Champions still the team to beat

They may have suffered a rare loss in the League last Saturday but three-in-a-row Champions Glencar/Manorhamilton remain the team to be beaten in this year’s Connacht Gold Senior Championship, which gets underway next weekend with four intriguing clashes.

They may have suffered a rare loss in the League last Saturday but three-in-a-row Champions Glencar/Manorhamilton remain the team to be beaten in this year’s Connacht Gold Senior Championship, which gets underway next weekend with four intriguing clashes.

The County Champions have set the standard for teams to follow over the last three years and while last year’s finalists St. Mary’s and a hungry and potent Mohill definitely fancy their chances of success, it remains to be seen if anyone can stop the north Leitrim from achieving a four in a row which was last accomplished by Melvin Gaels from 1959 to 1962 and Gorvagh from 1924 to 1927.

Equalling the record of their great rivals and neighbours would be a great thrill for the Manorhamilton club and with five starting members of the Leitrim Senior team in the All-Ireland Qualifier game against Down, the odds are definitely on the champions extending their reign.

In fairness to Glencar/Manorhamilton, they have managed to do two things extremely well in the past number of years and both have contributed greatly to their success – they have replaced key players each and every year with new up and coming young stars and, incredibly, they have managed to actually boost their playing numbers, something increasingly difficult in these tough economic times.

Yet as Mohill proved last weekend, even the best teams can be beaten and many will be determined to stop the Champions. Many teams are adopting a massed defence strategy to stop the free-flowing Glencar/Manor men so it might not be a championship for free-flowing football!

Below we take a brief look at next weekend’s games:

Connacht Gold Senior Championship

St. Mary’s v Kiltubrid in Pairc Sean at 6.00pm: A game that many might expect to be a cake-walk for last year’s finalists became very interesting with St. Mary’s loss to Glenfarne/Kilty and an impressive Kiltubrid demolition of Drumkeerin in Division 2 last weekend.

St. Mary’s form has been up and down this year but one feels that they have been aiming for the championship this year and we will see a different St. Mary’s. They have lost Gene Bohan from last year’s team but with the influx of several members of last year’s Minor winning team and the influence of Jimmy Guckian, Robert & Daniel Lowe, the Carrick men should have too much strength for their neighbours who are struggling badly with numbers.

Carrigallen v Bornacoola in Pairc Sean at 7.30pm: Bornacoola have endured a night-mare Division One campaign so far this year and have yet to win a game yet their Shield victory over a hotly tipped Melvin Gaels would suggest that anyone who under-estimates them will do so at their peril. Their team is getting a bit older but their experience will see them through a lot of games. Carrigallen have not kicked on since their final appearance two years ago and their Shield loss to Allen Gaels, and the scale of it, will have them worried ahead of next Saturday. However, with Gary Reynolds back in the fold after his county exploits and a fine target man in Ciaran Flynn, you’d expect them to shock a physically powerful Bors and take the victory in this one.

Ballinamore SOH v Drumreilly in Cloone at 6.00pm: A fascinating local derby that really is quite absorbing and one to savour. O’Heslin’s are flying high in Division 2, having secured promotion back to the top flight while Drumreilly have just two wins from seven games. However, those games are at a higher level and they have a returning John McKeon to boost their ranks, something that will give them an enormous boost. However, Ballinamore, who impressed last year and look to be building a new look side, are on a roll and momentum is the key word when it comes to the championship and a series of big wins in recent weeks will have the confidence flowing their veins and that should be enough to see them across the line but only a.

Aughawillan v Mohill in Cloone at 7.30pm: Another tough one to call, both are flying high in Division One and Aughawillan’s renowned battling spirit makes them so difficult to beat. Their young team has been ultra competitive in Division One this year and nobody should underestimate the desire and determination in this young team, their ability to hit teams on the back harking back to the golden days of the 1990s. After a traumatic 2010 following the passing of Philly McGuinness, Mohill have been in impressive form in 2011 and have only suffered one League defeat to Melvin Gaels in Kinlough. Driven and focused, a win on Saturday would almost certainly seem them into the semi-finals but they will have to continue the high scoring form that has made them so potent in the League and one thinks they should be able to do so.

For predictions on the Intermediate competition and more see this week’s Leitrim Observer.