SFC PREVIEW: Hard to look beyond the usual suspects for this year's Kildare senior title

As the SFC begins this weekend, Tommy Callaghan looks ahead to the first round games

Tommy Callaghan

Reporter:

Tommy Callaghan

Email:

tommy.callaghan@leinsterleader.ie

Hard to look beyond the usual suspects for this year's Kildare senior title

Daryl Flynn and David Whyte of Moorefield celebrate after victory over Celbridge last year

It's hard to believe that club football championship is upon us already. Yet, while the weather has been dreadful, the senior football league has continued unabated with half a dozen games or so already completed.

This year, of course, there is a change in the format of both the senior and intermediate championship set-up and while not wanting to crawl over old coals once again, no matter what way one looks at the new format, it is very difficult to get overly excited about the next two weekends of championship fare.

The format this time around saw the sixteen senior teams go into the drum with no restrictions, no seedings for the opening eight games.

Many are of the opinion that sixteen teams in the senior grade is way too many, and it is hard to disagree with that viewpoint, but just like turkeys and Christmas, few clubs will vote to downgrade to intermediate, or to junior.

Maybe some day, someone with some foresight, might come up with a more competitive format but I wouldn’t be holding my breath on that one.

Anyway, once the opening round of both senior and intermediate championships are completed; next up will be the formation of four groups of four comprising of two winning teams and two losing teams, and they will then compete in a Round Robin format.

The top team in each group will automatically progress to the quarter final; while the second and third teams will go into another draw, the winners of that eight team group will join the group winners in the last eight with the bottom four teams in each group going into a relegation semi final.

So unlike the format that has been in operation over the last number of seasons, winning an opening round game this time will not guarantee status for the following season. So really this opening round is simply a seeding round, nothing more, nothing less.

The real problem that has dogged the championship over the years has once again been overlooked. And that is the fact that once the next two weekends rounds of game are over teams can then bid farewell to championship action for an absolute minimum of 12 weeks, regardless of how Kildare perform in either Leinster Championship, The Qualifiers or indeed the Super 8s.

The big talk these days revolves around how the club players are treated yet while Kildare have a very decent league structure, that 12 week (minimum) gap between the opening round of the championship and the next round is nothing short of a joke; while Croke Park setting April aside for club football and hurling has to be the biggest charade and con job we have seen for many a long day.

So now with that bit of a rant over we can look ahead to this opening round and indeed to the championship as a whole.

Can anyone outside, say the top six teams, which maybe even stretching it somewhat, come through in 2018?

Can any team outside of Newbridge win the 2018 championship?

Since 2000 only seven teams have lifted the Dermot Bourke Cup.

And in that seventeen year spell Moorefield and Sarsfields have won it no less than 12 times between them with Moorefield winning eight and Sarsfields taking the honours on four occasions.

No other team has won it twice with Athy, St Laurence’s, Celbridge, Allenwood and Round Towers all winning just one title in the past seventeen years.

Hardly surprisingly so Moorefield are installed as favourites at 11/4 while Sarsfields are quoted at 100/30; Athy at 4s, Celbridge at 5s with Johnstownbridge next best at 7/1.

The rest range from Naas at 20/1 to Leixlip and Eadestown at 100/1.

Not saying the bookies (in this case Cill Dara Betting) have their odds spot on but it certainly gives an indication of more or less the standing. Of the teams, apart from the top five, Naas and Confey at 20s, if league form is anything to go on, look like a bit of value, it is certainly time for both to move up to at least make the top five teams.

Moorefield v Carbury

It feels only like a few weeks ago that Moorefield were crowned Leinster Club champions and then to get so close to getting to Croke Park on St Patrick’s Day is still very fresh in the minds but no doubt Ross Glavin and his selectors have put that experience behind them now as they begin the extremely tough task of attempting to put back-
to-back titles together.

The Leinster champions open this campaign in the Joe Mallon Renault SFC with a game against Carbury which is probably one of the better games to look forward to as most of the game in the SFC, barring a major shock, which of course is always possible, but on paper at least, there will be a lot of very short odds on favourites in the eight game programme.

League form, this early in the season, can be a dodgy barometer to go by but coupled with how teams have fared over the last 12 months or so, is all that can be looked at.

It has been a long season since for Moorefield since they opened their campaign in 2017 to next weekend but the fact they have a big panel is a huge bonus.

Carbury have been showing mixed form in the league but come championship time usually put in a strong performance but it is hard to look beyond The Moores in this one.

Sarsfields v Raheens

This game is not fixed until the weekend after next as incredibly neither have any representative on the county senior panel, which in Sarsfields’ case is a bit of a mystery and while Ben McCormack was forced off due to college, nevertheless it is a long time since The Sash had no representative.

