It’s championship season – which the weather of late confirms, even if the absence of any action suggests otherwise – and while we count down the days to our opening Connacht championship fixture the weekend after next, there’s some more immediate action to consider. This comes in the form of a Connacht JFC semi-final against Sligo, which is fixed for Fr O’Hara Park, Charlestown this coming Friday evening with a 7pm throw-in.
The Juniors have gone well in the championship in recent years. They head into this Connacht campaign seeking a provincial three-in-a-row, having come out the right side of narrow contests against Galway in both 2015 and again last year.
In both years they made it to the All-Ireland final but, unfortunately, on both occasions came up against the juggernaut that is Junior football in Kerry. In 2015 they suffered a right whipping in the decider, losing 2-18 to 0-10, while last year, in a game that acted as the curtain-raiser to our All-Ireland quarter-final against Tyrone at Croke Park, they went under by 2-18 to 2-11.
As the match preview in this week’s Western People (paper and digital variants) makes clear, however, this year’s Junior team is a much-changed one from the side that lined out in that All-Ireland final last August. Eleven players involved in last year’s panel are, for a variety of reasons, not available for selection this year.
The Western notes that all of the current Westport team, bar Lee Keegan and the injured Kevin Keane, are eligible to line out for the Juniors but, as yet, none of them have made themselves available. While this is obviously a disappointment for manager Sean McLoughlin and his selectors, it’s also an understandable position from the point of view of the club and the players. Their 2016 season stretched well into this year, culminating in All-Ireland glory, and now they’re adjusting to top-tier club life, with a second round of club SFC action not too far down the road.
One player who is, however, available to play for the Juniors is former senior player Mark Ronaldson. The Shrule/Glencorrib clubman has jumped at the chance to don the county jersey once again and he’s interviewed in this week’s Mayo News – here.
As is explained in that match preview in the Western, Sligo operate a different criteria to us in relation to eligibility. Anyone who has played in the senior club championship in the previous year is ineligible to play Junior inter-county for us while, for Sligo, anyone not on the senior county team can play. As the Western notes, this means that a number of lads who were on the New York trip last weekend could line out for the Magpies on Friday.
Whoever emerges from Friday’s semi-final faces a very quick turnaround as the Connacht JFC final has been fixed for this day week (17th May). Leitrim will play the winners from Friday’s semi-final as they beat Galway in the other semi-final last weekend.
Best of luck to Sean McLoughlin and his charges as they set out on another JFC campaign.