AS Tullamore begins to creep up onto the horizon, this weekend’s Provincial Ladies and Gents Inter-County Championships at both Collinstown and Tipperary Hills should provide us with a nice taster of what we can expect in a month’s time at the National Championships. Communications & Press Officer Jason O’Connor previews the action in both provinces ahead of Sunday’s play.
TIPPERARY Hills is riding the crest of a wave at the moment what with Breda Lonergan’s success in the National Ladies Matchplay and James Ryan’s success in the Munster Strokeplay. It’s kind of fitting in that sense that they continue their great return to PPUI life with the staging of the Munster Inter-County on Sunday. Indeed it probably is best to start with the fortunes of the Premier County in assessing the contenders for the two titles on Sunday.
The Ladies might just be a straight shootout between the hosts and Cork but these are the last two winners of the National Inter-County so don’t let its small size think it’s going to be any less competitive. Cork may have had 37 shots to spare over Tipperary last year in St Annes but it’s likely to be a lot closer this year on Tipperary soil. The confidence Tipperary are likely to have gained from last year’s National success in Hillview should spur them on and a Provincial win would really confirm their status as a power in the Ladies game. However even heading into away territory Cork are still formidable and this contest has the potential to go all the way down to the final Singles pairings if all players are on form.
In terms of the Tipperary Gents, they are looking to win their first Munster Inter-County since the year 2000 in Hillview and will hope that home advantage spurs them onto success again this Sunday. Two players from the host club, Anthony Culhane and James Ryan, make up one-third of the team with Paul O’Brien, John O’Meara, James Cleary and Stephen Shoer the other four players that the county will be pinning their hopes on this weekend. Being paired with the defending champions is always a great test of the host county and they don’t come any tougher than Cork. The Rebel County are captained by Paudie O’Sullivan this year and their starting six will be chosen this year from the Claycastle player along with the ever reliables in John Walsh and Ray Murphy, the returning duo of John Cahill and Bryan Delaney along with Kieran Dunscombe and Sean Doolan. Whatever six Cork put out is always strong and while home advantage always gives the host county a chance, it must be made matter on the day against the strength of Cork.
In terms of the other four, Limerick have to be seriously fancied for a crack at the title. They’ve been runners-up to Cork in the last three stagings, perhaps most heartbreakingly so in Bruff back in 2011 when they were defeated in a playoff. The Treaty County will feel Liam O’Donovan’s National Strokeplay success coupled with a good year so far for Kieran Earls that it might just go their way in Tipperary town if they can score well. Kerry meanwhile have a very new look to their make-up with three of the county’s National U-16 winning team of 2012 now making the step up to senior level. Conor McCarthy, Jason O’Brien and St John Kelliher will have their old mentor Damien Fleming there to guide them on their way while Tralee duo Jonathon Goodall and Jamie Blake bring the experience of the county’s last Munster win back in Castleisland in 2010 with them.
Clare and Waterford will very much start as the underdogs in the Gents proceedings but they will hope they can move up the finishing order a bit this year and get closer (and possibly even dislodge) one of the other four if it works out for them on Sunday.
THE rural setting of Collinstown should provide a great backdrop for this year’s Leinster Inter-County Championships with some interesting questions likely to be answered on Sunday at the Westmeath venue. After getting amongst the medals in the Ladies last year can Offaly possibly go a step further and break the duopoly of Kildare and Dublin in terms of the top two spots? Also can Westmeath finally win their first Provincial Gents title on home turf?
Kildare edged Dublin by a narrow margin in the Ladies Championship in Cement last year and while it’s hard to look past those two again for winning the big prize, the fact Offaly got third last year and will no doubt want to head into the big one on home turf in a month’s time on a high might just shake up the order a bit. The fact that it is a neutral course for the five teams involved (Louth and Meath will be the other two taking part) will make for an interesting dynamic. Will it come down to the individual brilliance of a Chrissie or Marian Byrne or a Geraldine Ward or Sheelagh Elmes for their respective counties or might team spirit play a part in deciding the outcome? Louth and Meath may not have the marquee names of the other counties involved but they will hope for a good outing to boost the profile of the Ladies game in their respective counties.
The Gents competition is likely to throw up a lot more imponderables but it does appear to be finely poised in advance. Westmeath have worked hard in getting ready for this year’s competition on home soil. They have a panel of eight players to choose from in Alan Hanlon, Dessie Baker, John Browne, Martin Kenny, Michael Buckley, Pat Malone, Liam Buckley and Niall Cuffe and if they are to go one better than their runners-up finish in both 2005 and 2012. Defending champions Louth tee-off with the hosts and it has been a very good year for the county on the Singles front with Shane Redmond and George Beardsley’s form in particular. Ian Donnelly, Padraic Sarsfield, Owen Smith and Sean Goggin make up their team and will no doubt relish the challenge of defending their title.
Dublin are represented this year by John Crangle, Chris Gallagher, Mark Millar, Keith Redmond, George McGreal and Junior Smith with Gary Healy team sub. Eamon Gibney will be likely to lead the challenge from the Royal County of Meath as they also have Patrick McBride, Fintan Wogan, Francis Feely, Stephen Lynch and James Kennedy Jnr lining out in the green and gold. The Kildare team have the novelty of playing with two teams outside the geographical province of Leinster in Down and Galway, the Tribesmen making their return to competitive inter-county action in another county bearing maroon and white! The Offaly Gents teams consists of Sean O’Connor, Michael and Mark Hogan, Darren O’Connell as well as William Buckley Jnr and Joe McGrath Junior while 2012 National winners Wexford have Paul Tobin, John and William Hudson, Conor Murphy, Dean Grannell and Martin O’Neill in their line-up
Longford and Monaghan participate in the grade as well once more with the team from Longford made up of Roy, Anthony and Richard Burke alongside Eugene Murtagh, Michael Stephenson and Michael McCormack. The participation of 11 counties is a very healthy representation in this year’s event, hopefully it will add to the excitement before the winning county is eventually determined on Sunday evening.
We wish all teams the very best of luck in Tipperary Hills and Collinstown this weekend. Remember to keep on an eye on the PPUI Website, Facebook and Twitter Pages for updates of proceedings in both venues.
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