Connacht Championship 2014 Preview

 

Connacht Championship

Mayo hold the Nestor Cup as the rest of Connacht chases the crown.

The Connacht championship is already two games in but the main title contenders are still in the hunt for the Nestor Cup in the west.  Mayo have dismantled New York while Roscommon have taken care of Leitrim but it is fair to say that the names of New York and Leitrim were unlikely to be etched on the Nestor Cup in July.

The draw leaves Mayo facing Roscommon in one semi final.  The winners of Galway and London will meet Sligo in the other semi final.

Mayo are clear favourites for this year’s Connacht title, going for their 4th Connacht title in a row this year which would match the team of 1952 who last achieved this feat.  Mayo were so far ahead of the chasing pack last year in an uncompetitive Connacht championship that some have said that the gap is too wide to close in a year.  James Horan will not allow his troops to think along those lines and they will face a difficult battle against Roscommon in Hyde Park.  Mayo have bigger fish to fry as they bid to win that elusive All Ireland championship having lost the last two finals but they will still be looking to take care of business on the provincial front.  Roscommon are an improving force in football, with multiple under 21 provincial success, this year’s Connacht under 21 winners and All Ireland finalists, as well as promotion to Division 2 show that Roscommon are on an upward curve.  There is a school of thought that this is in effect the Connacht final as Roscommon may be best equipped to take the scalp of Mayo.

Michael Meehan

Galway will be without Michael Meehan as they bid for a 45th Connacht championship.

It shows how much Galway have fallen when talk is of Roscommon being the nearest challenger to Mayo for the Connacht title.  Galway were ripped apart by Mayo in Salthill last year in an embarrassing display from the Tribesmen.  They also have to make do without star forward Michael Meehan for the foreseeable future.  Galway have not won a Connacht title since 2008 and not even appeared in a final since 2009.  They have a poor recent record against Sligo with many Galway followers not expecting them to get past the Yeats men.  Indeed a lot of Galway supports are cautious about their teams chances in London this week, such is the state of football in the county of late.  However, Galway finished the league well after a slow start where it looked like they would be heading for Division 3, possibly showing some promise for the Summer ahead.  There may be a sting in the tail from the maroon and white in this year’s championship.

Sligo had a pretty poor league campaign where they narrowly survived in Division 3.  They lost to London last year to exit the Connacht championship.  They have a good recent record over Galway and may take confidence from that should Galway advance but the best days for Sligo may be behind them.  London were one of the stories of last year’s championship, beating Sligo and Leitrim en route to a Connacht final loss to Mayo.  They got to play championship football in Croke Park, exiting the championship to Cavan but it was a great year for the exiles.  It will be hard to replicate last year but London will take confidence into their meeting with Galway and will provide a stern test.

When all the action is over in the race to be Connacht champions, Mayo should still be the last team standing as defending Connacht champions and four in a row winners.  Galway could be team to meet them in the Connacht final in Castlebar and get back into their first final since 2009 but they may not have closed the gap enough to take the title for themselves.

Verdict: Mayo

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