Saturday 17 November 2018

County guides: Connacht

A county-by-county preview of the Connacht Senior Footballing Championship 2008

Galway

All-Ireland titles: 9 (2001)

Connacht titles: 44 (2005)

Manager: Liam Sammon (1st year).

Captain: Padraig Joyce.

Last year: Connacht first round Galway 2-10, Mayo 0-9; Connacht semi-final Galway 0-17, Leitrim 1-10, Connacht final Sligo 1-10, Galway 0-12. Qualifier: Galway 1-12, Meath 2-12.

2008 NFL: Div 1 3rd.

Last big championship achievement: won 2005 Connacht title.

Key man: Padraig Joyce. His switch to centre-forward appears to have re-vitalised him and built up a better understanding with Michael Meehan.

One to watch: Gary Sice, the industrious half-back really caught the eye during the league.

Greatest Strength: Contrary to popular perception, Galway are not driven by an exceptional group of forwards. Their defence now looks like it's the team's most formidable unit.

Greatest Weakness: Despite Barry Cullinane's league development, midfield still remains Galway's greatest point of attack for any opposition as was illustrated most forcefully during the recent league meeting with Kerry.

Prospects: A more difficult route to the Connacht final than Mayo but a last eight place is within their grasp.

Boylesports Betting: Connacht 11/8, All-Ireland 20/1.

First Game: Connacht first round v Roscommon, May 18, Pearse Stadium, Salthill.

Mayo

All-Ireland titles: 3 (1951)

Connacht titles: 40 (2006)

Manager: John O'Mahony (2nd year)

Captain: Ronan McGarrity

Last Year: Connacht first round Mayo 0-9, Galway 2-10. Qualifier:

Mayo 1-19, Cavan 3-7, Derry, 2-13, Mayo 1-6.

2008 NFL: Div 1, 6th.

Last big Championship achievement: 2006 All-Ireland semi-final win over Dublin.

Key Man: Conor Mortimer, like him or disregard him, he's the man that builds their winning tallies.

One to watch: Tom Parsons, an athletic figure who could establish himself at midfield.

Greatest strength: Has to be hunger and a growing resilience to keep coming back after so many disappointments.

Greatest weakness: No getting away from it, the All-Ireland defeats in 2004 and 2006 still leave scars. The recent controversy over Ciaran McDonald may follow them like a dark cloud all summer.

Prospects: With respect to everyone else, including champions Sligo, Connacht is a two-horse race this summer. They may have the edge over Galway at home and could make another All-Ireland semi-final despite their tag of being a team going through a transitional stage of development.

Boylesports Betting: Connacht evens; All-Ireland 20/1.

First Game: Connacht semi-final v Sligo or London, June 22, McHale Park, Castlebar.

Roscommon

All-Ireland titles: 2 (1944)

Connacht titles: 19 (2001)

Manager: Michael Ryan (1st year)

Captain: Sean McDermott

Last year: Connacht semi-final Sligo 0-13, Roscommon 2-5; Qualifier:

Kildare 2-13, Roscommon 1-13.

2008 NFL: Div 2, 7th (relegated).

Last big championship achievement: won 2001 Connacht title.

Key man: Seamus O'Neill. The big midfielder missed some key league games and his absence from this team is always sorely felt.

One to watch: David Keenan. One of the 2006 minor team members looks ready to flourish and offers new manager Michael Ryan great versatility.

Greatest Strength: John Maughan's parting shot in March was that he still believed Roscommon had some very good young players willing to learn and work hard. There are players to work with, albeit short of confidence.

Greatest Weakness: The league was a harrowing experience for them that surely sowed doubt into even the most positive of minds. Have a real absence of senior leadership.

Prospects: With Galway first up in Connacht some kind of progress through the first round of the qualifiers is as much as they can really hope for.

Boylesports Betting: Connacht 22/1, All-Ireland 300/1.

First Game: Connacht first round v Galway, May 18, Pearse Stadium, Salthill.

