There’s more than an air of familiarity around Group 4 of this year’s Junior Football Championship. With Sean McDermotts, John Mitchels and Westerns all competing for two slots to progress to the knockout stages, what always a hard fought competition now has an extra, local edge.
It comes from all the players involved knowing eachother, socialising together, working together, attending school together, living side by side. Anthony Durnin is a veteran of derby clashes in league or Championship action, lining out of course in Westerns colours.
The older of Westerns’ two Durnin brothers, Anthony has seen the Seans hold the edge over the men from Reaghstown in recent meetings.
He is of the opinion that are the team to be stopped, in the group and going forward too.
“We’re in a very tough group. The Wolfe Tones have got a lot better. Theere’s not a kick of the ball between ourselves and the Mitchels and the Seans are probably a little better than the whole lot of us. That group is very evenly poised,” he tells ThisIsArdee.ie.
“I think the Seans are dark horses for the Championship. They have a forward line that no Junior club has. They have Kevin McMahon, Peter Osbourne and Tony Kelly. And Lorcan Myles too. They play extremely well. I don’t think anyone’s even talking about them,” Durnin says.
Last year, it was the Seans who accounted for the Westerns in a hot tempered quarter-final clash in Darver. A ten point win was comfortable for the Seans that day. When the two sides met in the league back in May, a nine point winning margin was just as comprehensive.
- Manager – Cathal O’Hanlon
- Captain – Stephen Boylan
- Key Player – Tommy Durnin
- How They Fared Last Year – Quarter-Finals
- 2017 League & Cup Record – P12 W5 D1 L6
“When Thomas is back to play for us, all of a sudden we’re up there with everybody but that wouldn’t be a fair reflection of the year gone by.” The Westerns Louth man Tommy Durnin was not available for either of those games and it’s fair to say that with him in the team, Cathal O’Hanlon’s men are proving more than a match for most.
The inter-county star was in the Unites States last summer and had county commitments for most of the start of 2017. Now, he’s back and has plundered 0—22 in three games since.
“We’ve been putting in a lot of effort. We didn’t have Thomas for three or four months,” brother Anthony says. “We were losing games by two or three points. Now it seems the opposite. We’re winning games by two or three points and we ran Roche very close.
“He’s a huge addition and we love to have him playing for us. When he’s there, we’re never too far away.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Anthony is protective of Tommy – eager to keep his feet on the ground. He won’t be lavished with praise and attention when he’s in Westerns company.
“He’s totally overrated a lot of the time too,” Anthony says, only half-joking. “He kicks an awful lot of frees. There was a couple of games where he didn’t score from play but he took all the frees. Of course, the frees are needed.
“The other players have played a lot better because he brought so much attention from other teams’ better players, it frees up some of our other players to play a bit better.
Durnin believes that Glyde will taste JFC success this year and says the open draw leaves him hopeful the Westerns can navigate the group and avoid the Tallanstown men and other top sides like Roche Emmets.
Tallanstown is where it all kicks off tonight (8.15pm). The versatile Westerns man, equally adept in midfield or the forward line, praised the likes of Colm Martin, Ciaran Scriven and Sean McGuinness for their contributions this year – but bemoaned the loss to injury of John Murray.
“Sean McGuinness does the job every single time he plays. He keeps the whole thing tight. John is a big loss. He’s the main man.”
Beyond the Seans, Durnin does believe there’s a threat elsewhere in the group.
“John Gallagher and Kevin Gallagher, the two brothers, are two forwards we’d love to have. They could win the games against ourselves and the Seans if they wanted to,” he admits.
“There won’t be kick of the ball between the teams in our games with the Mitchels and the Seans. I guarantee it. No matter what the league table says. The Championship is a different animal altogether. The Seans will be hungry, the Mitchels will be hungry. We’ll be hungry.
“It’ll be great. The standard of football might not be great but the intensity and the will to win will be. The first game is a big one. The Seans are dark horses.”
Kevin McMahon has been in prolific form for Brian Carroll’s Sean McDermotts so far in 2017. The forward – who is a key man for the Seans alongside brothers Ciaran and Sean – is looking forward to getting underway against the Mitchels tonight (Tallanstown, 7pm).
“We are all looking forward to the Championship and there’s renewed anticipation following some good league results recently,” he told ThisIsArdee.ie.
“The group certainly presents an interesting challenge for us giving the local rivalries. No doubt the spectators will enjoy these battles!
“We would ideally like to bring our decent league form into Championship but we will just take it one game at a time,” he continues. “There are some tough challenges ahead of us but we are just focused on the opening game. We know there are some very good teams in the Junior Championship but previous years have shown that the underdogs can always cause an upset or two in the latter stages!”
Whilst the likes of himself, Peter Osbourne and Tony Kelly invariably take the plaudits going forward, the Seans talisman heaped praise on full back Kevin McMcGahon ahead of tonight’s opener.
“Kevin ‘Jimmy’ McGahon has been our star performer this year so hopefully his excellent form will continue into the Championship,” he said.
- Manager – Brian Carroll
- Captain – Danny Reilly
- Key Player – Kevin McMahon
- How They Fared Last Year – Semi-Finals
- 2017 League & Cup Record – P11 W6 D1 L4