Stage-fright shouldn’t be an issue for the clubs preparing for AIB Leinster Club Senior Football Championship first round games this Sunday.
The first round ties feature three clubs that previously won the provincial title, along with last year’s beaten finalists, and two sides that have competed at this level in recent seasons.
Five of the six clubs involved actually top their county roll of honour, so local celebrations will have been quickly replaced with an ambition to make an impact in Leinster.
With eight of the 11 participants in this championship now known, so far only Mullinalachta St Columba’s have secured a place for the second year in a row. Reigning champions could yet feature prominently, however, with St Vincent’s (Dublin), Simonstown Gaels (Meath) and St Loman’s (Westmeath) competing in county finals this weekend.
Newtown Blues V Rathnew
There’s a Louth v Wicklow pairing in the first round for the second year in a row, with former Leinster champions Rathnew travelling to Drogheda to take on Newtown Blues.
Rathnew secured their fourth Wicklow title in five years, and 33rd in total, with a 3-8 to 0-12 defeat of Blessington last Sunday week.
The favourites stamped their authority on the game with first half goals by Mark Doyle, Leighton Glynn and James Stafford and despite only hitting four points in the second half, ran out convincing winners.
One of only two Wicklow clubs to claim provincial honours in this championship, Rathnew enjoyed their proudest moment in the 2001/’02 campaign when overcoming Na Fianna of Dublin in the final, after a replay.
No Louth club has joined the Leinster Club SFC Roll of Honour, and the last representatives from the county to even reach the final was Mattock Rangers back in 2002.
Newtown Blues last featured in 2013, when they overcame Tullamore (Offaly) in the first round before bowing out to Summerhill (Meath) by a goal at the quarter-final stage.
They were always in control of this year’s county final against Dundalk Gaels, which they won by 2-10 to 0-5, the goals coming from Conor Moore and top-scorer Ross Nally.
The winners of this game will play the Dublin champions in a quarter-final.
St Columba’s Mullinalaghta v Eire Óg
St Columba’s Mullinalaghta won two Longford titles in the space of three years in 1948 and 1950, but had a long wait until last year before adding a third.
Their first ever Leinster campaign was rewarding also, securing wins over Stradbally (Laois) and St Loman’s (Westmeath) before bowing out to eventual champions St Vincent’s (Dublin) in the penultimate round.
And they carried the momentum into 2017, culminating in a 0-13 to 1-7 victory over Abbeylara in the county final, with James and David McGivney chipping in with crucial scores late on.
Meanwhile, Eire Óg regained their status as kingpins of Carlow after Palatine completed a three-in-a-row between 2014 and 2016. They were taken to a replay by Rathvilly, before eventually triumphing by 2-8 to 1-8, with the all-important goals coming from Eoghan Ruth and Jordan Morrissey.
Eire Óg converted five of their county wins with Leinster Club titles between 1992 and 1998, a phenomenal achievement by any standards. They would love to bridge that almost 20 year gap and will relish the return to this championship.
The winners will take on the Westmeath champions in a quarter-final.
Rhode V Portlaoise
With over 65,000 views on YouTube, Pascal Kellaghan’s stunning goal for Rhode against Portlaoise in the 2008 Club Championship is still fondly remembered in the north Offaly village.
Fast-forward nine years and the flame-haired Kellagahan is now wearing the manager’s bib for Rhode as these formidable clubs with recent Leinster Club final experience go head-to-head again.
But for all their dominance in Offaly and gallant efforts when flying the flag for their county in the provincial championship, Rhode just haven’t been able to get over the line.
Their tale of woe in Leinster continued last season, when suffering a fifth final defeat since 2006 – an unfortunate record for a famous club still seeking a first provincial crown.
Contrast that with Portlaoise, who are joint-top of the provincial roll of honour with seven titles, the most recent of which was in 2009.
Two years ago, Ballyboden St Enda’s only beat them by a single point in the final and so, having quickly recovered from last year’s blip in Laois, will be confident of making a big impact again.
Portlaoise comfortably defeated Ballylinan in the Laois final by 3-13 to 0-10 to claim their tenth title in 11 seasons and ensure a 13th medal for long-serving forward Brian McCormack. Paul Cahilane top scored with 1-6, with Scott Lawless and John Kavanagh also firing home goals.
Meanwhile, Rhode’s 0-12 to 0-9 defeat of Clara saw them top the roll of honour in Offaly for the first time ever with 28 titles. Alan McNamee created history by claiming a tenth medal while his younger brother Niall received yet another man of the match award.
Rhode or Portlaoise will meet Moorefield of Kildare in a quarter-final on 12th November.