It may still be early January, but the games are already coming thick and fast, with another nine fixtures – eight in the O’Byrne Cup and one in the McKenna Cup - taking place on Wednesday night.
Wednesday, January 9
Leinster GAA Bord na Móna O’Byrne Cup Round 2
Group A: Meath P-P Louth*; Longford v UCD, Killoe, 7.45pm
Group B: Dublin v DCU, Parnell Park, 7.30pm; Wicklow v Carlow, Bray, 7.30pm
Group C: Laois v Westmeath, Portlaoise, 7.30pm; Offaly v IT Athlone, Gracefield, 7.30pm
Group D: Wexford v Carlow IT, Bunclody, 7.30pm; Kildare v DIT, Athy, 7.30pm
*Match refixed for 7.30pm Thursday night.
Thanks to the new round-robin format in the O’Byrne Cup, the eight teams beaten in last Sunday’s first set of group games have an almost immediate chance to make amends as Round 2 swings into action on Wednesday night.
With three group games in just seven days, the competition is ideal for managers to run the rule over new faces and to conduct plenty of early season experimentation without any of the pressures that attend fixtures later in the year.
Of the six inter-county managers who took charge of a competitive fixture for the first time last Sunday, four enjoyed opening days wins – Mick O’Dowd (Meath), Jim Gavin (Dublin) Aidan O’Rourke (Louth) and Emmet McDonnell (Offaly).
Experimentation was the name of the game for Dublin boss Gavin against Carlow, as he used erstwhile inter-county hurler Tomás Brady in a half-backline that also included former minor star Eric Lowndes. Both are likely to feature prominently again against DCU, although Michael Darragh Macauley will sit the game out with a dead leg.
Arguably, the Dubs face a stiffer challenge in Parnell Park, as they face the O’Byrne Cup and Sigerson holders, who drew with Wicklow on Sunday and can call on inter-county stars such as Cavan’s Jack Brady, Wicklow’s Conor McGraynor and Galway’s Fionntán Ó Curraoin. Dublin's All Star wing-forward Paul Flynn is also likely to feature for the students.
The Group A meeting of Meath and Louth in Navan brings together two rookie managers, and the pairing of these neighbouring counties, who have plenty of recent history, should draw a decent crowd to Páirc Tailteann. Both sides scored opening day wins: Meath, with Joe Sheridan shining in midfield, accounted for Longford, while the Wee County made a promising start to 2013 with a solid victory over UCD.
In Bunclody, Wexford manager Aidan O’Brien will be hoping to ignite his reign with a win over Carlow IT following Sunday’s disappointing reversal against a strong DIT outfit led excellently by Mayo’s Aidan O’Shea. DIT face Kildare in Athy, where a place in the semi-finals on January 20 is all but guaranteed for the winners.
In Group C, Offaly, who beat Laois in Round 1 thanks to a tour de force performance from captain Niall McNamee, will be expecting a second straight win when they face Athlone IT at Gracefield.
Dublin (SF v DCU): S Supple; D Daly, T Brady; D Nelson, C O'Sullivan, G Brennan, J McCaffrey; D O'Mahony, E Ó Conghaile; S Carthy, P Andrews, P Quinn; P Hudson, D Connolly, B Brogan.
Meath (SF v Louth): P O'Rourke; D Dalton, C King, S Curran; C Rowe, E Harrington, S Crosby; C Gillespie, J Sheridan; M Collins, D Carroll, D McNamara; D McDonagh, P Byrne, B Sheridan.
Laois (SF v Westmeath): E Culliton; C Healy, D Booth, P O'Leary; D Strong, J O'Loughlin, P O'Loughlin; C Begley, C Coss; R Munnelly, C Meredith, B Sheehan; MJ Tierney, P Clancy, A Doran.
Kildare (SF v DIT): S Connolly; H McGrillian, M Foley, O Lyons; E Bolton, M Conway, E Doyle; G White, P O'Neill; B Flanagan, R Sweeney, M O'Flaherty; R Kelly, T O'Connor, C McNally.
Offaly (SF v Athlone IT): A Mulhall; D Hanlon, E Rigney, S Pender; B Darby, D Kelly, G Guilfoyle; A McNamee, R Dalton; R Brady, B Connor, E Carroll; M Mitchell, N McNamee, A Sullivan.
Wicklow (SF v Carlow): C Byrne, B Murphy, D Power; K Hanlon, K Murphy, M McLoughlin, J Bolger, C Tyrrell, J Sheerin, E Dunne, D O 'Sullivan, B Kennedy; A O'Malley, M Doyle, M Byrne.
Wexford (SF v Carlow IT): B Redmond; H O'Neill, S Culleton, R Tierney; A Flynn, J Leacy, B O'Gorman; R Quinlivan, C Doyle; P Kelly, K Gore, S Gaul; S Roche, K Kehoe, P Byrne.
Ulster GAA Power NI Dr. McKenna Cup Round 1
Section A: Fermanagh v Donegal, Brewster Park, 7pm
There is just one game in the Power NI Dr. McKenna Cup in midweek, as All-Ireland champions Donegal take the first step on their 2013 journey with a trip to Brewster Park to take on Fermanagh.
The Donegal squad spent the last 10 days on a team holiday in Dubai, only arriving back in the country on Tuesday afternoon, so Brewster Park in the depths of winter should be a sobering return to the realities of the GAA pre-season for the Sam Maguire holders.
By naming a very inexperienced panel for the competition, Donegal manager Jim McGuinness has given a number of untested youngsters the chance to stake a claim for inclusion in his plans a little further down the road. Only eight of the last September’s All-Ireland winning panel have been called upon for the season-opening competition, with McGuinness relying chiefly on U21 players.
Fermanagh, meanwhile, should be far better prepared, having beaten Derry in a challenge game over the New Year.