From showdown in Killarney to double trouble in Donegal
All this weekend’s county final previews
Ciarán McKeever: will be marshalling Cullyhanna’s defence tomorrow
Kerry SFC final – Dr Crokes v Austin Stacks, Fitzgerald Stadium Killarney, 3.0: County showdowns don’t come much bigger than this. Why, exactly? Colm “Gooch” Cooper orchestrating the Dr Crokes attack, and Kieran Donaghy starring for Austin Stacks, for starters – the respect mutual, the rivalry vintage, all over the field. However, while Stacks have won this title 11 times, twice more than Crokes, the last of them was in 1994, when they beat Crokes in a replay.
Since then, the power has shifted firmly in favour of the Killarney club, who are now chasing a fourth title in succession. Donaghy agreedthis week a Tralee victory would require something of an upset, but they’ll certainly be up for it. Manager Stephen Stack, the 1997 All-Ireland winner with Kerry, in his first year managing the club, suggests Crokes “have to be beaten sometime”. They will, but just not likely here.
Donegal SFC final – Glenswilly v Killybegs, MacCumhail Park, 4.0: The only pity here is the conflict faced by Glenswilly and Donegal star Michael Murphy, who is also set to lead out Ireland in this evening’s first International Rules Test against Australia. It’s a lot to ask of any player, even one of Murphy’s great talent, although manager Gary McDaid is adamant the club haven’t been distracted, as they look to win back the title claimed in 2011.
Glenswilly have other worries too, sweating over the fitness of Ciaran Bonner, who hasn’t trained since their semi-final over Ardara. Killybegs, amazingly, have lost all 14 league games this year, but are the only club unbeaten in the championship, and if they maintain that consistency here they clearly have a chance – further inspiration, perhaps, being provided by the half-time presentation to the 1988 Killybegs team, who ended four decades of waiting for a county title.
Meath SFC final – Na Fianna v Summerhill, Páirc Tailteann, 3.30: Having won the title in 2011 and been beaten finalists five years ago, Summerhill have more experience of what it takes to win. Na Fianna are in their first season up from intermediate but have been shooting the lights out in this championship, including hitting Moynalvey for seven goals in the quarter-finals.
At the same stage Summerhill recorded an equally significant victory, defeating the champions and red-hot favourites Navan O’Mahony’s in a tight contest. Summerhill lost their early fixtures in the championship and so have been playing effectively knock-out football ever since. That experience of walking the tightrope and close finishes may just about give them the edge against Na Fianna’s greater pyrotechnics.