Following on from their first win on the Offaly Senior Hurling Championship, Kilcormac/Killoughey will break new ground this Sunday as they play their first game in the Leinster Championship when they travel to Carlow to face Mount Leinster Rangers.
The draw for the Leinster Club Senior Hurling Championship looks favourable for the new Offaly champions as the Kilkenny, Wexford and Dublin champions are all on the other side of the draw.
However Kilcormac/Killoughey cannot afford any complacency as while the draw looks to have been kind to them with Mount Leinster Rangers, Clonkill (Westmeath) and Rathdowney-Errill (Laois) on their side, they will have to be on their game if they are to make a provincial decider.
It starts this Sunday away to the Carlow champions and while Kilcormac/Killoughey are the favourties, Mount Leinster Rangers will be no pushovers.
They are back in the Leinster Senior Championship after they won the All Ireland Intermediate Club Championship last February. In that final they came form three points down at half-time with 14 men to overcome Midletown of Armagh to record a 1-13 to 1-11 win. They were also on the Leinster Intermediate Final in 2009 while in 2007 in the Leinster Senior Championship they were within six points of Ballyhale Shamrocks.
Carlow champions on five occasions (all five since 2006) they blitzed Erins Own in a one sided final where they gave a performance that would make any opponent sit up and take notice.
Leading by 1-10 to 0-2 at half-time, they closed out the game in the second half eventually winning by 3-13 to 0-6. Centre-forward Eddie Byrne was the star of the show and he is a key part of a potent forward line that Kilcormac/Killoughey will have to keep under wraps if they are to win the game.
However while Mount Leinster Rangers are a strong side and have home advantage, Kilcormac/Killoughey would have to fancy their chances of reaching the semi-finals. They are strong throughout the team and having gotten the monkey of not winning a county title off their backs, they should be able to play with a renewed confidence.
Manager Danny Owens has moulded them into a strong unit and after some well earned celebration and the added bonus of a Junior Football Championship title, the focus has very much switched to the provincial campaign.
They are strong right up the middle of the team and they showed in the County Final that they have the belief to come from behind if the going gets tough.
They trailed St Rynagh’s in the decider by four points at half-time but a whirlwind 1-6 without reply spearheaded by captain Ciaran Slevin swung the game in their favour and they didn’t look back from there.
Slevin scored 1-9 of their 2-16 in the final and he will have to be a key contributor if Kilcormac/Killoughey are going to advance.
Ger Healion and Peter Healion form the spine of a defence that conceded just six goals in eight championship games with two of those coming in the final. On average they are allowing just over 15 points per game and if they can keep Mount Leinster Rangers in or around that figure, you would back their forward to do the job a the other end.
Kilcormac/Killoughey went unbeaten through the Offaly championship drawing two games and winning six. Their draws came early in the campaign against Coolderry and Seir Kieran and they are currently on a six game winning streak.
A concern would be that they have not been able to put teams away with their 3-20 against Belmont in the quarter-final being the only time they really had daylight between themselves and the opposition.
Up front as well as captain Slevin, they have two strong and talented hurlers in the key positions with Conor Mahon at centre-forward and Daniel Currams at full-forward.
For Kilcormac/Killoughey this is a step into uncharted territory but there is no doubt they have the talent and the drive to succeed.
The bookies have Kilcormac/Killoughey at 1/3 to win on Sunday with Mount Leinster Rangers at 5/2. If Kilcormac/Killoughey perform to their best, a place in the last four is theirs for the taking.
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