Footballers fare better in home venues for league
THERE'S WELL over two months to go before we bid farewell to 2012, but already players, supporters and mentors alike are making plans for the new year following the announcement of various inter-county dates last week.
The provisional Allianz League fixtures were released along with the Leinster championship details, whetting everyone's appetites for the action to come.
Wexford's football campaign under new manager Aidan O'Brien will begin on Sunday, February 3, with Liam Dunne's hurlers setting off on their journey three weeks later. The full league details are -
Football (Division 2): Sunday, February 3, home to Longford, 2 p.m.; Sunday, February 10, away to Armagh, 2 p.m.; Sunday, March 3, home to Derry, 2 p.m.; Sunday, March 10, away to Louth, 2.30 p.m.; Monday, March 18, home to Westmeath, 2 p.m.; Sunday, March 24, away to Galway, 1 p.m.; Sunday, April 7, home to Laois, 3 p.m.
Hurling (Division 1B): Sunday, February 24, away to Carlow, 2 p.m.; Sunday, March 10, away to Offaly, 2 p.m.; Saturday, March 16, home to Antrim, 2 p.m.; Sunday, March 24, home to Dublin, 2 p.m.; Sunday, March 31, away to Limerick, 3 p.m.
These details are subject to change as the provisional list will be studied by counties who are entitled to make representations before the fixtures are finalised.
At first glance the league looks kinder for the footballers who have been granted four home games out of seven. In contrast, the hurlers only have two out of five and their last two group matches will be crunch ties at home to Dublin and away to Limerick respectively. With a trip to Offaly beforehand, it's clear that qualification for the top flight will be a difficult task.
Meanwhile, the county's Under-21 and Minor footballers will both face trips to Westmeath for the first round of the Leinster championships, with the former getting just one chance to advance while the latter will have the cushion of a losers' round if required. The Under-21s are on the same side of the draw as All-Ireland champions Dublin, Carlow and Longford.
The Junior footballers will be at home to Longford, with the winners facing Cavan or Louth in the semi-final, while the Under-21 hurlers will be hosting Westmeath and a victory would secure a clash with Dublin or Carlow in the penultimate round.
In keeping with the trend of recent years, the Minor hurling championship draw has been over-complicated with the ten competing teams put in three separate tiers.
As beaten finalists this year, Wexford are in tier one with Dublin while tier two features Kilkenny, Carlow, Laois and Offaly, with minnows Westmeath, Kildare, Meath and Wicklow in tier three.
Carlow will play Offaly initially while Laois will meet Kilkenny, with the two victors being drawn to play Wexford and/or Dublin. A Wexford success would secure a semi-final spot, while they will have a second chance in a quarter-final if they lose.
Of course, the Senior pairings were decided one week earlier, with the footballers awaiting the outcome of the Laois v. Louth first round tie, while Wicklow, Longford and Meath are on the same side of the draw.
Meanwhile, the hurlers will take on Dublin in the quarter-final where a victory would set up a meeting with Kilkenny or Offaly in the penultimate round.
Both Senior teams will be involved in the O'Byrne and Walsh Cups prior to the commencent of the National Leagues, with the details of these competitions yet to be announced.
Of more pressing concern are the AIB Leinster Club championships, with St. Anne's having to wait an extra seven days to find out who their opponents in Pearse Park on October 28 will be as the Longford football decider between Emmet Og of Killoe and Longford Slashers ended in a low-scoring 0-7 each draw.
Oulart-The Ballagh know their fate though, as they will be travelling to Parnell Park in Donnycarney on Sunday, November 4, to take on Kilmacud Crokes who defeated Cuala in their county decider on Sunday last by 2-10 to 0-9.