Monday 24 June 2019

Jones a major loss for Kilanerin with back injury

The initial target was to return to Senior football within the county, but now Kilanerin are on the cusp of a dream AIB All-Ireland Club final appearance
The initial target was to return to Senior football within the county, but now Kilanerin are on the cusp of a dream AIB All-Ireland Club final appearance

Dean Goodison

There are different ways to win championships, in any sporting arena, but there's something special about a real team unit achieving their goals together. Kilanerin, out of all the Wexford winners this past season, display those hallmarks more than any other.

The previous reliance on Matty Forde is no more. The former All Star is a big complement to the team ethos but not the only option.

His team display that on the field, both when he's there picking off the scores, or when he's off the field, like he was when they beat Raheens with two late points.

When everyone is rowing in together, refusing to buckle under the pressure, special things can happen. It's exactly why Kilanerin have every chance of upsetting favourites Michael Glaveys of Roscommon when they meet in Bord na Móna O'Connor Park, Tullamore, on Sunday (2 p.m.) in the AIB All-Ireland Intermediate club football championship semi-final.

Continuity has helped Kilanerin too. Thirteen players started all four Leinster championship games. Of the other two spots on the team, one, at corner-forward, has been shared between Bobby Hughes and Emmet O'Toole.

The defence has been even more settled, with Denis Jones replacing Tomás Owley, who started against Rathcline in the first round, for the last three games. Otherwise, the back nine have played together right the way through the provincial championship.

But things will have to change, and gel differently. Jones will miss the All-Ireland semi-final, and any potential final, with a pre-scheduled back operation. Given how well he has played, as a vital cog in a well-oiled machine, it's a huge blow.

It does give the opportunity to others. A feisty, clever defender in Tomás Owley looks the most likely to take that spot, given that he started the championship opener and came on with 15 minutes left for Richard Hughes in the Leinster semi-final win.

However, it's also possible that a reshuffle will see Conor Devitt continue his comeback from a serious knee injury by making a start. Kilanerin boss Pat Forde has been really careful with the talented dual player, giving him 36 minutes before he picked up an unrelated injury against Rochfortbridge and the second-half against Ballyboughal in the Leinster final.

Whoever takes that spot, they will need to be at their very best. Roscommon, for a county of only 64,436, really punches above their weight in club football. A side from the county has made the provincial final in six of the last ten renewals, winning two of them.

St. Croan's, from the Ballintubber/Ballymoe area of the county, made the All-Ireland final back in early 2015 before losing to Ardfert of Kerry. Other provincial winners from the west have fared reasonably well, making four of the last six finals, with Westport from Mayo winning last year.

Michael Glaveys, selecting from Ballinlough, Cloonfad, Granlahan and Gorthaganny, and the home club of the famed Earley brothers, the late Dermot and Paul, will be the opposition for Kilanerin on Sunday. They moved through the Roscommon championship losing just once in the group stages, and beat Fuerty by 0-12 to 0-10 in the county final.

Goalkeeper Darren O'Malley has been the Rossies' back-up stopper but it's attacker Andy Glennon, scorer of three goals on his county debut in 2017 FBD League, who is the dangerman for his club. He registered nine points, seven from play, when Glaveys beat Claregalway by 3-14 to 1-12 in the Connacht final.

The Gorey District club have a tough assignment ahead of them. No Leinster side has won the All-Ireland Intermediate club football title, while only two have reached the decider in the history of the competition. However, if anyone can overcome the odds and reach the Croke Park decider it's Kilanerin, so write them off at your peril.

Wexford People