WITH two rounds of the group stages remaining, it is still all to play for in the Tullamore Court Hotel Senior Football Championship but already some noticeable trends are beginning to emerge.
Champions, Rhode and last year's beaten finalists, Ferbane both got off the mark with important wins in the second round last weekend but both were not entirely convincing and still look to be shy of their best form.
Rhode had a 4-12 to 2-8 win over Shamrocks on Sunday evening but it was nowhere near as convincing as the scoreline suggests. Indeed Shamrocks, despite missing regulars in Gary Hutchinson, Scott Delaney, Paddy Dunican and Alan Heffernan, were only a point down inside the final ten minutes and in with a shout of a famous win.
However, they paid full price for the concession of a couple of very soft goals and ultimately Rhode did enough to win – they remain the championship favourites, the team to beat but their form so far has not been as irrestible as other years.
Ferbane's 1-16 to 2-6 win over Cappincur on home turf on Monday was not as convincing as the scoreline suggests either, though they were definitely worthy winners. Cappincur did not help their cause in the first half as they kicked too many bad wides with a strong breeze on their back. To stand a real good chance, Cappincur probably needed a six point interval lead but instead went in trailing by 0-5 to 0-4.
They really should have been a few points ahead and Ferbane soon pulled into the horizon in the second half. With Joe Maher in outstanding form, kicking some spectacular points, they looked to be home and dry as they built up a 0-12 to 0-5 lead. A harshly awarded penalty was then converted by Peter Daly and Cappincur got another lifeline near the end when poor defence led to a very soft Sean Carroll goal. Cappincur got it back to a goal and for a brief couple of minutes Ferbane were on precarious ground before they clinched it with an injury time Jack Clancy goal.
Despite winning the Division 1 Football League title last week with a memorable win over Rhode, Ferbane are also searching for their best form at the moment.
Indeed the two form teams in the championship to date have been Edenderry and Tullamore. Edenderry gave a superb display in a 2-22 to 1-13 annihilation of Clara on Friday night while a Tullamore ran riot against a poor Gracefield side, winning by 3-18 to 0-10 in a win that would have been more substantial but for some sloppy play.
Edenderry have been the form team in the championship so far and Tullamore are impressively fit with a huge amount going for them. Both have emerged as genuine contenders to Rhode while Ferbane are also in the mix and Clara are probably better than they looked on Friday night when they were shellshocked by the ferocity of the Edenderry onslaught.
Shamrocks, Cappincur and Gracefield are rank outsiders and the relegated team is likely to come from this trio – Shamrocks have performed better in their two games and beat Gracefield in the first round but unfortunately for them, they are in a strong group A with Tullamore, Edenderry and Ferbane and could still find themselves in the relegation play off with four, or indeed six, points. Cappincur will now have to beat Shamrocks to avoid it but there is plenty of scope for twists and turns yet – interestingly, one out of Cappincur and Gracefield will make a quarter-final and Cappincur are in pole position at the moment but need to avoid really bad beatings in addition to the preferable option of putting points on the board.
The new system this year has made it all very intriguing. It is criss cross, with teams from the opposing groups playing each other and the top team going into the semi-final with 2 v 3 in two quarter-finals.
Group A sees Tullamore and Edenderry joint top with four points with Tullamore having the better scoring difference while Ferbane and Shamrocks have two points each.
In group B, Rhode and Clara have two points and Cappincur and Gracefield have yet to get off the mark.
As things stand at the moment, Tullamore and Rhode would qualify for the semi-finals with Clara v Ferbane and Edenderry v Cappincur in the two quarter-finals but it is far from done and dusted.
Round 3 games are: Gracefield v Ferbane; Rhode v Tullamore; Clara v Shamrocks; Cappincur v Edenderry.