This weekend's GAA previews
A look ahead to the weekend's matches
AIB All-Ireland club SFC semi-finals: Dr Crokes (Kerry) v Ballymun Kickhams (Dublin), Semple Stadium, (TG4), 4pm
Like St Brigid’s in the first AIB football semi-final, Crokes are attempting to learn from the lessons of last year.
Opponents Ballymun are more the winning prototype: a club with its first title in over 20 years and further momentum built in the province, gathering pace as they close in on the All-Ireland. But aside from generalities this promises to be a fascinating match.
A year ago Crokes were very disappointed with their semi-final against Crossmaglen. Having started very positively and opened a big (seven-point) lead, they fell away. There’s a strong belief in Killarney that the team has improved since then: Johnny Buckley has matured at centrefield and Colm Cooper is getting more support up front.
Ballymun will pack the defence and rely on their fast- breaking counter-attack to do the damage. The outcome is probably going to depend on which side makes the most of their chances; it’s hard to imagine either team will get away with the sort of start Crossmaglen made 12 months ago.
It’s a classic contest between one team experienced and tempered by disappointment and the other with youthful enthusiasm, athleticism and momentum. Crokes have better options in attack and can make that count.
Crossmaglen Rangers (Armagh) v St Brigid’s (Roscommon), (TG4) 2pm – Do the two defeats Brigid’s have suffered against the champions make them psychologically vulnerable or does the relatively competitive nature of the losses create realistic motivation? There are signs – media ban, poor challenge performances – that Cross might be getting a bit jumpy about the growing pressures of their favouritism to accomplish the first club three-in-a-row in GAA history; are the Roscommon team in a position to exploit that?
They have the ability and the experience to exert that sort of pressure but can they cope with what comes next?
Crossmaglen’s season has been patchier than their opponents’ but another reading of that is whenever they have felt threatened they have had the appropriate response. Errigal Ciaráin got an early run on them but were silenced in the second half, whereas Kilcoo were all but buried early in the Ulster final only to recover and require the champions to win the match twice.
Brigid’s have been more even in their provincial performances but also less tested. The frustration of losing to Garrycastle at this stage last year can drive them on but this championship isn’t terribly kind to teams trying to fashion a first title from the lessons of defeat. This will be there for both teams but Cross are a more reliable bet to close it out.
AIB All-Ireland club SHC semi-final replay: Loughgiel Shamrocks (Antrim) v St Thomas’s (Galway), Parnell Park, (TG4) 5.45 – The better surface in Clones may suit the younger, faster outfit, St Thomas. The problem for them is they looked vulnerable whenever Loughgiel attacked – their full-forward line helped themselves to 2-7 – and did well to limit the potential damage by dominating centrefield by breaking and hoovering up ball to keep it out the field.