This weekend’s provincial club fixtures previewed
Two county finals also up for decision
Kilcoo’s Paul McKeown and Crossmaglen’s Daryl Brannigan will meet again in an Ulster SFC quarter-final replay. Photograph: Inpho
Connacht SFC semi-finals
St Brigid’s (Roscommon) v St Mary’s (Leitrim), Páirc Seán MacDiarmada, 2.0 - Brigid’s recorded a big win against St Mary’s predecessors Melvin Gaels a year ago and are hot favourites to repeat the dose tomorrow. The All-Ireland champions also have the advantage of a previous outing, the comfortable defeat of Tourlestrane a couple of weeks ago whereas the underdogs have been cooling their heels for six weeks. Brigid’s to win.
Corofin (Galway) v Castlebar Mitchels (Mayo), Tuam Stadium, 2.0 - Corofin will feel they have a score to settle with champions St Brigid’s should both clubs win this weekend but they would do well not to get ahead of themselves given a sizeable injury list with Daithi Burke and the experienced Gary Delaney definitely out, Galway All-Ireland winner Kieran Fitzgerald doubtful with a hip problem and a question mark over Michael Comer. Castlebar have their own problem with Danny Kirby red carded in last week’s county under-21 final. Overall Corofin have the experience and craft to advance.
Ulster SFC quarter-final replay
Crossmaglen Rangers (Armagh) v Kilcoo (Down), Athletic Grounds, 2.30 - With Crossmaglen operating like a game of Jenga, as Joe Kernan sees how he can manage mounting numbers of injuries and absences, there’s every chance for Kilcoo to avenge defeat in last season’s controversial final. Jim McCorry has injury problems of his own and his team may have had their chance last week. It’s still anyone’s but Crossmaglen’s muscle memory is all about winning close matches and they can stagger on a bit farther.
Munster SHC semi-final
Na Piarsaigh (Limerick) v Passage (Waterford), Gaelic Grounds, 2.0 - Passage staged a remarkable comeback in the Waterford final to shock - stagger - favourites Ballygunner and claim a first county title. They’re new to this level and crucially without the rock on which that success was built, as county star and centre back Noel Connors is away for a couple of months. Na Piarsaigh’s near-death experience against Loughmore illustrated some weaknesses but also, as they didn’t die, makes them stronger. They’ll be missing Kieran Breen, who was red carded two weeks ago, but the Limerick side still have the strength to push on to the final and maintain their unbeaten record in the Munster championship.
Clare SHC final
Newmarket-on-Fergus v Sixmilebridge, Cusack Park, 2.30 - Niall Gilligan rolled back time in the county semi-finals as the Bridge surprised Clonlara. They none the less look to have too much to do to create a further upset against the champions for whom the relentless accuracy from placed ball of Colin Ryan - the only hurler from either club to have started the All-Ireland final - is a significant factor, as is a composed defence.
Dublin SHC final
Ballyboden St Enda’s v Lucan Sarsfields, Parnell Park, 3.0 - Ballyboden are back at the top table after last year’s blip but not quite the force of old. Lucan, with new All Star Peter Kelly on board, can give this a better shake than the odds suggest but Conal Keaney and company are the likelier winners.
Leinster Club SFC Quarter-finals (All throw-ins 2.30)
St Lomans (Westmeath) v St Vincents (Dublin), Mullingar - It doesn’t take a huge leap of logic to find an argument for an upset here. St Lomans are at home, they’ve had a two-week break since their last game and in John Heslin they have the form club player in the country. Vincents are on the road, playing their fourth game in 13 days and are without the suspended Diarmuid Connolly. If the Westmeath side can keep tabs on a resurgent Mossy Quinn, this is a real opportunity for them. St Lomans to win.
Newtown Blues (Louth) v Summerhill (Meath), Drogheda - Lost amid the ructions over the bad-tempered nature of their defeat of Tullamore was the fact that Newtown just didn’t play that well. Only ending up with two points to spare over a team that was down to 13 men doesn’t bode well for their prospects against a Summerhill side that has improved with every game. Conor Gillespie was man of the match in the Meath county final if he gets a stronghold in midfield, the visitors have enough about them to progress. Summerhill to win.
Longford Slashers (Longford) v Portlaoise (Laois), Longford - For a team that are here every winter, Portlaoise’s return of two Leinster titles from the past decade is paltry enough. They won’t often have a better chance than this year, with the competition in Leinster looking slightly thin. With Cahir Healy as tenacious as ever at the heart of the defence and the likes of Craig Rogers and Brian McCormack in form up front, they’re a formidable force. Slashers have been scoring heavily - especially for the time of year - but they look to have met their match here. Portlaoise to win.
St Martins (Wexford) v Moorefield (Kildare), Wexford Park
The road is not likely to be long for St Martin’s, given that they’ve just won their first county title and will be in danger of labouring under the terrible record Wexford clubs have in Leinster. Ciaran Lyng and Daithi Waters are their go-to men but it’s hard to see them being a rounded enough outfit to live with a Moorefield side who have plenty of experience at this level. Moorefield to win.