Raheen and St Brigid's will be hoping to make their mark on the IFC
RAHEEN may well be the starter's favourites for the Offaly Intermediate Football Championship but this classification is very much in the tentative character and it is wide open.
Raheen were beaten by Clonbullogue in the final last year and had the misfortune to come up against a flying young team who hit form on the day and blew them out of the water.
They had a couple of players on the Offaly senior football squad this year and the presence of James Lalor and Dylan Hyland gives them a very good chance. Lalor is a very steady, strong defender, even if Raheen may have to consider using him at midfield while Hyland is an excellent attacker and the year's training with Offaly will bring him on in leaps and bounds.
Yet there won't be too many putting a lot of money on Raheen. They should be around near the end of the championship and are the team to beat but there are clubs capable of taking them out.
Tullamore are back up to the third tier, after winning junior last year. They needed to get back up here and with a huge volume of players at their disposal, they could come good – though we just don't know what way they will be at the moment.
Tullamore, however, could emerge as very serious contenders. A lot of the other teams look to be fairly evenly matched. Ballycommon should be strong but there are doubts. They had to survive a relegation play off last year and certainly did not set the world on fire when beating Daingean in the Division 3 Football League final recently. Yet they have some very good players at their disposal and have a chance.
The other teams have a lot of improving to do to win but this is one championship where there is a chance of a team winning by coming up on the rails.
There are two groups of four with the top team in each going into the semi-final and the next two in two quarter-finals.
Raheen, Clodiagh Gaels, St Brigid's and Tullamore are in group 1. Raheen should get out of this, expect Tullamore to join them and it is all to play for with the other spot.
Group 2 consists of Ferbane, Daingean, Shannonbridge, Ballycommon. This will be a humdinger of a group between what looks to be four fairly evenly matched teams. Ballycommon should be able to get out and it will be wide open for the other places – Daingean will fancy their chances.
It's a tough championship to call and Raheen certainly have strong credentials but they do come with a warning sign.
Verdict – Raheen.
First round games are:
St Brigid's v Raheen, Saturday July 16 in Ballyfore at 7pm; Verdict – Raheen.
Clodiagh Gaels v Tullamore, Saturday July 16 in Kilcormac at 7pm; Verdict – Tullamore.
Ballycommon v Shannonbridge, Friday July 15 in Ballycumber at 8pm; Verdict – Ballycommon.
Ferbane v Daingean, Saturday July 16 in Tubber at 7pm; Verdict – Daingean.
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