Tight games expected as championship gets underway
TheRoslea players celebrate after beating Teemore in last year's Fermanagh SFC final at Brewster Park.
Round One of this year's Senior Championship features four games this coming weekend, with Tempo and Belcoo kicking things off this Friday in Kinawley. Irvinestown play Newtownbutler in Tempo on Saturday, before reigning champions Roslea play Derrygonnelly at Brewster Park as part of a double header, with Lisnaskea against Devenish also on the bill.
Tempo vs Belcoo
Both sides will feel they have a lot to prove to themselves after somewhat lacklustre championship performances from both in recent years.
It's hard to call a favourite here with both teams having enjoyed a mixed bag of results in the league this season, with both sides sitting in mid division at this stage of the campaign, and it is sure to be a very tight affair on Friday night in Kinawley.
Tempo go into this game on the back of an impressive win over high-flying St. Joseph's, and will feel this is a great chance for them to progress into the quarter finals. They will perhaps feel they should have done better in last year's championship, falling at the penultimate stage against Teemore, but they will also feel they have enough in reserve to win this one.
Much will depend though on the form of the Keenan brothers, Daryl and Ryan. They have been the main threats for Tempo in the past number of seasons, and if they can get enough ball into them, they can hurt Belcoo.
Tempo are a team that certainly have the potential to have a say in this year's championship, but they will have to be at their very best to do so.
With Damien Kelly at the heart of their defence along with the likes of Rory and Conor Foy, the Maguires have plenty of experience in that sector, and will have to be on their toes to curtail a Belcoo attack that carries a lot of threat of its own, with plenty of speed in their ranks.
Belcoo themselves are very much like Tempo, having failed to deliver on the promise and potential they have shown in the last number of years, with a potential winning team crumbling when it really matters in the championship.
That will surely motivate them to strive for better things this year, and this game gives them that chance.
In defence, they have plenty of experienced campaigners themselves, with Niall McGovern and Ryan Dolan two of their main men. They also have players who can break out at pace when called upon, and in attack they have plenty of names to call upon, with the experience of Stephen Maguire, Shane McCabe and Brian Cox sure to help their cause.
It will be a hard-fought contest and one Belcoo manager Jim McCarron is savouring in his first taste of the Fermanagh championship. He said, "It's shown this season that any team in this league is capable of beating another on any given day and that will be no different here. Tempo have to go in as favourites given our recent performances in the championship, it's not a good one, but as I said it's all on teh day."
As for Tempo manager John McElroy, he expects a tough battle on Friday night. He said, "The positions of both teams in the league, how close they are at the minute, might give an indication of how tight this game will be. We have no injury worries and have gained confidence from our last two results, so we will be going in on a high."
Newtownbutler vs Irvinestown
This is a game that will see Newtownbutler going in as massive favourites with Division Two side Irvinestown struggling of late with key personnel missing, but this is sure to be a tighter affair than most would imagine, with Newtown also with players out for Saturday's game.
Newtownbutler, the 2007 champions, have had a poor league run so far this season, a run that sees them languishing very close to the relegation trap door in Division One, but the First Fermanaghs will feel they have a great chance to get themselves up and running in this year's competition with a win here.
However, they go into the game without a number of key players. Injury and suspension have saw the likes of Eugene Maguire, captain Clive Fitzpatrick and influential midfielder Kevin Connolly all out for the Irvinestown match to name but a few.
It has left manager Micky Fox with very little to work with in his preparations for the game, but they should still have enough in reserve to see off their opponents, who are also struggling for numbers at the minute.
In defence, Newtown have a vastly experienced rearguard, with the likes of Paul Johnson, Chris Reilly and Dan O'Keefe, and in attack they have Ryan Carson, who has the ability to turn games on his own, with Colum Monahan's free taking also sure to be a key factor in the result this weekend. Newtown will want to show the rest of the county that they're better than their league form suggests, and this should be a good test for them.
As for Irvinestown, they will be going into the game feeling they have nothing to lose, and sometimes that can be the motivation a team needs to spring a shock.
They have a number of players missing themselves, with Gary Maguire, Paul Leonard, James Duffy and Stephen Sheridan all out for the contest.
However, in Shane Goan they have an experienced county man in their defence who will help shore things up, and in attack, the free taking ability of Ronan Ormsby could well give the Irvinestown side a chance on Saturday in Tempo. They will be happy to be tagged underdogs, and this could weel be the surprise of the round.
Newtown manager Micky Fox hopes his side can overcome injury concerns and push forward to the next round. He said, "We have a number of players out but we just have to go out and get the job done. Hopefully the players available will do the job and see us through to the quarter finals."
