The O’Byrne Cup is heading for a destination outside the capital after title holders, Dublin bowed out of the pre-season tournament.
Last year Dublin’s third choice team under the management of Paul Clarke caused a significant upset by taking the silverware.
With the majority of their first and second choice players holidaying in South Africa to celebrate their hat trick of All-Ireland wins, Dublin again fielded an understrength side in this year’s competition.
Brian Howard was the only regular member of the 2017 senior squad who featured. After drawing with Offaly at home midweek, they lost by one point to Wexford in Enniscorthy, which resulted in their elimination.
The visitors trailed by six points at the break (1-9; 0-6) and though they staged a spirited second half recovery to draw level, two late points secured the win for Wexford. However, Offaly qualify for the semi-final courtesy of their 16 point victory over Wexford in the first round.
The Faithful County now faces a trip to Mullingar next Sunday for a semi-final clash against Westmeath who comfortably saw off the challenge of Laois to secure a place in the last four.
Meath, who won the trophy in 2016, breezed into the second semi-final when they hammered Wicklow in Navan. They will have home advantage next weekend against Longford.
A 42nd minute goal from Robbie Smyth proved the decisive score as Longford got the better of visitors Kildare to keep their one hundred percent record in the tournament.
So next Sunday’s semi-final line up is: Meath v Longford, Navan, 2.0 and Westmeath v Offaly, Mullingar. 2.0. Both games will play to a finish.
In the event of the teams being level after two periods of extra time a free-taking competition from the 45m line involving five players from each team will determine the outcome.
Bu even though the new GAA season is just a week old, already the new condensed fixtures list has run into difficulties in the wake of the postponement of three games in the McKenna Cup and the two matches in the Connacht FBD League due to frozen pitches.
The latter competition is being run on a round-robin basis with the final due to be played in February. The postponed Mayo v Galway and Leitrim v Sligo games are now likely to be played midweek on January 17th.
Likewise in Ulster the three postponed games (Armagh v Derry, Down v UUJ and Monaghan v Donegal) will now have to be played midweek if the final is to go ahead as scheduled on January 20.
In the games that were played Tyrone and Fermanagh both made it back to back wins in the competition to boost their chances of reaching the last four while Antrim got back into contention by beating Cavan at home.
In the McGrath Cup Cork began the 2018 season with an emphatic 17 point win over Waterford.
With only three counties competing in the tournament the victory means that the Rebels have qualified for the final – even though they still have to play the other finalists Clare in another round robin tie next Sunday. The final is scheduled for January 21.
The line-up for the semi-finals of the Walsh Cup has also been finalised. Thanks to their aggregate five point win over two legs against Westmeath, Offaly will host Kilkenny in the first semi-final next Sunday. The Cats had 19 points to spare over Kildare in what was the first ever competitive meeting in hurling between the counties.
Dublin will host Wexford in the other semi-final at Parnell Park. Twenty four hours after losing heavily to Tipperary in a challenge game, Pat Gilroy’s Dublin saw off the challenge of Antrim at Parnell Park.
Beaten Leinster finalists Wexford went on the rampage in Bray against the home side chalking up a remarkable tally of 6-36 to record a 39 win over Wicklow whose B side beat Louth in the Kehoe Cup.
As in the O’Byrne Cup both semi-finals will be played to a finish. If the teams are still level after two periods of extra time a free taking competition from the 65m line involving five players will determine the outcome.
In the Munster senior league there were emphatic win for Limerick and Clare over Kerry and Cork respectively.
Wexford 1-12 Dublin 0-14, Enniscorthy
Longford 1-14 Kildare 0-13, Pearse Park
Meath 4-19 Wicklow 0-13, Pairc Tailteann
Laois 1-13 Westmeath 3-16, Stradbally
Waterford 0-07 Cork 2-18, Ballinacourty
Antrim 4-10 Cavan 2-14, Woodlands
Fermanagh 1-10 Queen's 1-09, Brewster Park
Tyrone 1-16 St Mary's 1-11, Coalisland
Armagh v Derry, Athletic Grounds - Postponed
Down v UUJ, Burren - Postponed
Monaghan v Donegal, Clones - Postponed
Connacht FBD League
Mayo v Galway, MacHale Park - Postponed
Leitrim v Sligo, Ballinamore - Postponed
Wicklow 1-12 Wexford 6-36, Ashford
Kilkenny 3-18 Kildare 0-08, Freshford
Dublin 4-16 Antrim 0-17, Parnell Park
Westmeath 0-18 Offaly 1-18, TEG Cusack Park
Limerick 3-19 Kerry 1-15, Gaelic Grounds
Clare 4-17 Cork 0-18, Cusack Park
Louth 3-11 Wicklow B 3-14, Darver
Longford v DCU-St Patricks, Pearse Park