Gunners Favourites to Regain Their Title

Brian Flannery Reports

The new-look County Senior Championship gets its first try out this weekend with April due to see two rounds of hurling and two rounds of football completed.
Three groups of four should see the eventual champions raise the cup after six games rather than the eight games under the previous two groups of six, structure. The reduction in the number of games and rounds was approved by the clubs at a meeting earlier this year.
The dual clubs in the county were particularly anxious for this change with the Abbeyside/Ballinacourty club successfully bringing the proposal to the table.
Whether less club games is in the best interests of club players is certainly dubious at best. Fewer games will however make it easier for the Championships to be completed and should mean that all winners get an opportunity to compete in the Munster Championship.

Ballygunner took last year's senior title with such ease that it's difficult to see anyone usurping their position this season.							| Photos: Noel Browne

Ballygunner took last year's senior title with such ease that it's difficult to see anyone usurping their position this season. | Photos: Noel Browne


After all, the absence of the Waterford county football champions from the 2017 Munster club championship was a sore point with many clubs.
Croke Park has designated April as a club only month but many counties look set to ignore these promptings from headquarters.
Recent bad weather has caused the postponement of a number of inter-county games with some including Waterford’s Division Four football tie against Leitrim now unlikely to be completed Such blasé treatment of the National Leagues raises serious questions to its relevance at all. It’s incongruous that certain games have been deemed so valueless that they need not be completed at all. Leitrim have completed only five of their seven games in Division 4 – hardly fair really.
The bad weather has also made preparations for our clubs quite difficult with most severely short of match practise prior to this weekend’s opening round of games.
Waterford isn’t the only county suffering from the lack of playable pitches. I ran into my old pal Tommy Walsh on Sunday last as his club Tullaroan and The Rower-Inistioge moved their game to Carriganore to make sure they could guarantee some game time.

Back on this side of the Suir, Ballygunner will begin their 2018 season as short priced favourites to make it five titles in a row and it’s difficult to argue that the bookies haven’t got it spot on with this prediction. Their 2017 title was annexed with such little fuss that I find it difficult to make a case for anyone else at this stage.
The champions boast a young panel and with a Munster crown top of their to-do list it will take something special to derail this ambition within the county. Having also secured the county minor title (as well as Under-13 and U-16 crowns) I don’t see the Gunners being diminished in any way in the near future.
Backboned by county panellists Stephen O’Keeffe, Barry Coughlan, Ian Kenny, Philip Mahony, Pauric Mahony and Peter Hogan, the champions look set to continue their dominance.

The Gunners saw off De La Salle by 2-18 to 0-16 in last year's Senior Final at Walsh Park.

The Gunners saw off De La Salle by 2-18 to 0-16 in last year's Senior Final at Walsh Park.


City rivals De La Salle look best placed to mount a serious challenge but will have their 2017 County Final mauling by the Gunners to come to terms with first.
Three successive Under-21 county title wins indicates that the Gracedieu club should have the talent to challenge but underage titles don’t guarantee success.
Players like Shane McNulty, Tom Moran, Shane Ryan, Eddie Meaney, Adam Farrell, Cormac McCann and Thomas Douglas all have the talent to make big contributions this season and should be ready to assume leadership roles in their title challenge.
It’s difficult to place order on the remaining 10 teams competing for the Senior Hurling Championship. For many of these sides a bit of luck and good fortune could see them make a run to the semi-finals with possible relegation the flip side of the coin.
Passage have been very competitive for a number of years now and will believe they too have a realistic shot at the title having been unfortunate to fall to De La Salle by the minimum in last year’s semi-final. But opening round games against Lismore and Mount Sion means Passage will need to hit the ground running.
Lismore too, on a wet and windy night under the Fraher Field floodlights got closer than any to the champions and will fancy their chances with games against Passage and Roanmore in April.

Maurice Shanahan will carry most threat with Ray Barry, Paudie Prendergast and Jack Prendergast lending strong support. Their first game up against Passage may decide who qualifies directly to the quarter-finals as Group C winners.
Mount Sion, under new management, will fly the transition flag high with a number of last year’s minors like Luke O’Brien, Eddie Cullen, Evan McGrath and Alan Kirwan certain to play a significant part alongside county players Austin Gleeson, Stephen Roche and Ian O’Regan. The Monastery men entertain Roanmore in round one and face Passage the following weekend. A good start is vital for this young side.
Roanmore will view their opening game against their neighbours Mount Sion as a barometer for their 2018 season. Billy Nolan is likely to start between the sticks with David Barrett swapping positions to take up a place in their forward line. As ever, Gavin O’Brien, Brian Nolan and Eoin Madigan will be crucial to their progress.
Dungarvan are another frequent visitor to the knock-out stages but have been found wanting at the business end most seasons. Patrick Curran, Ryan Donnelly and Gavin Crotty are class forwards with Jamie Nagle and Kieran Power better than most club players.

It will be surprise if the men from the Old Borough don’t at least make the quarter finals but a title may be beyond them. Dungarvan should get off to a winning start with Tallow in the opening round.Abbeyside had a morale-boosting win over Mount Sion in the league last weekend however the dual club has struggled to mount a successful challenge on two fronts. Facing the champions on Easter Sunday is a difficult start for the villagers.
Fourmilewater have threatened to make a breakthrough in recent years with Jamie Barron, Conor Gleeson, Shane Walsh and Shane Ryan their key players. Not easy to compete and win in both codes but Fourmile are always difficult to beat but will may find the early going difficult with De La Salle and Dungarvan in their opening two games.Tallow, Ballyduff Upper and An Rinn are all long odds to make it to the podium but while they may be a bit off the likes of Ballygunner few of the rest will intimidate these teams. Ballyduff dodged the relegation bullet in 2017 but may struggle again without the injection of quality new players.
Tallow too could do with a few additions to augment their more experienced players but have regularly made a mockery of bookies odds in the past so don’t rule out a deep run this season from the men in blue and gold.

The intermediate champions of last year, An Rinn, will attempt to avoid the yo-yo promotion/relegation scenario with their first game with Ballyduff crucial to their survival chances.The clocks have gone forward, lambs are dancing in the fields and it’s time to get out and support your club.

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