FOR the second year in a row, Dundalk rivals Clan na Gael and Sean O’Mahony’s are in the proverbial ‘Group of Death’.
Group Four in the Avonmore Louth Intermediate Championship renews the rivalry between the sides from last year, but also throws in a new element into the mix as St Brides join the pair, after they were relegated from the Senior Championship last year.
For the Clans, 2011 offers another chance at trying to claw their way back to the Senior Championship. After a terrible 2010, in which they were relegated from Division One and humbled by a hungry and disciplined St Mochta’s team in the Championship last year, they will have to take a new approach this year and see more from their star players to be in with a chance. Former county star Cathal O’Hanlon is in charge now.
The O’Mahony’s found life difficult in Intermediate last year. They were pipped to second place on points difference by Na Piarsaigh and survived a relegation dogfight, something they will be keen to avoid this year, though the departure of star man John O’Brien will not help. St Brides have a lot of mileage on their clocks, but emerging players such as Paddy Reilly, captain of the Dundalk Schools team, may give them the vital blend of youth and experience to send them straight back up.
Last year’s beaten finalists, the O’Raghallaigh’s will look to put the heartache behind them as they are drawn alongside Roche Emmets and Na Piarsaigh. After two back to back final losses in 2008 and 2009, Na Piarsaigh wilted away in the quarter-final stages last year, which was better than Roche Emmets, whose season started so brightly, but faded soon, ending in a heavy defeat in their Celebrity Banisteoir appearance.
One would expect Na Piarsaigh and O’Raghallaigh’s to come out of the group, with O’Raghallaigh’s one of the favourites to win the cup, but if Roche get off to a good start and maintain it, then they could be on for an upset.
Nearly men start again
O’Connells, the competition’s nearly men are drawn alongside their nearest rivals, St Joseph’s and Seamus O’Hanlon’s Oliver Plunketts in Group Three.
Looking good for a final appearance last year, O’Connells’ world was turned upside down when a late punt by Ruairi Moore was punched into the net by Craig McEnteggart, sending the O’Raghallaighs through to the final. Smash and grab it certainly was.
Always knocking on the door, O’Connells senior players like Stuart Reynolds and Mark Stanfield
know that their time is running out for them to life the trophy. They are in with St Joesph’s who won’t need much inspiration to lift themselves for their match with the O’Connells. With promising minor stars in their ranks after back to back Minor Championship wins in 2009 and 2010, the Joe’s could be a surprise package. Seamus O’Hanlon’s team, the Plunketts kicked themselves out of the competition last year in the knock-out stages against Dundalk Young Irelands but finished the season on a high, winning promotion to Division One, which will put them in good stead come Championship season.
Making the grade
2010’s Junior Championship winners, Naomh Fionnbarra make the return to Intermediate level and they will face two good young sides in the form of the Geraldines and St Mochta’s. Looking to consolidate their position, the Finbarrs will be looking to avoid a relegation play-off at all costs.
The Geraldines, who flirted with relegation, will be keen to hang onto their young stars, if they have any chance at going far, as last year, a majority of them went off to America on J1 visas.
The Mochta’s could be dark horses for the title. After drawing with the O’Connells and beating the Gers in the group stages, they hammered Clan na Gael in Knockbridge in the quarter-final stages and left their comeback too late against the Irelands in the semi-final. With a terrific attitude and a pleasing style of football, this could be their year if they get the rub of the green.