Raheens return to the senior ranks this season, after enjoying a very successful year in 2016, culminating in them finally getting over the line in the intermediate championship.
Sarsfields, under new (and former) manager Paul Doyle, have to date, a very in and out league campaign but winning the Aldridge Cup last week, defeating Carbury aet is a bonus, while Raheens, a young side missing a fair few of their first squad through injury, have been finding life in Division 1 very tough.
You can be assured though that Raheens will raise their game for this one but it is hard to see them causing an upset.
Sarsfields to win.

Clane v St Laurence’s
While neither of these sides would be expected to see the business end of the championship, nevertheless this is a game that is difficult one to call.
Clane have no less than 17 titles to their credit and were once the powerhouse of Kildare football but times have changed since the last time they claimed the title back in 1997.
St Laurence’s have just the one senior title (2009) and have certainly slipped somewhat down the ladder in recent times.
Won’t be a lot between these, Clane won this when these teams met last year and could possibly do it again but it should be a tight game one way or another.
Clane to take it.

Naas v Round Towers
Could be a decent encounter this one with Declan McCabe’s Naas facing up to Glenn Ryan’s Round Towers.
Naas reached the quarter final last season before bowing out to Celbridge while Towers, who returned to the senior ranks just last season having won the Intermediate in 2016. 
Both sides operate in the SFL Division 1 and while Naas have put up some impressive displays to this point; Towers are sitting mid-table (with a game in hand).
Naas will be expecting to go one better this time around; Declan McCabe, a very astute manager has his team moving well and with underage success that Naas have enjoyed over the past few years, players are now starting to come through and make an impact.
Towers are improving but they probably still have some way to go.
Naas to take this one.

Athy v Maynooth
Athy would be one of those teams that would be expected to make an impact. They have disappointed somewhat over the past number of years. On paper they look a very decent team but for some reason have not really brought that to the championship table.
It was back in 2011 when Athy won the last of their six senior titles and many felt at that time the boys in red would be there or thereabouts for the next number of years but that has not materialised.
Maynooth did not enjoy a great senior run in 2017 and in fact found themselves in a relegation semi final and while they did get themselves out of that it was not overly impressive defeating Eadestown by just two points and with Neil Flynn almost certainly out of the game due to injury they face a huge task here.
As we said at the beginning Athy are one of those teams, on paper at least, that always look decent and with the addition of Tyrone defender Cathal McCarron now in their ranks can look forward with confidence in having a very good championship.
Athy to get off to a winning start.

Castledermot v Celbridge
Celbridge are probably still feeling the effects of their demise in the county final last season when losing out to Moorefield, despite playing against 13 players for close on 45 minutes. It was a defeat that will take a lot of getting over but having said that Celbridge remain a decent team and a couple of wins under their belts would certainly do their confidence a world of good.
Manager Trevor O’Sullivan will, no doubt, be relishing the opportunity to get back into championship fare; they have been fairing reasonably well in the league, albeit somewhat inconsistent.
Still they have some of the finest players in the county and if they can get their mindset right could be there or thereabouts again.
Castledermot went out of last year’s championship in Round 3, losing to Sarsfields, but this season have been struggling in Division 2 of the league.
This one looks like the ideal opening game for Celbridge and it is difficult to see anything but a comprehensive win for Trevor O’Sullivan’s boys.

Eadestown v Leixlip
An intriguing game if ever there was one.
Remember Eadestown are operating in Division 3 of the SFL while Leixlip are in the top division but are struggling big time with no win up to the time of writing.
Eadestown, even allowing for the fact they are in Division 3 are going along very nicely with four wins from four (at the time of writing).
Philie Wolfe is guiding ‘The Town’ again this term and while gaining promotion to Division 2 would be one of his top priorities, he will no doubt be relishing a chance to record a win in the championship.
Leixlip have certainly slipped in the last year of two, they went out of last year’s championship to Clane and really have shown little improvement in the early games in the league.
A difficult one to call but one would have to imagine that, despite their poor form, they should be capable of getting over Eadestown.
Not one I’d be wagering on but the vote goes to Leixlip.

Johnstownbridge v Confey
This is a game that will tell a lot about both sides.
Johnstownbridge, with a lot of talented players are another one of those teams that promise a lot but more often than not fail to deliver.
Exactly why is hard to put one’s finger on if anyone can improve their cham-
pionship form then surely one of their own, in this case Brian Flanagan, can.
Confey are enjoying a very good league campaign, a big strong, mobile team, they have a couple of decent forwards and will be anxious to improve on last season’s disappointing campaign when a loss to Round Towers (after a replay) ended their involvement.
If Johnstownbridge can get all their big guns firing on the day (not easy at times) they should have enough but if they put in one of their lacklustre displays then Confey will be ready to capitalise.
Johnstownbridge get the nod on this one.

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