Previews Club fixtures
Today Waterford SFC final replay – Stradbally v The NireFraher Field, 7pm
Yet another replay in the county football final (the fourth in the past 10 years) with Stradbally slight favourites having been the more pleased with the draw. The Nire had the opportunity to put the match away but let their opponents back into it. Hurling luminary Brick Walsh was in terrific form for Stradbally and a more consistent display from the team can get them home.
Kilkenny SHC final
Ballyhale Shamrocks v Dicksboro
Even in the absence of All Star TJ Reid Ballyhale are surely packing too much for a promising Dicksboro team. Hurler of the Year Henry Shefflin is fit and playing well, which together with Colin Fennelly’s form gives the attack unusual menace for a club side. If there’s any drop-off in the favourites’ performance they will be vulnerable but there’s too much to counter going in against a team that tops the betting for the All-Ireland title before they’ve even played the county final. That’s for a reason.
Leinster Club SFC quarter-finals
St Patrick’s (Wicklow) v Portlaoise (Laois)
Fresh from the first win by a team from Wicklow in the championship in nearly 10 years, St Pat’s must make more history as Portlaoise have never lost to a Wicklow club. They’ll be facing an old boy in former Laois player Darragh McEvoy, whose form was excellent the last day. Still the visitors are practised Leinster performers and won the title two years ago. Firing well in Laois, they should progress.
Emmet Óg Killoe (Longford) v Navan O’Mahony’s (Meath)
Killoe have been making heroic progress, taking the county title after a replay and following up with a battling defeat of St Anne’s from Wexford. O’Mahony’s were unexpectedly big winners against Wolfe Tones in the county final despite a big injury list. They have the momentum to go through opponents.
Sarsfields (Kildare) v St Patrick’s (Louth)
Back in the provincial championship for the first time in seven years, Sarsfields under the management of John Crofton hit hard in the second half of their county final to win comfortably and Kildare forward Alan Smith was man of the match. Their opponents pulled off something of a coup by defeating Rhode although their best-known player Paddy Keenan pointed to the big display against Portlaoise last year as evidence of their threat. With five county titles in recent years St Pat’s have yet to impact on Leinster and although they pose a threat, a home win is likely.
Mullingar Shamrocks (Westmeath) v Ballymun Kickhams (Dublin)
In a very open championship both of these sides have reason for optimism. Mullingar eliminated last year’s All-Ireland finalists Garrycastle whereas Ballymun emerged from Dublin having beaten two of the past five All-Ireland champions. Durable and with home advantage Shamrocks will be a severe test for a young and untested team but the Dubliners have the potential to do damage and that may start tomorrow.
Connacht Club SFC semi-finals
Salthill-Knocknacarra (Galway) v St Brigid’s (Roscommon)
The frustration of All-Ireland defeat over the past two seasons will be eating away at Brigid’s but they will also be mindful of having ended the season of the last two Galway champions, Corofin in a controversial final last year, and Killererin the year before. Salthill have quality players although a back injury threatens the participation of Gary Cox but their form doesn’t look on the same level as the champions. Now on a three-in-a-row, Brigid’s have the experience and class to push on towards that milestone.
Ballaghadereen (Mayo) v Curry (Sligo)
In what was a war of attrition, Ballagh dethroned back-to-back champions Ballintubber in the county final but showed enough structure and fitness to fight their corner. As was noted by Curry manager Anthony Brennan, Sligo clubs have a poor record in the championship and whereas his side, county champions for the first time in six years, have Adrian Marren – man of the match in Sligo’s big win over Galway during the summer – in form with a haul of 10 in the county final, the Mayo champions look stronger.
Munster Club SHC semi-finals
Thurles Sarsfields (Tipperary) v Sarsfields (Cork)
Thurles have the air of a team on a mission this year. The club’s under-achievement in the provincial championship has left a legacy of just one bungled final appearance but with the talent at their disposal that should be remedied. Their Cork namesakes have also enjoyed success in the county – three titles in five years – but similarly haven’t registered outside, losing twice to De La Salle. Their attack is driven by Cian McCarthy with the towering Michael Cussen at full forward. Thurles have All Stars in defence with Michael Cahill and Pádraic Maher and former UCC stalwart Johnny Enright playing centrefield plus the dead ball accuracy of Pa Bourke up front as well as the ubiquitous Lar Corbett. They look like they mean business.
Newmarket-on-Fergus (Clare) v De La Salle (Waterford)
Clare clubs have been remarkably competitive in Munster without actually winning but it will be interesting to see how Newmarket have recovered from a first county title in 30 years. They’re up against two-times champions De La Salle who have been playing well and even with the burden of having to travel, have the edge.
Ulster Club SFC quarter-final
Crossmaglen Rangers (Armagh) v St Eunan’s (Donegal)
No sign of the Cross juggernaut slowing and the eternal south Armagh club presents itself for a crack at a 10th Ulster title in 17 years. Eunan’s did well to battle through the compressed Donegal championship and in last week’s final they put in a striking rearguard action to deny Naomh Conaill. The champions don’t panic so are nearly impossible to keep at bay