As for Irvinestown manager Mark Seaney, he is in a similar position. He said, "It's going to be very tough for us. Our current league form hasn't been good and we're missing a lot of players who are either injured or unavailable, it's certainly going to be a tough ask, but we will give it our best shot."
Lisnaskea vs Devenish
A repeat of the 2009 League Final contested between these two teams, with Devenish winning on that occasion, and in the Championship game between the two last season, Devenish were also the victors. Lisnaskea then will have a point to prove, and with their league form seeing them at the top of Division One at this stage of the campaign, they will be hopeful they can get through here in what is sure to be a tough assignment.
The Emmetts have been superb at times this season, accumulating some very high scores against various opponents. However in recent games that form has begun to slip just a little bit, and they will have to curb that minor blip if they are to come out on top here.
Everyone would appear to be fit for selection for Lisnaskea, apart from key midfielder Brian Og Maguire, who is set to be a major doubt having torn his hamstring on county duty a few weeks ago. However, they have plenty of big players throughout the team, with Niall McElroy and John Woods in defence, and Daniel Kille, Ryan O' Keefe and Mark Little in attack sure to cause problems for the Devenish defence. If these players are at their best on Sunday, it will be hard for their opponents to keep them quiet on the scoreboard.
Devenish though are very much a championship side, and any league form that they have had this season will be thrown out of the window for this one. They go into the game having beaten their opponents in their last two key matches, and that will surely give them the belief they need to have a real go here.
They have very dangerous forwards of their own, with Joe and Chris O' Brien very speedy customers and with the free taking ability of John O' Flanagan; this Devenish side could well cause an upset.
They will be without the injured Terry O' Flanagan who suffered a dislocated elbow in training last week, but will still be quietly confident they can go through. In defence they have the experienced Barry Mulrone at centre-half back, and if they can get enough quality ball into their full forward line, the result is sure to be a close one.
Lisnaskea manager is hoping his side can carry some of their early season form into the game, but is mindful of the threat Devenish pose. He said, "In the last two seasons Devenish have came out on top in the big games against us so it will be difficult that's for sure, but if we perform the way we have been doing at times lately, we hope to be there or thereabouts this year."
As for Devenish manager Syd Mulrone, he believes it's all on the day. He said, "You can look at the league table, we're six points behind them, but league form goes out the window for the championship, it's all on the day and although they will be tagged the favourites, we have a tradition in the championship in recent years and will give it our all."
Roslea vs Derrygonnelly
Reigning champions Roslea begin the defence of their crown against Derrygonnelly on Sunday at Brewster Park, with the Shamrocks bidding to win their third consecutive championship title.
Derrygonnelly are sure to be a tough opponent, with the 2009 winners eager to put right the failings of the last two poor showings in the championship, and they will feel they have a genuine chance here of upsetting the odds in Enniskillen.
The Harps have a mixture of youth and experience throughout their team, and will surely need a big performance from their star forward Paul Ward if they are going to have any chance of toppling Roslea.
They have plenty of other leaders elsewhere though, with the likes of Ryan Jones and Kevin Cassidy sure to be prominent, with Jonathan McGurn a trusty free taker.
In defence, Derrygonnelly have been fairly disciplined so far this season, and they will have to be on Sunday if they are to stop the threat that their opponents pose in attack.
They are a very physical side who will make this a very tough battle for Roslea, and if they can keep themselves in the game going into the final quarter they will believe they can win the contest.
Roslea on the other hand, go into this year's championship looking to make it three titles on the spin, which would be a truly amazing achievement. There is nothing to say that they can't add more silverware this time around, but there is a chance that complacency may set in among the players.
There should be no bigger motivation though than to qualify again for the Ulster Club Championship and build on their last two outings in that, but they face a tough assignment here in the very first round.
They do however have game changers all over the field. The three Quigley brothers, Sean, Seamus and Conor, are a major cog in the Roslea wheel, and Seamus in particular has the ability to score very heavily when he's at his best, something Derrygonnelly are sure to be mindful of.
In defence, Roslea are usually a well drilled outfit, and even without Peter Sherry in the team, they are still a tough defence to break down. They have had a minor blip in recent weeks in the league, and haven't been at their formidable best, but this is championship time, and both teams are sure to put league form behind them going into this one.
For Derrygonnelly, manager Brendan Rasdale believes his side face a very tough task, but an unassailable one. He said, "In the last two years we haven't performed well at all in the championship, and this group of players will want to come off that field on Sunday knowing they have at least put that right. It's like a county team drawing Dublin, it's definitely an unenviable task but they say it's always best to draw the champions in the very first round, so we'll give it our all on Sunday in what has been a decent year for us so far."
This article appeared in Impartial Reporter 26 Jul 12