This weekend sees the quarter finals stage in the Bord na Móna O’Byrne Cup as most of the County teams continue to experiment in preparation for the forthcoming Allianz League campaign.
Where and When? :
Saturday 14th January 2012:
Parnell Park (7.45) Dublin v UCD
Sunday 15th January 2012:
Pairc Tailteann, Navan (2.00) Meath v Louth
Ballymahon (2.00) Longford v DCU
Newbridge (2.00) Kildare v Offaly
Meath v Louth:
The infamous Joe Sheridan ‘goal’ in the Summer of 2010 that deprived Louth of a first Leinster title since 1957 will once more be recalled when Meath and Louth clash in Sunday’s Bord na Mona quarter final at Pairc Tailteann in Navan yet in the grand scale of things it will have no bearing on the ultimate destination of this year’s O’Byrne Cup . That said no Meath v Louth clash is unimportant in the eyes of supporters so we can expect a hard fought battle for supremacy here too . Neither side will want to lose this one .
It is even particularly important for Louth Manager Peter Fitzpatrick as his team have some catching up to do since Kilkenny withdrew from the competition just before Christmas thus giving Louth a bye yet even more worryingly for Fitzpatrick he will be without several key players mainly due to injury – men like Declan Byrne, Sean Gallagher, Aaron and Ger Hoey, Paddy Keenan, Shane Lennon,Mark Brennan,Eamonn McAuley and goalkeepers Sean Connor and Neil Gallagher,though in the latter’s case he is in Australia.
As Fitzpatrick told ‘ The Irish Times’ , “Seán Connor broke a bone in his foot and he’ll be gone for most of the season “ . “And Neil Gallagher is in Australia, so we’ve brought two new goalkeepers into the panel, Craig Martin, from St Martin’s who played for the county under-21s two years ago, and Duane Crosby from St Mary’s.
“Eamonn McAuley has had an operation on his back, Declan Byrne and Aaron Hoey have broken fingers, and Ger Hoey has back trouble. Paddy Keenan also has an on-going knee problem, Mark Brennan has a groin injury, and Shane Lennon has groin, hamstring and back problems.”
Good news though for Louth is that former Armagh player Johnny Murtagh has opted to play for the Louth men in future, provided his clearance comes through in time.
Meath meantime had a good workout against Wexford last weekend winning 1-13 to 1-10 win and there will be much interest in whether or not Graham Geraghty, at 39 makes a comeback in this game, even if only as a substitute.
Anything other than a comprehensive win for the Meath men here would be a big surprise given the absence of so many key players from the Louth side.
Longford v D.C.U
Longford had but a slender win against Athlone I.T last time out and Glenn Ryan’s side will need to show a big improvement this weekend when they meet the students from D.C.U.
The latter had a good win over Wicklow in the first round and will be hoping to shock another County side this weekend at Leo Casey Park in Ballymahon.
The home side here were heavily reliant on scores from their full forward line last weekend – Francis McGee (0-5), Brian Kavanagh (0-2), Sean McCormack (0-4) – they accounted for 11 of the 13 points and if they are to progress further against DCU the trio will need to be in good form once more. More importantly others must share the responsibility too.
DCU were at one stage reduced to 13 men in Baltinglass following the dismissals of Anthony McFadden (red) and Jonathan Cooper ( two yellow cards) but thanks to an inspired Dean Rock, a son of former Dublin great Barney, they still held on to win in Baltinglass. In all Rock got nine of the students points in a game in which Eoghan O’Gara and Gary Sweeney also made a major contribution to the win.
This will be a close one but I expect a narrow win for the students this weekend too.
Dublin v UCD:
Another opportunity here for Pat Gilroy to experiment before the “mouth watering” League clash with Kerry on the Croke Park double header of 4 February. The students did very well see to see off the challenge of Laois last weekend thanks in no small measure to a very impressive performance from Laois county star, Donie Kingston (he also contributed six points) well supported by Westmeath’s Lorcan Smyth (0-5). In one dominant spell in that game the students added six points without reply yet it would be a ‘’major shock’’ if they were to beat the Dubs on their own patch on Saturday.
Dublin will be without the services of David Henry, who announced his retirement from Inter County football, earlier this week preferring to concentrate on helping his club Raheny.
Though not a member of the Dubs All Ireland winning side he has made a major contribution to the team in the last 10 years and was a ‘permanent fixture’ during Paul McCaffery’s reign.
Caffery spoke highly of the player, telling the Irish Examiner: “They say nice guys don’t always come out on top but Davy Henry proved that wrong. In my nine years with Dublin, he was one of the nicest fellas I’ve ever dealt with.
“There was such a decency to him. He had natural talent and was able to play in any number of positions for club and county. He’s been a fantastic servant to Dublin football.”
Henry, it is understood, was informed that should he change his mind later this month he is welcome to return to the panel – that seems highly unlikely.
On Saturday at Parnell Park anything less than a six points victory margin for the Dubs seems unlikely.
Bord na Mona O’Byrne Cup semi-final : Kildare v Offaly Sunday 15th January Newbridge 2pm
Kildare meet Offaly in Sunday’s Bord Na Mona O’Byrne Cup quarter final at St Conleth’s Park in Newbridge with two early season wins under their belt, having easily overcome D.I.T in the opening round and earlier had a good workout when defeating their own Under 21 side in a challenge.
Kieran McGeeney has re-appointed 34 years old John Doyle as his captain for another season, and remains a vital cog in Kildare’s quest for League and Championship honours. He was one of the first players to re-commit to the county’s cause this year and though he did not play any part last Sunday, when he was a substitute it is quite likely that he will see early season action against the Faithful County. McGeeney was not entirely satisfied with last week’s showing : “I was probably just disappointed that we didn’t put more scores on the board,” he said.
Doyle, a 2010 All Star, was a big loss to Kildare when he was out for much of last season due to injury and even though now 34, remains one of their key players. Eamonn Callaghan will again act as Vice-Captain but for McGeeney Sunday’s fixture is an important part of the build up towards not only the defence of their O’Byrne Cup crown but also in the build up to their opening League clash with Tyrone , now part of a double header at Croke Park on 4 February as well as the Dublin-Kerry clash.
From a a Kildare viewpoint McGeeney is rather more concerned with performance than results at this stage of their preparation, though he will want his charges to win on Sunday of course.
Offaly will present a good challenge to the Kildare men on Sunday as they had a pretty impressive outing last weekend in Tullamore when they overcame Westmeath 3- 6 to 0-7 and as always when these teams meet will expect to be ‘up for the challenge’ against the Lilywhites . They are though still without a few key players again this weekend though as McGeeney quipped to the “Kildare Nationalist” : I’m sure they’ll be up for it. It’s hard to know what team they’ll put out but I’m sure they’ll like to get stuck into Kildare. They always do, Offaly men.”
He won’t be surprised to hear that after last week, Gerry Cooney has opted for an unchanged Offaly side for Sunday with former goalkeeper Alan Mulhall remaining in the full forward line having notched 2-2 against the Lakesiders. They did go though without scoring in one 25 minutes spell against Westmeath and any repeat of that here would be severely punished by Kildare.
Offaly: Team: K.Meehan, J.Gallagher, P.McConway, S.Pender, J.Keane, B.Darby, L.Hiney,R.Dalton,R.Brady, G.Guilfoyle,N.Dunne,A.Keenaghan,W.Mulhall, A.Mulhall, K.Casey
Prediction: With Tomas O’Connor, Padraig O’Neill and Ronan Sweeney in fine form early in the season, I expect Kildare to win this one with five points to spare.