This can often be an odd time of the year from a football perspective, with the Championship up and running but at the same time not enough action to get your teeth into.
That shouldn’t be a complaint for punters heading to MacHale Park on Saturday. It was announced yesterday that county teams will be in action in three different competitions at the venue that day.
First into the fray will be the U20s. Their Championship hasn’t got underway yet as instead they’re currently competing in a Development League tournament, the prize on offer for which is the Philly McGuinness Cup.
In the first round a few weeks back – the day after the Senior match over in New York – Mike Solan’s team made a winning start in this competition, beating Donegal by 4-9 to 2-9. Donegal then played Roscommon, in a curtain-raiser to the recent Roscommon/Leitrim Connacht SFC clash, and proceeded to wallop in eight goals against them, running out winners by 8-9 to 2-9 that day at Hyde Park.
It’s safe to assume that Roscommon will be looking to make amends after that thumping. With an eye to the Championship campaign that gets going early in July – where we’re on the soft side of the draw, paired with Sligo in the semi-final – our lads, though, will no doubt be keen to get a second win in the Development League under their belts. The U20 match throws in at 3pm on Saturday.
Next up, with a 4.30pm throw-in, is the Connacht Junior football semi-final meeting with Leitrim. Ger Flanagan has a good preview piece on the match in this week’s Mayo News (paper and digital versions), in which he gets the low-down on the Juniors from team manager Jarlath French.
Rather arcane rules apply in relation to eligibility at Junior level, depending on which county is involved. In Leitrim’s case, as a weaker county they’re allowed to pick anyone who didn’t play a part in the recent Senior Championship clash with Roscommon, whereas we’re far more restricted in that area. Players likely to feature for us on Sunday include Barry Duffy (Balla), Colm Moran (Parke), Barry Leonard (Lahardane), Brendan Carr (Ardagh – brother of James), Matthew Flanagan (Balla) and Jason Forkan (Kiltimagh).
The winners of this match go forward to face defending Connacht JFC champions Galway in the provincial final. That decider will be the curtain-raiser to the Senior final at Pearse Stadium on 16th June.
Then, of course, it’s onto the main event at 7pm. There’s little in the way of news about the big game today, as an extremely quiet build-up to it continues apace. James Horan was on RTÉ Radio this morning on the Morning Ireland sports bulletin – which is here (the relevant bit starts at 3:16) – but, as you’d expect, James was giving little away when he spoke with Brian Carthy for that segment.
The MacHale Park triple-header doesn’t represent the full total of inter-county action for us this weekend. Indeed, it’s not even the full story in terms of ourselves and the Rossies. The two counties are also butting heads at Minor level, as they face off in the Connacht MFC Round 2 match at James Stephens Park in Ballina on Friday evening (throw-in 7.30pm).
Our lads made a confident start to their provincial campaign last Friday evening, beating Leitrim with a fair bit of ease. Roscommon’s win the same evening was, however, far more noteworthy as they came from eight points down at the break to beat Galway by two points. They’ll head to Ballina with plenty of confidence and so this one represents a real test for Tomás Morley’s young guns.