Monday 22 July 2019

Hunt for Miley begins

Championship preview: Full round of SFC games this weekend

Here we go again! The hunt for Miley begins in earnest this weekend. Pictured are Pat’s players celebrating a great day in Aughrim in 2018
Here we go again! The hunt for Miley begins in earnest this weekend. Pictured are Pat’s players celebrating a great day in Aughrim in 2018

Note to Wicklow GAA officials: please fix Coolkenno and Ballymanus against each other for the first game of every football championship if they are going to deliver such a cracking game of football to get the ball rolling for the 2019 season.

The action really kicks off this weekend with a full diary of games from Friday evening but last Saturday's explosive joust between Stevie Cushe's and Billy Byrne's men was a wonderful kickstarter for what will hopefully be a memorable championship campaign.

With leagues completely done and dusted at this stage aside from some tidying up with Division 3, all eyes can now turn to the main event and Tinahely's meeting with Hollywood this Friday evening in the first Senior football championship clash will hopefully get the weekend off to a decent start.

A depleted Tinahely fell to defending champions St Pat's in the Dunne Cup semi-final where they produced an intelligent display to stay alive in the game for as long as possible.

Indeed, had they taken their five goal chances who knows what might have happened.

With the Wicklow under-20s beaten by Wexford, Alan Costello will be able to welcome back Rory Stokes, Eoin Darcy, Eoghan Byrne, and James Hedderman into the fray as well as seven other players who were unavailable for that Pat's game due to injuries, holidays and exams.

Mark Murnaghan's Hollywood have had a disastrous season to date with relegation from the league less than 12 months after gaining promotion.

Unless things have drastically improved in Hollywood, you'd have to expect Tinahely to get their Senior championship campaign off to a winning start come Friday evening.

Verdict: Tinahely

Saturday sees Rathnew's first venture into championship action and they will face Damien Gilligan's Newtown who enjoyed a superb league season.

Harry Murphy's side, beaten by Pat's in the Dunne Cup semi-final, will be without the services of Theo Smyth while there are doubts about the availability of Jody Merrigan, but the Village are still the Village and will pose a serious threat to the Magpies.

Newtown's positive league campaign came to a crashing halt when Dunlavin blitzed them in the West Wicklow Cup final but that game coincided with their crowning as Andy McEvoy Premier Division champions in the WDSL so it might be wise not to read too much into that defeat to the west side in Aughrim.

If there's to be a major upset on opening weekend, then could this be the game where it arrives. We will watch this space with anticipation.

Verdict: Rathnew

The third game in Group 1 throws in at 5pm in Aughrim on Sunday as part of the quadruple header at the county grounds and that sees the men of Kiltegan travel over to face Damien Redmond's AGB.

There's no denying that Kiltegan have had a difficult year. Clubs have them, there's nothing new in that. The problem for AGB is the unknown quantity of what they are facing on Sunday. Kiltegan defeated them in the league. Seanie Furlong is back from his soccer duties in Carlow with Slaney Rovers and will undoubtedly add plenty to the Kiltegan attack, but can they live with AGB's youth and power?

This is a huge game for AGB. If they lay down a marker here it could be a very healthy summer. A win for Kiltegan could ignite their footballing year and put the hard and barren league behind them once and for all.

Verdict: AGB

Group 2's games get underway in Pearse's Park at 1pm on Sunday when Blessington and Bray Emmets do battle at the Arklow venue.

Mick Murray's side did enough in the league, registering some decent wins along the way and would be the one team who are moving through the long grasses at the moment. Plenty of quality players in the ranks but can they finally break free of that burdensome reputation of falling at the big hurdles?

Bray Emmets look to be launching a major bid for the Senior hurling this year and whether that detracts from their footballing ambitions is yet to be seen. Always a difficult side to come up against in the heat of championship battle they will need a win on Sunday to give themselves a fighting chance.

Verdict: Blessington

Almost at the same time as that game (15 minutes later), Sean O'Brien's Baltinglass will be getting their campaign up and running against the men of Avondale. This will be an intriguing game - the free-flowing Baltinglass against the strong, lofty Avondale.

The availability of John McGrath will be a talking point after his red card in the Dunne Cup final in Aughrim against St Pat's following an incident with Dean Healy. McGrath's case is to be heard tonight (Wednesday) in Hollywood where all parties involved in the incident in Blessington between Blessington and Baltinglass in the league game that saw a Blessington player receive injuries to his mouth will meet up to try and come to a conclusion in relation to what happened that day.

Quite simply this is a game that Baltinglass must win if they are to hold any serious ambitions, but nobody can ever treat Avondale with nothing but the highest of respect because there's no better team to knock you for six if they catch you napping. If Baltinglass keep out the majors they should come through.

Verdict: Baltinglass

The final SFC game of the weekend concerns the reigning champions, St Patrick's, who claimed the Dunne Cup last week with victory over Baltinglass.

Casey O'Brien's men are facing an Éire Óg team who are in a position no team ever wants to be with the loss of talisman Stephen Kelly to injury and enduring the passing of club colleague and friend Pheilam Byrne.

The Greystones men won't want either circumstance to be used as an excuse and will bring their undeniable heart and commitment to the cause to the fray but it's likely that Pat's will prevail on their first step to retaining Miley.

Verdict: St Patrick's

There are five IFC clashes up for decision at the weekend.

Ballinacor and Laragh clash at 5pm on Saturday in Aughrim where Decky Byrne's men will face a very tough task in the form of Ballinacor.

Annacurra will hope to put a disappointing league campaign behind them when they take on Kilmacanogue who will be in the same boat after both sides suffered relegation to Division 2.

They do battle in the second game at Aughrim on Saturday evening.

Carnew Emmets must travel to Baltinglass to face Donard-The Glen and this could be a real firecracker of a game at 6pm.

On Sunday in Roundwood, Stratford-Grangecon and Kilcoole lock horns at 11.30am while the opening game in Aughrim at 11.30 will see Dunlavin look to continue their winning ways when they meet Rathnew at 11.30 in the county grounds.

Wicklow People