Who can stop Kilcoo?
9 August 2017
Thursday August 10
At Mayobridge: Bryansford v Warrenpoint (7.45pm)
Warrenpoint are a team in form at the minute, currently sitting joint second behind league leaders Castlewellan in Division 1.
Niall McAleenan and Eamon McEvoy have added an edge to the side this year and with talent to burn, the Blues will give perennial Championship challengers in recent years Bryansford a bug run for their money.
As for the ‘Ford, in Conor Maginn, they possess arguably the best half-forward in the county and Warrenpoint will be aiming to keep him quiet on Thursday night in Mayobridge.
Having signed Packie Downey this year, Bryansford have that target man they have longed for and the former Drumgath forward can prove a handful on any given day.
While they have willing runners such as Maginn, Danny Savage and David McKibben, Downey gives them that added dimension on the edge of the square.
On league form, it would be hard to look past Warrenpoint in this one although Bryansford are rarely far off when it comes to the crunch in the Championship.
Friday August 11
At Pairc Esler: Ballymartin v Saval (6.30pm)
This should be one of the more cut and dried clashes of the opening round in the Senior Championship.
Saval, having been relegated from Division 1 last year, are sitting pretty at the top of Division 2, four points clear under the management of Sean Ward.
Ballymartin had been punching above their weight to be in the Senior Championship while Saval are a Division 1 team in waiting with the likes of Niall Madine and Pat Havern leading their attack. Keelan Rice and Daniel McCarthy also play a big part in how Saval play and it’s almost an inevitability that they will ease their way through to the next round of the competitions.
Longstone v Mayobridge (8pm)
Mayobridge will be without the injured Cory Quinn, which will be a big loss for a side who, whilst adopting more of a defensive style of football this year, are very well organised under the tutelage of Francis Poland.
The ‘Stone are likely to be without former Down captain Ambrose Rodgers due to a hand injury he picked up last week and he will be a big loss for them.
Their young team have struggled in the league this year with just two wins from 14 games in Division 1 that sees them sit rock bottom of the table and Mayobridge will go into this game as overwhelming favourites.
While the ‘Bridge certainly aren’t the force in Down they once were, expect them to see off the Longstone challenge at Pairc Esler on Friday night.
Saturday August 12
At Castlewellan: An Ríocht v Downpatrick (3.45pm)
With just three points separating the two sides in Division 1, this would possibly be seen as one of the tighter clashes in the opening round of fixtures.
Downpatrick’s sheer size and physicality sees them through a lot of games with the likes of Michael Magee, Conor McGrady and Peter Telford giving them that meaty look going forward.
Peter Turley, Anthony Doherty and Gerard Collins have returned from county duty to add to that steeliness, though The Kingdom have also found some edginess under manger Declan O’Reilly and coach Martin Clarke.
They have potent forwards in Deaglan Morgan, Declan Doyle and Ronan McAlinden and this clash in Castlewellan might not be as clear-cut as many think.
At Newcastle: Loughinisland v Ballyholland Harps (6.45pm)
While the favour will generally go towards the team playing in the higher division, Division 1 Ballyholland have a few injuries going into their meeting with Division 2 Loughinisland in Newcastle on Saturday.
Turlough Brady is out for the rest of the season, while the experienced Ronan Murtagh faces a race against time to make the weekend’s clash.
The Harps still should have too much for the ‘Island, although one interesting factor is the return for forward Rory Mason from London.
The Loughinisland man scored 11 points against a Carlow team, coached by Ballyholland boss Steven Poacher, in this year’s National League and will provide a threat.
Dan Gordon is fit and playing while former Down man Jamie O’Reilly and his brother Ben are believed to be back playing for the ‘Island’s reserve side.
Sunday August 13
At Downpatrick: Bredagh v Castlewellan (3.45pm)
Castlewellan have been the best team in Division 1 of the Down Leagues this year and currently sit five points clear at the summit, while Bredagh occupy a mid-table spot in the league below.
This will be the biggest banker of the entire round of fixtures with Castlewellan simply having too much in their locker for a Bredagh side who are now without Down man Alan Davidson, who is believed to now be in the USA.
Castlewellan have Down number one Michael Cunningham back on board as well as a trio of players – Sean Dornan, Colm Flanagan and Rory Burns – who were on the periphery of the county set-up in their run to the Ulster Final.
It will be a case for Jody Gormley and Bredagh setting up defensively in order to try and keep the score down.
At Pairc Esler: Kilcoo v Clonduff (8pm)
The repeat of last year’s final is undoubtedly the pick of the opening weekend of fixtures as the two great rivals go head-to-head in Newry on Sunday night.
Having seemingly changed their tactics for the decider in 2016, Clonduff will have learnt from those mistakes. While the Yellows will have to do without the injured Barry O’Hagan, they still have plenty of experience and firepower in the locker to push the Magpies all the way.
Down captain Darren O’Hagan and Aidan Carr are back from county duty while in Stephen McConville, younger brother of forward Arthur, they possess one of the best forwards in the county and someone who should be pushing for a spot in the red and black in 2018.
For Kilcoo, the chance to take a momentous six-in-a-row will be the driving force and with Darragh O’Hanlon in full flow for the county this year plus the added bonus of the Johnston brothers, Ryan and Jerome, both fully fit, they will still be a tough nut to crack.
But could this be the year they come unstuck?
Monday August 14
At Clonduff: Burren v Glenn (8pm)
Burren will be targeting this year’s competition as the one they want to win to knock Kilcoo off their perch after the Magpies’ five years at the top.
Under Paddy O’Rourke, they have become slightly more defensive but with the return of Kevin McKernan and Conaill McGovern from Down duty, that should suit two of the best line-breakers in the county. They also should have Donal O’Hare back to fitness and in perfect shape for the Championship.
Glenn have had a tough year with the absence of Shay Millar and Niall McParland in particular, along with Ronan Millar, to Down hitting them hard, while Denis Murtagh is currently in America and Liam Bagnall has opted off the panel following his move to Premiership scccer side Cliftonville.
Burren’s experience should see them through in the end although it will be tight.To read more subscribe to our online Newspaper