Tourlestrane worthy favourites as Championship race begins
The start of the local championships does not hold the same appeal this year with every team still involved after the group stages of the competition. For anyone not up to speed with this year's format I will now explain. In the Belfry Senior football championship we will have four groups of three teams i.e. twelve teams competing to win the coveted Owen B Hunt Trophy.
Where things differ this year is that no team is eliminated after the group stages. However, teams are motivated to win their group in order to directly qualify for the quarter finals. Teams then in 2nd place play a third placed team in an opposing group and vice versa to claim a quarter final place with the four losing teams playing out the relegation battle to retain senior status. With the bookmakers seldom getting it wrong they believe that Tourlestrane will regain the senior trophy this year and I wouldn't disagree with them.
While losing Brendan Egan to Dublin earlier in the year Tourlestrane will still have the squad to win this year's competition with a number of promising players brought in to strengthen their squad. Tourlestrane are also one of the least effected by summer excursions and emigration. Outside them it's anyone's call who will be the main contenders with a host of teams of similar ability where it may come down to suspensions and injuries to determine their season with games coming thick and fast.
This weekend Group A has the game of the day with last year's winners Curry playing Eastern Harps which potentially decides the quarter final position with the winners likely to then defeat Bunninadden for top spot. Having said that Bunninadden are always a tough championship side and after winning last year's intermediate championship they will be out to prove they aren't here to make up the numbers. I'm going to call this game in favour of Harps who are revitalised again under Denis Johnston.
In Group B Tubbercurry in my opinion are a side that has underachieved over the last number of years. They play St.Molaise Gaels this weekend with group favourites St. John's having the long weekend off. The Tubber/Molaise Gaels game is an interesting contest with the Tubbercurry side just about favourites providing they have their key players available for selection. However the North Sligo club are well capable of winning this game as they finished well up the Division One league table with Tubbercurry operating in the lower section. This one comes down to what Tubber side turns up and if it's the real one I would expect them to get off to a winning start.
Group C sees pre-championship favourites Tourlestrane playing relegation favourites Ballymote in what should be a comfortable first match in charge for new Tourlestrane manager Eamonn Haran.
In the final group St Mary's last year's runners up play Geevagh in game 1 with Coolaney/Mullinabreena waiting until next week for their first game in this year's competition. On paper this looks like a St Mary's win with Pat Hughes unavailable and Pat Cawley supposed to be injured for the Geevagh side. Having said that 2013 has been a bad injury year for St Mary's with Johnny Martyn not in a position to play with Sligo during this year's championship with an ongoing groin problem. Mary's also have a host of other injuries, although the situationis slowly improving. I will call this in favour of my own club, narrowly based on John Kent's injury hit preparation but the shock of the weekend could be on here.
In the Kennedy's Intermediate Championship, last year's beaten finalists Drumcliffe/Rosses Point play in what is the game of the day at this level against neighbours Calry/St Joseph's where I expect Drumcliffe to narrowly prevail. In the two West Division derbies I feel St.Patricks, who acquitted themselves very well in Division One of the League, will have enough for Castleconnor and St Farnans with a better league showing than Enniscrone on paper looks likely to come through here. In the final game one of the pre-championship favourites for the Intermediate title Shamrock Gaels will have too much for Owenmore Gaels.