THIS weekend sees all the provincial inter-county titles down for decision in both Leinster and Munster. Communications & Press Officer Jason O’Connor takes a look at the various competitions that will take place across three venues over the coming weekend.
Westmeath and Collinstown and Lough Owel to be precise will be the venues this weekend for all Leinster grades as all competitions will be held on the one weekend with the U-16 event moving to the same weekend as the Ladies and Gents events this year. In Collinstown, four counties enter the U-16 event with Offaly the defending champions from 2016 and they will want a good showing ahead of the National U-16 Inter-County on home turf in Erry next weekend. They will play with host county Westmeath as per tradition while Dublin and Meath are the other two counties taking part, the Faithful County having ended Dublin’s recent dominance of the event in The Acres last year.
There are also four entries in the Junior Ladies grade with defending champions Kildare amongst the entries alongside hosts Westmeath, last year’s runners-up Louth and Kilkenny who make a welcome entry into this year’s event. The Intermediate and Junior Ladies events are different from the Senior Ladies as they are played as a Stableford format and last year’s Intermediate event needed a playoff which Dublin eventually got the better of the Lilywhites in after both finished level on 178 points. Both counties are entered again this year along with third place finishers Meath with Offaly, Louth and the host county the other entries in the grade.
Over in Lough Owel on Saturday it will be both the Junior and Intermediate Gents titles that will be decided as the Junior grade sees a total of eight counties taking part. We are guaranteed new Junior winners this year with Wexford not taking part this year as the team that will play with hosts Westmeath are their neighbouring county of Offaly. Last year’s runners-up Carlow will play with Louth for the event while third place Kildare will play with Down as Kilkenny and Meath will be the counties to get the grade underway. The Intermediate grade has seven teams with defending champions Kildare teeing off alongside Westmeath as last year’s runners-up Wexford begin proceedings after lunchtime paired with Down. Meath were third in last year’s event and they are mixed in with Dublin and Louth as Offaly and Carlow are the other two counties entered.
In the Senior events on Sunday in Lough Owel, Westmeath will hope for another home success in the Gents grade like in Collinstown back in 2014 and win a third title in four years as both themselves and defending champions Louth have claimed ownership of the Smith Cup in recent years. National Champions Dublin will be looking to establish provincial dominance alongside last year’s Leinster runners-up Wexford who missed out by a single stroke to Louth in defeat. Kildare and Offaly will begin the grade followed by Meath and Down as there are a total of eight entries for the Senior Gents this year.
The Senior Ladies meanwhile sees four counties battle it out meanwhile with defending champions Kildare getting proceedings underway alongside Louth and last year’s runners-up Dublin looking to re-establish themselves at the top in playing alongside Offaly. In total seven titles will be decided at the two venues this weekend with 10 different counties entering teams across the various grades.
Castleisland in Kerry plays host to the Munster events this weekend, the first time the county has done so since 2010 when Castleisland was also the venue. What’s significant about that year is it’s the last time Cork did not win the Senior Gents title; piped in the finish by the host county as the two counties will tee-off together at the end of proceedings again come Sunday. Last year in Tramore was a great success for the Rebel County winning all bar one the grades with the Intermediate Ladies title the only title they did not win in Waterford. Waterford themselves were the victors there but Saturday’s proceedings in Castleisland see the Rebel County defending the Junior Gents and Junior Ladies titles in the three competitions down for decision.
Cork won the Junior Gents last year by four strokes from Tipperary with the county finishing six points better than Tipperary in the Junior Ladies event Stableford event as well. Waterford were 13 points better than Cork in winning the Intermediate Ladies last year as the Intermediate Gents this year is moved to the Sunday with Cork entering off the back of a 12 stroke victory over the Kingdom in Tramore last year. The U-16 event which gets Sunday underway is a straight shootout between Kerry and Cork like last year which the Rebels won as the Senior Gents event looks interesting in advance of Cork’s bid for a seventh consecutive title.
Waterford used home advantage to good effect last year in claiming second to the Rebels albeit 25 strokes behind as Tipperary were third last year in Tramore. The tight nature of the Castleisland course will bring its own opportunities and challenges as six titles will be decided in the Kingdom this weekend. It’s great once again to see players of all abilities across both provinces get the opportunity to represent their counties at some level.
We wish everyone all the best in both provinces this weekend as they don their county colours. Updates will be available from all three venues throughout the weekend on the website.