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2024 TG4 All-Ireland Finals tickets

Leinster Championship Preview

 

The TG4 Leinster  championship gets under way on Saturday next, with Westmeath and Longford  contesting the TG4 Leinster  championship  Intermediate final. Both counties will take to the field in Cusack Park, Mullingar with referee  Joe Murray  throwing in at  6pm .

Longford are going for three in a row after they beat Wexford back in 2009, they then went on  to go head to head with Westmeath in the final the following year, and the man in the middle was Joe Murray, on that occasion Longford claimed the spoils with four points to spare 1-11 to 1-07. In fact Longford knocked Westmeath out of the Leinster championship back in 2009 by the narrowest of margins 1-09 to 1-08.

Westmeath will be looking to build on their unbeaten record in this years Bord Gais Energy NFL, beating Roscommon in the final. They have had a number of  testing challenges in the run up to this years final, so the stage is set for what should be a close and exciting contest on Saturday evening.

In the TG4 Leinster Junior championship, Kilkenny and Wicklow go in to battle on Saturday evening, with the Garden county travel to Larchfield GAA grounds, Kilkenny, (home of the famous James Stephens hurling club) to take on the home side with referee  James Flood of Wexford getting the game under way at 6.30pm in the preliminary round of the Leinster Junior championship. The winner will face either Louth or Offaly in this years semi finals.

League form can not be used as a yard stick for judging how teams will perform in the championship, That said; Wicklow  put in excellent performances in division three of the NFL, eventually losing out to Clare 2-12 to 5-13 at the semi final stage.

On paper Wicklow will go in to this game as favourites to progress, however the Kilkenny camp will say that paper never refused ink,  Kilkenny who were crowned all Ireland Junior champions back in 2007, competed for the Leinster intermediate championship title last season, losing out to Longford in the semi final. The cats usually lift their game for the big occasion, Wicklow would not want to consider a result in their favour a given. Kilkenny have caused a number of upsets over the years, and are capable of giving the Garden County a good run for their money in this important preliminary round game.

Wicklow manager Dominic Leech has left no stone unturned in his quest to retain the Leinster title, Wicklow have played a number of testing challenge games against strong opposition over the past number of weeks, as he and the management team fine tune the squad for the journey ahead. Wicklow will once again be lead out by their influential captain Catriona McKeon, while Jamie O Sullivan will wear the captains arm band for Kilkenny.

Louth and Offaly will contest the second  preliminary round game, this game is also fixed for Sunday the 25th next in Edenderry GAA Grounds with referee Pat Kehoe of Carlow throw in at 3pm.

When the  draw for the Leinster Junior Championship was made back in December, Louth would have been strongly fancied to advance and set up a semi final meeting with the winners of the Kilkenny/Wicklow tie. Louth and Offaly last met in the c/ship in June 09 where Louth ran out easy winners in  a one sided contest in Cooley. It was  a similar story when they next met nine months later  in a League match in Walsh Island with again Louth having it very much their own way when winning by 3-15 to 1-05.

Since then Offaly have shown a major improvement and had an impressive League campaign which saw them reach the Div 4 semi final .Perhaps their best showing was against Louth in Collon where they recorded a shock 1-06 to 1-03 victory. Indeed the dividing margin might have been greater but for a fine display by Louth keeper Kelly Cunningham.

Due to a number of factors Offaly have struggled to  make an impact in recent times but the success of their club champions Rhode in winning the Leinster Junior club League and the appointment of Greg Farrelly as manager as well as the return of Offaly native and ex Kildare star Deirdre Kearney to the position of chairperson  has brought a new  vibrancy and confidence to the county.

This years Offaly team are backboned by  the Rhode club  who may have as many as eight of their members on duty including the outstanding mid-field duo  of Orla Heavey and Amy Kerrigan while wing back Christine McDonnell has been excellent through the League. They will  be without one their key players  however as centre back Emma Dalton is spending the summer months in the USA. The Louth management of John Hanratty and Pat Reid have had their  preparations hampered by exams and the loss of three key players Orlaith Kirk, Catherine Page and Ann-Marie Murphy from last years side which contested the All-Ireland final. It is hoped that Sarah Quinn who missed the latter part of the League due to injury will be available for Sunday as the young Cooley star has resumed training while Elainor Smith and Niamh Callan have also joined the panel. The game takes place in Edenderry and has a 3pm start.

 [Report: Dermot Woods]

 

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