GAA previews and fixtures: New managers get first taste of action

Couple of leading counties to play under-21 teams in early-season competitions

Magic thing, the GAA season. Unique in being capable of simultaneously starting too quickly and taking too long to get going. With teams in both codes are still beach-running by day and Margarita-downing by night – or only recently landed back from same – these fixtures have come along too soon for some. So as with Kilkenny in the Walsh Cup on Thursday night, we'll be seeing a few under-21 teams on the go around the place.


(All throw-ins 2.00 unless stated)

O’Byrne Cup


New managers ahoy. Banty McEnaney in Wexford, Andy McEntee in Meath, Peter Creedon in Laois – half the new bainisteorí for 2017 are with Leinster counties and they pull on the bibs in earnest here. Even with the Dubs still in Jamaica, the game of the day could be in Parnell Park where their best young 'uns will suit up against DCU. Kildare play Longford today in Newbridge with stalwart Emmet Bolton unavailable for a while having had his Christmas ruined by a burst appendix, causing him to have surgery on St Stephen's Day.

Saturday: Kildare v Longford, Newbridge

Sunday: Dublin v DCU, Parnell Park; Wexford v UCD, Gorey, 2.30; Offaly v IT Carlow, Geashill (Raheen GAA); Meath v Wicklow, Páirc Tailteann; Laois v DIT, Crettyard; Westmeath v Louth, Cusack Park; Carlow v NUI Maynooth, Netwatch Cullen Park

McKenna Cup

At this time of year, the absent are often more interesting than the present. Not alone are Donegal not putting their senior team forward for these games but there is serious talk that they might have to do without Odhrán Mac Niallais and Anthony Thompson for 2017. Could be a long afternoon for them against UUJ. Tie of the round is in Breffni Park, the only game anywhere in the country to feature two Division One sides – and both of them taking it seriously. Gearóid McKiernan will be an obvious loss to Mattie McGleenan for the next while.

Sunday: Down v Queens, Downpatrick; Derry v Armagh, Owenbeg; Antrim v St Mary's, Glenavy; Monaghan v Fermanagh, Clones; Cavan v Tyrone, Breffni Park; Donegal v UUJ, MacCumhaill Park

McGrath Cup

No colleges teams for the second year in a row. The Kerry seniors are back from their holiday but their under-21s will fly the flag here, with Jack O’Connor on the sideline – surely a portent for the future.

Sunday: Kerry v Tipperary, Austin Stack Park; Clare v Waterford, Meelick

Connacht SFL

Mayo are another team on holidays so it will be their under-21s who take on NUIG – although they will have Stephen Rochford on the sideline. The Rossies start life without Senan Kilbride and Fergie O'Donnell at home to Sligo IT and Leitrim play their first game under new manager Brendan Guckian against GMIT.

Sunday: Roscommon v IT Sligo, Boyle 2.0; Mayo v NUIG, McHale Park; Sligo v Galway, Sligo; Leitrim v GMIT, Mohill.


Walsh Cup

You can tell that the powers-that-be don't take this competition too seriously – Galway are even allowed to play games within their own county. Michael Donoghue is missing most of his first team through club/college commitments or injury. Meanwhile, the first part of what should be a fun double-header in Gorey sees Davy Fitz on his first outing against Nicky English's UCD.

Sunday: Galway v DIT, Ballinasloe; Laois v NUIG, Abbeyleix; Westmeath v Antrim, Kinnegad; Wexford v UCD, Gorey, 12.45; Meath v Offaly, Trim; Kildare v IT Carlow, Newbridge

Munster SHL

Tipp aren’t taking part again this year so Clare have nobody to play. Cork split their squad between last night’s game against UCC and tomorrow’s against Kerry.

Sunday: Cork v Kerry, Mallow; Waterford v Limerick, Fraher Field

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin is a sports writer with The Irish Times