THE Offaly GAA championship season is now in full swing with the knockout season looming fast on the horizon in most competitions.
Just two rounds of the group stages remain in the main adult competitions, the Senior, Senior “B” and Intermediate Football and Hurling Championships and for most teams, the margin of error is effectively gone – especially in football where the format is different with two groups of four (there is one group of five in intermediate football) criss-crossing to provide four instead of three games.
In football, the top team in each group make the semi-finals with the next two playing in two quarter-finals. In hurling, each of the main championships consists of one group of eight with the top two qualifying for the semi-finals and the next four playing in two quarter-finals.
Last weekend was a hurling one and results went as expected in the Senior Hurling Championship with Kilcormac/Killoughey beating Coolderry, Belmont edging out Kinnitty, St Rynagh's having a comfortable win over an understrength Birr and Shinrone having their anticipated win over Ballinamere.
There have been significant developments in the Senior Hurling Championship. One is the health of St Rynagh's and they are sitting top of the table with nine points from five games and are the only unbeaten team.
The other is the struggles of reigning champions Coolderry. They went through last year's championship unbeaten but have found the going much tougher this year. They are currently sixth, with just two points from their five games and ahead of Ballinamere on scoring difference. With games to come against Belmont this weekend and Kinnitty in their last game, they will more than likely squueze through but they lost their management team recently with the resignation of current manager, Seamus Kennedy and last year's manager, Joachim Kelly, which suggests it is not exactly a happy camp.
Coolderry still can't be ruled out of the equation and have the experience to turn things around but at the moment they are behind St Rynagh's, Kilcormac/Killoughey and possibly even Shinrone in the pecking order. Shinrone's form is interesting – they have some outstanding young players and having lost their first two games, they have turned things around with three wins on the trot. They are an emerging young team and now have genuine aspirations, as have Belmont, while it is hard to know what to make of Birr at the moment.
The third round of the Senior Football Championship takes place this week and it is all up in the air:
This weekend's fixtures will tell a lot: Cappincur v Edenderry, Clara v Shamrocks, Rhode v Tullamore and Gracefield v Ferbane.
See pages 66 and 67 for detailed summaries of all the championships and see pages 60 to 63 for coverage of last weekend's hurling games.