Ciarán Downey was excellent as Newtown Blues saw off St. Mochta's in this afternoon's Anchor Tours Senior Football Championship fixture at The Grove, Castlebellingham. (Pic: Arthur Kinahan)
St. Patrick’s vs Geraldines
Sunday: Dowdallshill, 1pm
These two met at this stage of the championship two seasons ago when Geraldines squeezed home by a slight margin. The fortunes of both outfits have been contrasting over the intervening period, although neither have played particularly well in 2020 in spite of reaching the Sheelan Cup quarter-finals.
In the absence of a scoring threat aside from Jim McEneaney, Gers are containable, whereas Pats’ issues lie in terms of keeping opponents out. They have Eoin O’Connor and Cathal Grogan to do the damage in attack and Martin Breen to implement muscle around centre-field.
When the draw was made neutrals would have backed Gers and one other to progress, but the predicament isn’t quite as straightforward as would have been suggested. The Haggardstown team just simply isn’t playing well and so you cannot merely assume they will be playing knockout stage football for the second year on the trot.
Are Pat’s good enough to pip them? Yes, particularly if O’Connor and Grogan bring their shooting boots to St. Brigid’s Park and the auxiliary players around the field do what’s required.
O’Connell’s vs Dundalk Gaels
Sunday: Ardee, 3pm
Gaels manager Wayne McKeever will be coaching against his home club for the first time in the senior championship in a match where both O’Connell’s and the Dundalk outfit will be eager to place one foot in the knockout stage.
Both operating in Division Two of the league, it would be no exaggeration to surmise that these two are among the weakest in the senior grade. Indeed, relegation is staring the loser square in the face.
Gaels won the second tier promotion semi-final meeting of the sides last season, prevailing quite comprehensively, in fact, and so they should have too much power, with Derek Crilly, Barry Watters, David McComish and captain Gerard McSorley in the team, and balance for O’Connell’s, who boast a top-heavy line-up.
Scoring never seems to be an issue for the Castlebellingham outfit, with Robert Quigley, Niall Conlon and Bernard Osborne up top, though their defence is suspect and Gaels should play on that.
St. Mochta’s vs Dreadnots
Sunday: Dunleer, 5pm
The last time this pair met, in last year’s Sheelan Cup final, Dreadnots were thoroughly convincing winners, but there will be little to separate clubs that won the intermediate championship title 10 years apart.
While 2008 winners Dreadnots are long-established as a senior powerhouse, one which have yet to claim the ultimate honour, Mochta’s are up-and-coming and fancy themselves as potential county champions in the not-too-distant future. Indeed, their 40/1 price has attracted punters for the present year.
As for who is in better form at the moment, it’s pretty much a lottery as league results have been poorer than expected for both, with opening round defeats in games, against Ardee St. Mary’s (Mochta’s) and Cooley Kickhams (Dreadnots), which they would have anticipated faring better in.
There is quality on both sides but while Mochta’s have the youth and ambition, Dreadnots possess experience and understanding of what it takes to get over the group stage line. Winning on the opening weekend is paramount irrespective of who the opposition is, though with Naomh Máirtín the pick of this trio, the victor can look forward to a quarter-final.
Mattock R vs Newtown Blues
Sunday: Drogheda, 7pm
The 2000s saw many classic battles between Mattock Rangers and Newtown Blues, including three senior championship finals. Indeed, both enter the fray at the Gaelic Grounds fresh from major silverware, Rangers taking intermediate honours as Blues managed what the Collon club couldn’t in 2011 by winning three-in-a-row.
Mattock manager Niall Callan was part of those noughties skirmishes and so knows what it takes to pip the Newfoundwell outfit, and the men in red and black may never get a better opportunity to end Blues’ four-year unbeaten championship record. It’s believed the holders will be without stalwart Colm Judge for the remainder of the season through a collarbone injury sustained in the league loss to Naomh Máirtín.
In saying that, Mattock have so far played without star full-back Shane Maguire, while last season’s driving force at centre-back, Niall McKeown, has transferred back to his native Rockcorry, hence there will have to be adjustments made to a backline which was the building block of their Leinster and Louth second tier title triumphs.
The clash, in many ways, will be of domestic football’s purists. While Mattock have footballers like the Reids, Adrian and David, Brendan Leacy, Ryan Leneghan and Aaron O’Brien, Blues have silky Ciarán Downey, Alan Connor and Andy McDonnell, players that epitomise class. It could be a belter.