Previews Club championships
Alook ahead to the weekend's matches
(2pm unless stated)
Connacht SF Final
St Brigid’s (Roscommon) v Ballaghaderreen (Mayo)
St Brigid’s domination of Connacht shouldn’t distort the ho-hum standard in the province this year. Salthill were a disappointment in the semi-final and Ballaghaderreen follow in a Mayo line that has seen just one win since Ballina took the All-Ireland eight seasons ago. The feeling within the county appears to be that Ballagh’ have taken too long to deliver on the promise of recent years and aren’t as good as they were. They also have to cope with the absence of Andy Moran, which becomes harder with each passing round. Their centrefield of Barry Kelly and James Kilcullen gives the Mayo club a real chance of dictating terms although Barry Regan’s accuracy gives them teeth, the champions’ well-practised pairing of Frankie Dolan and the in-form Senan Kilbride gives them more attacking options and that should be decisive.
Munster SH final
De La Salle (Waterford) v Thurles Sarsfields (Tipperary)
Páirc Uí Chaoimh
The sense that Thurles have got their act together this year in pursuit of Munster may obscure the belief in Waterford that De La Salle are stronger than in previous campaigns, which have yielded two provincial titles in the past four seasons. Despite all of the stardust, there is an argument that if the Waterford team can get around Pádraic Maher at centre back they have the equipment to repeat their success of two years ago. Although the Tipp club did well to carve out good wins against Kilmallock and their Cork namesakes, De La Salle are more physically capable than Co rk Sars and better hurlers than Kilmallock. Space is likely to be at a premium and John Mullane and company can make their 15 to 8 odds look madly generous.
Leinster SF semi-finals
Portlaoise (Laois) v Emmet Óg (Longford)
Emmet Óg’s run and the big win over Navan O’Mahony’s have been in the best traditions of the club championship and all the more impressive for how hard-won the Longford title was. However, Portlaoise were chillingly efficient in their quarter-final and have the know-how as well as the personnel to make home advantage count.
Sarsfields (Kildare) v Ballymun Kickhams (Dublin)
The scale of Ballymun’s defeat of Mullingar Shamrocks rocketed the Dublin club to top of the betting in Leinster but for an inexperienced side, this trip to Sarsfields’ home territory is a major challenge. In their favour is the relative patchiness of the Kildare side’s progress this season. If Ballymun maintain the pressure with anything like an even tempo, they’re going to win.
Leinster SH semi-final
Oulart-The Ballagh (Wexford) v Ballyhale Shamrocks (Kilkenny)
It’s been desperately frustrating for Oulart to have failed to break through in Leinster in the past two seasons during which Ballyhale have been ‘resting’. The mark of the Kilkenny champions’ county success was how effortlessly they carried low-key performances from some of their galacticos – Henry Shefflin failing to cash in two penalties – in the final against a promising Dicksboro. The Wexford champions showed character to dog it out in vile conditions when squeezing past Kilmacud but not in a manner that suggests they can approach this with vast confidence.