Club draw throws up some tasty groups in race for title

By Darren Kelly

All-Ireland champions St Thomas’ will begin their domestic senior hurling title defence against the last Galway team to beat them in a knockout contest.

Last Monday’s draw at the Rahoon Woods Hotel in Athenry pitted the six-in-row county senior winners in Group 3 and an opening joust with Killimordaly, who beat them in the 2017 preliminary quarter-final, on the weekend of August 11.

While no game is easy in the 16-team senior competition, the Kilchreest/Peterswell outfit will be content with the draw, as their quest for an unprecedented ‘Magnificent Seven’ also includes Gort and Tommy Larkins. None of their opponents reached a quarter-final in 2023.

That being said, Larkins have put in a solid Division 2 league campaign and play Liam Mellows on Saturday in that final in Kenny Park (7pm).

The format is the same as last year with four groups containing four teams.  The group winners advance straight to the final eight, with the second and third placed sides taking part in the preliminary quarter-finals.

Matches take place every two weeks with the final scheduled for Sunday, November 3rd.  However, one required change could see the championship’s first round brought forward one weekend if the Galway senior footballers reach their All-Ireland Final.

Last year’s runners-ups Turloughmore are in Group 1 and begin against 2023 senior B victors Mullagh.  Cappataggle and Kilconieron, who met last year with the former winning 2-23 to 0-23, are the other sides.

Turloughmore and Cappataggle will be favourites to determine top spot, while Kilconieron and Mullagh will be the fixture that could decide who remains in the race after the opening three rounds.

Loughrea and Clarinbridge will meet in a repeat of last year’s quarter-final where ‘The Town’ won 1-21 to 2-16.

But ‘The Bridge’ have impressed in Division 1 of this year’s league and beat St. Thomas’ in the semi-final recently.  They clash with Sarsfields this Friday (7.30pm Kenny Park) in the league decider.

Craughwell, who ended up in the relegation play-offs in 2023, and Moycullen are the other two sides with the former facing Loughrea in Round 1, and the west Galway side meeting Clarinbridge.

The toughest group looks to be Group 4 which is headlined by last year’s semi-finalists Sarsfields.  Their opener is a repeat of last September’s encounter with Ardrahan, a game which made headlines due to the altercation between county players Darren Morrissey and Johnny Glynn.

Pictured: James Regan of St Thomas’ tries to break through the challenge of the Sarsfields duo of Darren Morrissey and Kenneth Cooney in last year’s Senior A semi-final. Photos: Joe O’Shaughnessy.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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