The 2019 Connacht SFC – A Preview

The 2019 Connacht Senior Football Championship will begin again this weekend when Mayo visit New York and Galway travel to London. The ‘big two’ Galway and Mayo are the strong favourites to win it. But the start of a new championship always brings new hope. Can a rejuvenated Leitrim trouble Roscommon? Can Roscommon put it up to the big two? Are Sligo London and New York also-rans? All will be revealed over the next six weeks. I attended the launch of the championships last week in Ballyhaunis and I spoke to representatives from the counties to take the temperature as they prepare to go into battle.

1. Galway
Number of Titles: 47
Last Won: 2018
Manager: Kevin Walsh (5th year)
Key Players: Shane Walsh, Ian Burke, Damien Comer (injured at the moment)
First Game: v London in Ruislip this Sunday 5th May
Title Odds: 4/5
They Said It: “You always want to win Connacht. It is a shorter route to the Super 8’s and it makes things much easier. It’s been a long time since Galway put two Connacht titles back to back. But if we don’t manage that we will have to refocus. But our aim is to win Connacht if we can” (Kevin Walsh)
Chances: The deserved favourites. They were a kick of a ball away from playing Kerry in the league final as they made a few vital mistakes against Tyrone in their final Division one game. The return of the Corofin players and a fully fit Damien Comer will be vital for them. A very strong and improving outfit.
Prediction: Beaten finalists
2. Mayo.
Number of Titles: 46
Last Won: 2015
Manager: James Horan (1st year- second term)
Key Players: Aidan O’Shea, Keith Higgins, Lee Keegan.
Title Odds: 5/4
First Game: V New York this Sunday 5th May
They Said It: “The fact we won the league has not put any added pressure on us at all. It was great to win a national title. It helps in terms of confidence and belief but by the time the players had togged in that day they had already moved on and it was amazing how quickly that happened. It was great to win it but we have definitely moved on” (James Horan)
Chances: They look the part under James Horan and a couple of excellent wins against Kerry in the league have brought them back into national focus again. If they win this Connacht championship it’s likely that they will have to beat Roscommon and Galway so it won’t be easy. They seem to have a renewed confidence and will have a massive following behind them.
Prediction: Winners.
3. Roscommon
Number of Titles: 23
Last Won: 2017.
Manager: Anthony Cunningham (1st year)
Key Players: Enda Smith, Diarmuid Murtagh, Sean Mulooly.
Title Odds: 10/1
First Game: v Leitrim Sunday May 12th
They Said It: “Our biggest goal is to keep improving and improving our performances from the league. Competition for places is high at the moment and it is great to have that. Leitrim have a huge amount of confidence behind them. Terry Hyland has done a great job. We are not looking at Mayo or Galway or anyone else, our sole focus is on Leitrim on May 12th and that’s it” (Anthony Cunningham)
Chances: Roscommon always have a chance of winning the Connacht championship. However this year they have not an easy draw. A battle with a rejuvenated Leitrim will be tougher than usual but it is a game they should win. The clash with Mayo would be a different prospect altogether if they can overcome Leitrim. It is 1986 since the Rossies won in Castlebar and all the ducks would certainly have to be in a row for Anthony Cunningham’s men if they were to win on May 25th, Even at that Galway would probably be waiting in the final.
Prediction: Beaten Semi-Finalists.
4. Leitrim
Number of Titles: 2
Last Title: 1994
Manager: Terry Hyland
Key Players: Ryan O’Rourke, Michael McWeeney, Emlyn Mulligan.
Title Odds: 500/1
They Said It: “We are going into the Roscommon game to win it and that’s not being cocky or anything like that. If we didn’t think we couldn’t win we would be in the wrong job. Can we beat Roscommon? Yes we can. Will it be tough? Yes it will. It would be a turn up for the books but that’s for other people. It’s a huge game for Leitrim and we need to perform on the day simple as that” (Terry Hyland)
Chances: It would be a very brave man (or woman) who would predict that Leitrim would win the 2019 Connacht championship. They would have to beat Roscommon, Mayo and Galway to do so which seems very unlikely. However their excellent league campaign will give them hope as they take the field in Dr Hyde Park on May 12th. They will cause Roscommon problems but are unlikely to upset the odds.
Prediction: Beaten Quarter-Finalists
5. Sligo
Number of titles: 3
Last Title: 2007
Manager: Paul Taylor (1st year)
Key Players: Niall Murphy, Adrian Marren, Cian Breheny.
Title Odds: 100/1
They Said It: “It was a very difficult league campaign but the mood in the camp is good. We have taken the positives out of the league and the lads are training hard and looking forward to the championship. We have a very young panel and we are looking ahead. We are short a lot of players through injury and retirements but we are building. I presume that we will be playing Galway and if so it will be a tough game but we will be going in as underdogs so the pressure will be off” (Paul Taylor)
Chances: Sligo are usually capable of making a shape when it comes to the championship but this year it’s not looking great after a disastrous league campaign that has seen them relegated to Division 4. Assuming that Galway beat London it’s hard to see Sligo causing the Tribesmen too much trouble. They will have to hope for an easy draw in the qualifiers.
Prediction: Quarter Final Defeat.
6. London
Number of Titles: None
Manager: Ciaran Deeley (2nd year)
Key Players: Ryan Jones, Kiam Gavigan, Anthony McDermott
Title odds: 500/1
First game: v Galway on Sunday May 5th in Ruislip.
They Said It- There was no London representative at the launch.
Chances: London have had a very poor league campaign and finished bottom of Division 4. They have much the same tam as they have fielded in the past three years and although they are capable of playing some nice football they would have very little chance of beating a powerful Galway team
7. New York
Number of Titles: None
Manager: Justin O’Halloran
Key Players: Tom Cunniffe, Vinny Cadden, David Culhane.
First Game: v Mayo on Sunday May 5th.
Title Odds: 500/1
They Said It: There was no New York representative at the launch.
Chances: The trip to New York is eagerly awaited by supporters of the various Connacht counties and New York have shown that if they can get their act together they can put it up to the visitors. But they will surely be up against it against Mayo on Sunday next. It will be a great weekend for Mayo people in the Big Apple but no luck for the New York GAA team again this year.
Prediction: First Round defeat.