Neighbours Aughavas and Cloone will put aside their rivalry for an afternoon next Sunday and will be cheering each other on in Pearse Stadium in Salthill when they travel to Galway for their debuts in the AIB Connacht Intermediate and Junior Championship Semi-Finals.
Cloone take on an impressive Leitir Mor in the Intermediate competition at 2.30 next Sunday while Aughavas open the proceedings when they face An Spideal in the Junior Championship at 1.00.
Both Leitrim teams are just one game away from emulating their neighbours Carrigallen in reaching a Provincial Club Final but both sides will not under-estimate the size of the task against them in Pearse Stadium.
One unusual factor that the two Leitrim teams will have to overcome is the lack of games they have had since they won their titles at the end of September. Due to the early finish of Division 2, both teams have been without competitive League action since they both won their finals in dramatic circumstances.
No doubt, both clubs have been training hard and playing challenge games but there is nothing like the real thing and the lack of hard games will be a concern to Cloone Manager Gerry Flanagan and his Aughavas counter-part Kenneth Smith next Sunday.
However, both are preparing quite diligently for Sundays semi-finals and with the right amount of time to have enjoyed and then recovered from their celebrations, Cloone and Aughavas will be raring to go.
Another factor that both teams will have to consider is the strong sea-breeze that will come roaring down the centre of Pearse Stadium, often turning games into something approaching contests of back & forwards.
Both teams should be prepared to be under the cosh if they are facing a strong wind and realise that they must play intelligent football against the wind but more importantly when they have it at their backs.
There is a tendency in a lot of teams to think that the wind will do all the work for them and both Cloone and Aughavas must realise that the wind wont put the ball over the bar for them!
However, nobody in either camp will be under-estimating the size of the task facing Cloone and Aughavas.
Leitir Mor upset the odds, much as Cloone did against Aughawillan, by beating the fancied St. James in the Galway Final at the end of September, winning a low Scóring match 0-9 to 0-7. They led 0-7 to 0-2 at the break but were pegged back before they staged a late rally to take the victory.
St. James boast current Galway star Paul Conroy in their ranks but Leitir Mor also boast some quality players inÓgalway Senior players Fiachra and Ferdia Breathnach and given the strength of Galway clubs in the Intermediate competition, it is a tough ask.
Leitir Mor suffered just one loss in the Intermediate Championship, losing 2-8 to 0-8 to Menlough but went on to beat Caherlistrane before gaining quite a good deal of revenge on Menlough by beating them 3-10 to 0-7.
They disposed of Oranmore-Maree in the Semi-Finals before pipping Oughterard 1-12 to 1-11 in the Semi-Final.
No more than Leitir Mor, An Spideal have also had a tough passage through the Galway Junior Championship, which is divided into two sections – North and West.
Playing in the West Division, An Spideal defeated Renvyle 3-14 to 2-8 in the first round before overcoming Fr Griffin’s Eire Og in the Quarter-Final by 1-13 to 0-8. In the Semi-Finals, they saw off Salthill Knocknacarra before pipping the Aran Islands in the West Final, 1-10 to 0-12.
That qualified them to meet Headford in the County Final proper and the Gaeltacht side overcame their opponents with two points to spare, 0-13 to 1-8.
The fact that both Galway sides are Gaeltacht based will add greatly to their support and anyone under-estimating the strength of the Galway Junior champions would do well to remember the beating Clifden handed out to Eslin two years ago in Tuam.
Aughnasheelin also suffered at the hands of St. Michael’s last year but Carrigallen’s exploits in 2006 should serve as an ideal boost to their neighbours as they became the first Leitrim club team to beat Galway opposition in a Provincial Club Championship game.
On the other side of the draws, Sligo’s Geevagh take on Westport in the Intermediate competition while Roscommon’s Ballinameen face Kiltimagh in the Junior competition.
Victory on Sunday for either Leitrim team would mean a short turn-around for the winners with both the Intermediate and Junior Finals fixed for the following Sunday, November 8.
Again the big question is what sort of shape, both mentally and physically, the two Leitrim teams will be in ahead of next Sunday’s double clash.
Cloone will be looking to replicate their high intensity and non-stop work of the County Final next Sunday and Damien O’Donnell is sure to be a key player for the Leitrim champions.
If O’Donnell, who is sure to be well marked by Leitir Mor, can make any headway, he could do some serious damage as the dry and hard pitch of Pearse Stadium is sure to suit his pace and roaming style.
In defence, Cloone will be anxious to recapture that defiant spirit that they showed so well against Aughawillan.
Aughavas will also be relying on the prolific Colm Maguire for their scores next Sunday but the supply of ball into them is just as important an issue. When Eslin cut off the supply lines in the County Final, Maguire was left isolated and he will need a better support.
Although most would believe that Aughavas have the slighter easier task, nobody in the club will underestimate An Spideal, particularly after their struggles against Eslin and how close they came to victory.
31-Oct-09 by John Connolly – LeitrimObserver.ie