues were run off on a divisional basis which reintroduced local rivalries between neighbouring parishes that might otherwise be in different divisions of the county league or in different championship competitions.
The format has thrown up some lively contests and this weekend’s games certainly underpin the opportunity for local rivalries to be rekindled.
This is none more so than in the south of the county where old friends and foes in Tubbercurry and Tourlestrane will be meeting twice in two separate finals in the space of less that 48 hours. The sides meet in the South Sligo Senior final at Tourlestrane on Friday evening and then again in the South/West Junior final on Sunday afternoon in Kilcoyne Park.
In the Senior final, Tourlestrane will start as favourites having progressed through the competition unbeaten. The finalists actually faced off in the very first game of the competition back in late March and although Tourlestrane came out on top then, Tubbercurry went through the rest of the competition unbeaten and took that form into the first round of the Fureys Coaches Senior League defeating St Marys in the first round two weeks ago. While starting as underdog oin this occasion, Tubbercurry has a long tradition of success and will relish the possibility of getting their hands on the first trophy of the season.
The finals of the West Division and the East Division will also take place on Friday evening,
In the west, St Farnans who are back in Division One of the Senior league for the first time in ten years. They have continued the good form that saw them win both the Intermediate Championship and Div 2 of the senior league last year by topping the Spring League with four wins out of five games played.
They will meet Enniscrone/Kilglass who finished the Spring league with a similar record. The two sides actually only met in the last round of the League two weeks ago where St Farnans won a close game so the return promises to again be a tight affair.
In the final game on Friday night, old rivals Eastern Harps and Shamrock Gaels will contest the East Senior Final at Coola. With the Gaels in the Intermediate ranks for almost 20 years up to 2018 and Harps relegated back to Intermediate in 2020 the sides will have had little opportunity to ignite the rivalry of the 1990s when both sides were vying for senior titles.
Both sides have had good underage teams in recent years and will be looking for every opportunity to build their experience. The Gaels went through the group stage of this competition unbeaten, including a seven point victory over Friday’s opponents and with home advantage, will start as favourites. The Harps however are certainly ambitious to restore their top flight status and with Ross Donovan now at the helm they will fancy this as an opportunity to show their capability.
On Sunday the attention will turn to the North Division where Coolera/Strandhill and Drumcliffe/Rosses Point will contest the divisional senior final in Ransboro. Both sides won four ties out of five ion the round robin stage of the competition as did Naomh Molaise Gaels but went through to the final on better score differences.
Drumcliffe came out on top when the two met in the group stage so will have no fear of their opponents on Sunday and have the hunger to lift a trophy. They will however start as the underdogs though given that Coolera have home advantage and proven scoring power up front.
The two Junior finals will also be settled on Sunday. In the South-West Division, last year’s Div 4B league runners up Tubbercurry will host Tourlestrane who won the junior A Championship in 2020 only to be relegated again last year. With that higher level experience, the Aclare/Kilmactigue based side will be many people’s favourites, but Tubbercurry went unbeaten through the round robin stages of this competition including a five point victory over Sunday’s opponents and they will be hoping to turn the home ground advantage to good value.
In the North-East Junior final St Mary’s host Eastern Harps who are showing the strength in depth of the club, like Tourlestrane, with finalists in both the Senior and Junior grade of the competition. The sides finished level on points in the round robin stage, with Shamrock Gaels also on the same points but with an inferior scoring difference.
The Sligo town side had a strong eight point victory in a high scoring game played at Keash during the round robin stage and with home advantage will start as slight favourites but the Harps team, backboned by players that contested both the Junior B and the U20 B county finals last year will dispute the case to that last whistle.
Tickets for this weekend’s games must be purchased in advance and are available at https://www.universe.com/users/sligo-gaa-Y036DB priced €10. U16s go free.
Meanwhile, in addition to the presentation of a new divisional perpetual trophy and medals for each panel, the winners of this weekend’s Spring League finals will be also be playing for a cash prize each.
Sligo GAA Chairman Sean Carroll confirmed that the winners of each final in the Senior grade of the competition – one team in each of the North, South, East and West will get a payment of €500. The prize money for the equivalent Junior grade competition played in two competitions – North/East and South/West will receive €250 each.
The competitions have been well received and well contested according to Mr. Carroll who is looking forward to attending a number of the final games over the weekend.
“The feedback we have is that these games have served a useful purpose in getting players back pout on the field and helping teams to prepare for the leagues which started just two weeks ago. The opportunity of some reasonably competitive games is a great way to prepare a team and I’m sure that there are some new folktales being created in these neighbour versus neighbour games that have resulted.”
Tickets for this weekend’s games must be purchased in advance and are available at https://www.universe.com/users/sligo-gaa-Y036DB priced €10. U16s go free