Friday 23 August 2019

Action on the club football scene to resume with bang

Brendan Furlong
Brendan Furlong

Brendan Furlong's Hop Ball column

Everything points to what will be a hectic weekend on the football scene with the resumption of the county championship which will take followers on many scenic routes around the county.

It's a dream for every club to qualify for a county final, but first they must adapt to the lengthy break, owing to inter-county activity, as they try to stamp their authority on games for various reasons, either to secure points to push them into the quarter-final stages, or move away from the relegation zone.

The championship is now firmly established; teams know exactly where they stand, and know what is needed if they are to prolong their summer for all the right reasons, and that is a place in the knockout stages.

That ensures there will be some huge games out there for supporters. Football has made real progress, given the Wexford bounce in the qualifiers caused by a victory over Down and subsequent defeat to Derry, coming on the back of a provincial quarter-final exit to Westmeath, a game they should have won. And all of this was coupled with a Leinster Junior success, before losing out in the All-Ireland semi-final after a great battle with the mighty Kerry.

So when the Fixtures committee met they came up with some outstanding double-headers to set the pulse racing.

The race towards the Senior title re-commences on Friday with an attractive double bill down for decision at Taghmon.

Entertainment value should be high as in the opening game, both Sarsfields and Adamstown are desperately in need of points. Top of the list for both sides will be a victory which should add to the attractiveness of the game.

Sarsfields will be considerably strengthened for this game, fielding what will be their strongest side so far, with the returning Murphy brothers to go alongside such fine players as Mikey Hanrahan, Eoin Roche, Brendan Mulligan and Ciarán Kirwan.

Adamstown will be looking towards James Breen and Paudie Barden for inspiration in what should be a real tight affair.

In the second game, Senior champions of 2013, St. Martin's, clash with last year's intermediate champions, St. James'. The real feature of this game should be the midfield duel involving Daithí Waters and Matthew O'Hanlon. The outcome of this could decide the points, particularly as O'Hanlon along with Kevin O'Grady combined to shock Gusserane in their last outing.

O'Kennedy Park is the place to be on Saturday evening. Is there anything more worrying for a club than losing their Senior status? Well, the four teams in action have much to play for.

St. Fintan's, having lost so many key players, are struggling, but will be boosted by the returning Donal Shanley. But even this should not be enough to help them take crucial points off Fethard.

Horeswood, as everyone is aware, are capable of salvaging their Senior status as they did last year, while fellow strugglers Starlights' lack of consistency leaves this as a wide open affair. The destination of the points will have a huge influence on the sides' championship hopes.

Perhaps the most attractive double-header of the weekend is reserved for Wexford Park on Sunday evening. Reigning champions, St. Anne's, once again meet up with arch-rivals, Shelmaliers. When they met at the semi-final stage last year St. Anne's edged through, but the Shels held the upper hand in the Senior hurling final. Therefore, the two sets of players know each other well.

The absence of Diarmuid O'Keeffe could swing the game towards the Shels, who themselves are still concerned about the fitness of Brian Malone following a neck injury received in the Derry game.

The Gusserane-Castletown clash will also double up as the Division 1 league final. Such a move gives both sides much to play for, with Gusserane eager to bounce back from their St. James' defeat, while Castletown are still seeking crucial points as they continue to eye a quarter-final spot.

When it comes to the championship we should not forget the Intermediate and Junior grades, particularly the Intermediate where some of the best quality football and excitement can be witnessed.

Crucially, we are now hoping for a sun-drenched weekend, which would go a long way towards helping people come out in support.

The weekend is one which should be filled with enjoyable football.

Wexford People

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