This weekend's GAA previews
Loughgiel will be well warned about Conor Cooney’s capabilities after his 0-12 in the drawn match and the extent to which they can restrict him will be significant as will Liam Watson’s capacity this week to raise his game in open play.
The Galway champions need to address the concession of silly frees. If this is half as exciting as the drawn encounter, it will be good value. St Thomas have been hugely impressive as an inexperienced young team but the champions might well have learned more from the first match and have the experience to put those lessons to good use.
Interprovincial SFC semi-finals: Leinster v Connacht, Pearse Park, 2pm – “I’d love to get my hands on a provincial medal,” Bernard Brogan said this week, reminding us too that he’d yet to even play in an interprovincial final, and while not all counties (Kildare, for one, it appears), share the enthusiasm of the Dublin forward, his commitment seems absolute.
With the final set for Croke Park next week, and all the proceeds now going to Crumlin Children’s Hospital, there may well be an extra bite to the competition this year.
Former Dublin manager Pat Gilroy takes charge of Leinster and, with several of his former players on board, they look to have a little more quality than Connacht.
Ulster v Munster, Athletic Grounds, 2.15 – Some people might need reminding that Ulster are the reigning interprovincial football champions, this in fact being a repeat of last year’s final, and manager Joe Kernan is back with another all-star panel, including Michael Murphy, Seán Cavanagh and Benny Coulter, with all nine Ulster counties represented.
Munster, however, mean business too, long-serving manager Ger O’Sullivan – the former Cork selector – assembling an equally strong panel, including Cork’s Aidan Walsh and Eoin Cadogan, and Kerry’s Marc Ó Sé. Still, Ulster, at home, to swing it, just about.
Interprovincial SHC semi-finals: Leinster v Connacht, Tullamore, 2pm – There’ll be no shortage of rivalry here, for lots of reasons, including the fact that Leinster beat Connacht in last year’s final. Offaly’s Joe Dooley is back with another talented Leinster squad, featuring 13 Kilkenny players, and six from Dublin, and his own son, Shane Dooley, and that looks like a winning combination.
Connacht, however, under the eyes of Galway manager Anthony Cunningham, will be well up for this, not least because his squad is effectively Galway in disguise. They will thus relish the showdown against so many of their now Leinster rivals, and yet may just lack the depth to actually win.
Ulster v Munster, Athletic Grounds, 12.30 – This should prove perfectly straightforward for Munster, despite what Loughgiel Shamrocks are demonstrating on the club stage, although the hope is playing on home turf makes Ulster competitive.
Yet Munster have the far greater abundance of talent, with Liam Sheedy, Tipperary’s former All-Ireland winning manager, getting to call on seven of his own former players, plus six from Cork, and the likes of Waterford’s Michael Walsh.
Victory here will set up an attractive final, against Leinster or Connacht on March 3rd.