This weekend's GAA previews
Dublin's Paddy Andrews, who impressed against Cork at Croke Park last weekend, will be in action against Kerry
A guide to all this weekend's action
AIB All-Ireland club SHC semi-finals:Kilcormac-Killoughey (Offaly) v Thurles Sarsfields (Tipperary), O’Moore Park, 2.0 (Live on TG4) – Like last year Offaly send out unexpected Leinster champions. Kilcormac gave their best display in the provincial final albeit that Oulart’s nerves got the better of them. A combination of physique, doggedness leavened by some good hurlers, Kilcormac won’t leave anything behind but Sarsfields have high-wattage star quality even if they struggle to turn it on all the time. They should, however, shine sufficiently this afternoon.
Loughgiel Shamrocks (Antrim) v St Thomas (Galway), Parnell Park, 4.0 ( Live on TG4) – The champions have stormed back to within one match of the final and have confidence and experience but Galway clubs have a good track record of not letting inexperience derail them (except, tellingly or not, against Antrim teams). David Burke’s form at centrefield and a good attack mean St Thomas pose plenty of threat but the chances of their subduing Liam Watson and company at the other end are more open to debate.
IFC final: Finuge (Kerry) v Cookstown (Tyrone), Croke Park, 7.15 – Owen Mulligan’s Cookstown are looking for a second All-Ireland in four years at the grade whereas Finuge, with Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice aboard, look to emulate Ardfert as winners of both junior and intermediate titles. Tyrone titles generally come against Kerry sides but not this one.
JFC semi-final second replay: Castleknock (Dublin) v Kenmare (Kerry), Croke Park, 5.30 – Long-running saga featuring comebacks, extra-time and two bright young talents in Ciarán Kilkenny and Paul O’Connor. Kenmare to seal the deal.
Allianz Football League, Division One: Cork v Kildare, Páirc Uí Rinn, 7.0 (Live on Setanta Sports 1) – Cork’s lack of urgency in Croke Park last week saw them run ragged by Dublin. Place kicking was shared around and sloppily executed with seven missed. Presumably things will be more dynamic this evening because a similarly listless display will ensure the same outcome.
Kildare have strung together some good performances since the year began, outlasting Dublin in extra-time and pulling away from Donegal last week. John Doyle’s is optimally deployed in the full forward line whereas the young newcomers Daniel Flynn and Niall Kelly have added greatly to the energy levels in the forwards.
They may struggle at centrefield given Cork’s options but with their momentum and the strong motivation of avenging last year’s championship humiliation, at 5 to 2, they’re good value.
Donegal v Down, Ballybofey, 7.0 (Live on Setanta Ireland) – As the first All-Ireland winners in 10 years not to have first impacted on the league, Donegal probably won’t be too concerned at dropping their first fixture of the season, especially to a fitter team.
This however is an important fixture, as Down will be anxious for points have lost their first outing at home, albeit after a decent enough performance against Tyrone when some loose defending undid the creative work up front. Donegal were impressive for a team that hadn’t done much together since September but there were signs that the panel strength isn’t particularly profound and with a couple of injuries entering the system the campaign may be a struggle. Nonetheless muscle memory can get them through this.
Division Three: Fermanagh v Roscommon, Brewster Park, 7.00 – Consensus has it that Roscommon were slightly flattered by the three-point win over Sligo last week. Still, there were encouraging signs from some new players with Conor Daly and Donie Smith making an impact.
For all that, Fermanagh were far more fluid and coherent than anyone expected in their opener, a win over Wicklow was the least they needed if they’re going to stay up. They will find this a much tougher test and will likely come up short.