A general view of the trophy during the Tailteann Cup launch at Croke Park in Dublin.
A general view of the trophy during the Tailteann Cup launch at Croke Park in Dublin. 

Preview: Tailteann Cup Preliminary Round

Tailteann Cup preliminary round

Saturday, May 21

Wicklow v Waterford, Aughrim, 3pm

Expect a big crowd of Wicklow supporters in Aughrim on Saturday.

There’s a positive mood in the county after a high-scoring win over Laois in the preliminary round of the Leinster SFC and then a creditable showing in defeat against Meath in the Leinster SFC Quarter-Final.

“Definitely,” says Wicklow captain, Dean Healy.

“I thought a lot of positives came out of the Laois game in the first round of the Leinster, especially after how the game against them in the League went.

“Positives as well to take from the Meath result. We're hoping that any momentum that came from those matches carries into the first round of the Tailteann Cup this weekend against Waterford.”

Healy is something of an outlier in this Wicklow panel in so far as he’s 30 years of age and the majority of his team-mates are in their early twenties.

Youthfulness and inconsistency often go hand in hand, but when this Wicklow team clicks into gear they’re capable of being a formidable force as a combined tally of 6-27 in those matches against Laois and Meath attests to.

Healy doesn’t mind admitting that they’re viewing Saturday’s match against a Waterford team that finished bottom in Division 4 as the ideal opportunity to launch their Tailteann Cup campaign.

“We played Waterford in a challenge in the build up to Laois,” he said. “They're going to be well aware of us and we're going to be well aware of them. They obviously see it as a positive draw, and listen, I'm not going to lie, we do as well.

“Speaking about it collectively, they were one of the teams that we did earmark. Hopefully, that won't come back to bite us.”

Conor Murray of Waterford during the Tailteann Cup launch at Croke Park in Dublin.
Conor Murray of Waterford during the Tailteann Cup launch at Croke Park in Dublin.

Waterford captain, Conor Murray, confirms that he and his team-mates also view this game as a very winnable one.

“Yeah, we've played them a lot over the last few years,” he said. “They've been up and down between Division 3 and 4. Look, every team in this southern draw...it's a competitive game, it's a game we can win.

“They'll look at it as a good draw and we will too, definitely.”

Waterford might have finished bottom of Division Four with just one point from seven matches, but that doesn’t quite tell the whole story.

They were very competitive in most of their games and seem to be moving in the right direction under new manager Ephie Fitzgerald.

“Yeah, I think if you look at the League table we had second or third best scoring difference,” says Murray.

“We lost three games by a point. Drew against Tipp. All games we could easily have won. So there's definitely been progress there.

“We've had a huge number of players making debuts this year so it's good to get them up and running. It's just really important that we get the lads to stick at it because it's easy to walk away now.

“You're coming into the summer and some lads might be tempted to head off and play football in America or whatever or head off on holidays.

“Hopefully the Tailteann Cup will make it a bit easier to get lads to stick around and buy into it.”

Waterford are a hard-working, dogged team and will make life very tough for Wicklow. But the Garden County will hope that home advantage combined with a potentially lethal attack will give them the edge.

Martin O’Connor of Wexford poses for a portrait during the Tailteann Cup launch at Croke Park in Dublin.
Martin O’Connor of Wexford poses for a portrait during the Tailteann Cup launch at Croke Park in Dublin.

Sunday, May 22

Wexford v Offaly, Bellefield, Enniscorthy, 2pm – GAAGO

The vagaries of the Tailteann Cup draw means that we have a very recent reference point for this match-up.

Wexford and Offaly played one another in the Leinster SFC Preliminary Round with the Slaneysiders causing something of an upset with a deserved three-point victory.

Team captain, Martin O’Connor, knows repeating the trick won’t be easily done.

“It’s just a month ago we played Offaly, to be fair the last day they had a good few injuries and I can imagine they will have a different team out last time so it might not be the same game,” he said.

“We were underdogs the last day and we might be favourites going in this time around so the fact that we might have that behind us might not necessarily work in our favour but we know what we are capable of and we’ll take it as it comes we’ll bring our own confidence into the game and hopefully it will get the win.”

One wonders whether that confidence will have been diminished by Wexford’s 23-point mauling at the hands of Dublin in the Leinster SFC Quarter-Final.

A good start for the Slaneysiders will be essential to ensure any seeds of doubt planted by that defeat don’t bloom.

As for Offaly, they’re probably happy enough with the draw as it gives them an ideal opportunity to make amends for their disappointing showing in that Leinster SFC preliminary round.

Their energy levels and morale seemed diminished in that match by a disappointing League campaign that saw them relegated from Division 2, but manager John Maughan feels like the break they’ve taken since has them refreshed for the challenge of the Tailteann Cup.

“We took a two-week break and we only returned on Tuesday night,” he said.

“And driving up from Castlebar I was kind of intrigued as to what way the lads would be, would they embrace the Tailteann Cup because you listen to some commentators and some players out there denigrating the Tailteann Cup and suggesting it was a losers’ competition, something I wasn’t in agreement with.

"I arrived in Kilcormac with uncertainty as to how the lads would be and would they all attend training.

"The attitude was superb and I drove home to Castlebar after training on Tuesday night feeling good about the whole thing. There was a great bounce at training, I thought we got great intensity in it and I went home really encouraged and I get the impression that these guys are going to embrace it and have a real go at winning this Tailteann Cup."

Offaly should be able to field a stronger team for Sunday’s match than they did in the Leinster SFC game, with cousins Niall and Ruari McNamee expected to start and Jack Bryan also fit again.