Sligo

All-Ireland titles: 0.

Connacht titles: 3 (2007)

Manager: Tommy Jordan (1st year).

Captain: Noel McGuire.

Last year: Connacht first round, Sligo 1-18, New York 1-3; Connacht semi-final, Sligo 0-13, Roscommon 2-5; Connacht final, Sligo 1-10, Galway 0-12. All-Ireland quarter-final: Cork 1-11, Sligo 0-8.

2008 NFL: Div 3, 8th (relegated).

Last big championship achievement: won 2007 Connacht title.

Key man: Michael McNamara. The centre-back's return to the team was pivotal to last season's triumph. An intelligent footballer.

One to watch: John Davey will be hoping to make a big impression.

Greatest strength: A full-back line that matched any in the championship last year. Charles Harrison, Noel McGuire and Ross Donovan were magnificent together.

Greatest weakness: The absence of a real cutting edge forward. Sligo's goal against Galway in the Connacht final was one of the season's most memorable moments but it was their only goal from three championship games (excluding New York).

Prospects: Can lightning strike twice? They'll have to beat Mayo and Galway if it is, not always the recipe for Connacht title success.

Boylesports Betting: Connacht 16/1, All-Ireland 300/1.

First game: v London, Ruislip, May 25.

Leitrim

All-Ireland titles: 0

Connacht titles: 2

Manager: Dessie Dolan (4th year)

Captain: Gary McCloskey.

Last year: Connacht first round: Leitrim 1-12, London 2-5; Connacht

semi-final: Galway 0-17, Leitrim 1-10. Qualifier: Donegal 1-16, Leitrim 1-14.

2008 NFL: Div 3, 7th (relegated).

Last big championship achievement: won 1994 Connacht title.

Key man: Anyone of the full-back line but Michael McGuinness is perhaps their most resolute fixture.

One to watch: Emlyn Mulligan has been building impressive score tallies during the league.

Greatest strength: They have had a full-back line for the last number of years that would improve the majority of top teams if they moved en bloc.

Greatest weakness: A trawl back through Leitrim's recent championship history shows an inability to close out games they should possibly be winning. They don't get over the line despite their promise.

Prospects: A second successive Connacht semi-final against Galway is on the cards but their best bet is a win in the qualifiers that is long overdue.

Boylesports Betting: Connacht 12/1, All-Ireland 600/1.

First game: Leitrim v New York, May 11, Gaelic Park.

London

All-Ireland titles: 0.

Connacht titles: 0.

Manager: Noel Dunning (4rd year).

Captain: Conor Beirne.

Last year: Connacht first round: Leitrim 1-12, London 2-5.

2008 NFL: Div 4, 9th.

Key man: Conor Beirne, the captain, has plenty of experience to draw upon from his Roscommon days.

One to watch: Philip Morgan is a London-born half-back of whom big things are expected when the reigning champions arrive.

Greatest strength: Home advantage, Leitrim struggled there for long spells last year.

Greatest weakness: Their playing pool has dried up in recent seasons and preparations have been hampered by pitch problems.

Prospects: Unlikely to topple Sligo but are getting them at a vulnerable time.

Boylesports Betting: Connacht 500/1, All-Ireland 2000/1.

First game: v Sligo, May 25, Ruislip.

New York

All-Ireland titles: 0.

Connacht titles: 0.

Manager: Paddy Kearney

Captain: Kenny O'Connor.

Last year: Connacht first round: Sligo 2-18, New York 1-3.

Key man: Kenny O'Connor, the Kerry native anchors the midfield.

Greatest strength: Like London, home advantage is about all they have to look forward to.

Greatest weakness: The absence of competitive games will always hamper their preparations.

Prospects: If they can improve on last year's 18 point beating it would constitute progress.

Boylesports betting: Connacht 500/1

First game: Connacht first round v Leitrim, Sunday, May 11, Gaelic Pk.

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