Four Roads will hope to make a triumphant return to Connacht competition this Sunday afternoon in Athleague when they take on Mayo champions Tooreen at Waldron Park in the Connacht Intermediate Championship semi-final.
The Tisrara club reported a clean bill of health following their county final win just over a fortnight ago (notwithstanding the long-term injury to Conor Mulry) and will make the short trip to Athleague in high hopes given the comprehensive manner of that win.
Tooreen succeeded where Four Roads failed on five separate occasions by winning a Connacht intermediate final in 2017, before relinquishing their title to Oranmore-Maree last year. They were expected to cruise to victory in this year’s Mayo final, played last Sunday week against Castlebar Mitchels, but were pushed all the way to the wire by the underdogs, only scraping home by 0-18 to 1-13 in the end.
This year 21-year old Seán Kenny has added some spark to an attack that is laden with experience and class in the shape of Fergal and Shane Boland, as well as county star Kenny Feeney. Elsewhere on the field they look to Michael Morley and Stephen Coyne to anchor the defence and give solidity in the central positions, with Cathal Freeman and Liam Lavin offering a change of pace off the bench.
Defensively Four Roads have been very strong this year and Joe Mannion’s side will hope to try and dominate the middle third, particularly under their own puckout where the half-forward line of Noel Fallon, Cathal Dolan and Padraig Kelly can be the team’s trump card.
In Mulry’s absence, Four Roads are somewhat blunted closer to goal, and getting more out of a full forward line that has contributed just three scores in the last two games will be crucial.
The last time Four Roads got this far, they scraped past Ballyhaunis by a goal and came agonisingly close to glory against Abbeyknockmoy. A Connacht final against either Kilconieron or Kinvara is a concern for another day, but it’s a realistic aspiration for Joe Mannion’s side all the same.
HERALD VERDICT: Four Roads