Weekend Club Previews
TODAY: Tipperary SHC Thurles Sarsfields v Drom Inch,Thurles, 3.30 – With their galaxy of county talent, Thurles are hot favourites but there is a niggling doubt about the relatively undemanding route they’ve taken to the final.
Drom on the other hand had a major tussle with Loughmore in the semi-final and will be more seasoned in battle. Of the Thurles stars, Michael Cahill has the most pressurised duty – that of keeping tabs on an in-form Séamus Callinan. He can acquit himself sufficiently well for team-mates to take care of the rest of the business.
Dungarvan v De La Salle,Fraher Field, 3.45 – Big discrepancy here between the experienced De La Salle, who must be kicking themselves they didn’t get a crack at last year’s All-Ireland, and opponents who haven’t even reached the final in over 60 years. However, Dungarvan’s record this season is good and they put out champions Ballygunner but a well travelled De La Salle half-back line and John Mullane in attack should have too much for the young pretenders.
Cuala v Kilmacud Crokes,Parnell Park, 3.45 – Crokes beat Lucan in a bruising semi-final and boast well-known names like Niall Corcoran, Ryan O’Dwyer and the O’Carrolls. Cuala have done a lot of heavy lifting to get here, beating serial holders Ballyboden, Craobh Ciarán and Crumlin. Barry Connolly, scion of Castlegar, hit 15 points in the semi-final. Inexperience has shown itself in them losing direction in matches after strong starts but if they have learned on the road and can avoid a physical battle against the stronger Crokes, they can take the title back to Hyde Road for the first time in 18 years.
Rhode v Clara,Tullamore, 3.30 – The old firm in Offaly – seven of the last 10 titles between them – reasserts itself. Although Rhode have been the more dominant (five of seven titles) they have injury problems and having lost last year’s final to Edenderry, Clara may well be able to use their experience to exploit the situation.
Longford Slashers v Pearse Óg,Pearse Park, 3.30 – Current All Star nominee Michael Quinn is one of the leading lights for Pearse Óg as they take on the champions, who are bidding for a three-in-a-row, in the club’s first final in 17 years. Despite the Slashers’ experience, they may get caught by the emerging challengers.
Eire Óg v Palatine,Dr Cullen Park, 3.45 – Éire Óg go for their 10th title since 1992 and the first for four years. Their semi-final destruction of O’Hanrahan’s makes them favourites against Palatine, who beat Rathvilly.
Tuam Stars v Salthill-Knocknacarra,Pearse Stadium, 4.0 – Tuam lost last year’s final but defeated tomorrow’s opponents along the way. Salthill have a remarkable record of having won just two county titles since 1990 and reaching the All-Ireland final on each occasion, winning the trophy seven seasons ago. Both the finalists defeated former champions in the semi-finals, Tuam getting past holders Corofin and Salthill beating Killererin. Tuam’s experience last year and cohesion can prove decisive against the city team.
Crossmaglen Rangers v Pearse Óg,Morgan Athletic Grounds, 3.45 – All-Ireland champions yet again, Cross chase a 15th county title in 16 years. Opponents Pearse Óg are the only team to have eclipsed them during that time, beating the illustrious south Armagh club on the way to the 2009 title. Both sides are missing players with Ronan Clarke’s accursed injury problems erupting again whereas Paul Kernan is a doubt for the holders. It’s hard to look beyond the champions but a tight affair is expected.
Clontibret v Ballybay, Clones, 4.0 – Ballybay are in their first final since 1987 while their opponents are in line for a third in four years. Having ousted the holders Latton, Ballybay, with Paul Finlay on the mark, will be expected to bridge the gap.
St Brigid’s v Pádraig Pearses,Kiltoom, 4.0 – Connacht champions St Brigid’s get to host the county final and should progress without too many complications against opponents whose big weekend starts today with the hurling final replay against Four Roads.
Calry St Joseph’s v Coolera Strandhill,Markievicz Park, 3.30 – Fresh from a minor title last week, Coolera Strandhill line up against the champions and will probably have to chalk this down to experience.
Oulart-The Ballagh v Faythe Harriers,Wexford Park, 3.15 – Faythe shocked last year’s finalists Rathnure in the semi-finals but taking on the champions of the past three years Oulart will be a step-up even on that. The holders hit their rhythm in the semi-final win over Shelmaliers and are unlikely to slip at this stage in the pursuit of their Holy Grail of a Leinster title.
Clonkill v Raharney,Cusack Park – Champions Clonkill, with Irish shinty captain Eoin Price on board, are favourites to retain the title but there’s never much in it when they play Raharney.
Clough-Ballacolla v Rathdowney-Errill,Portlaoise, 3.45 – The clubs have shared the last four titles evenly but the champions have lost players since last year and Rathdowney-Errill look set to maintain the hex on defending the title.
Ulster SHC semi-finals
Portaferry (Down) v Swatragh (Derry),Casement Park, 1.45 – Unfortunately for Swatragh they are overshadowed by injuries to Mikey Conway and Ruairí Convery going into this and Portaferry can take advantage to reach the final.
Loughgiel (Antrim) v Middletown (Armagh),Casement Park, 3.30 – All-Ireland senior champions take on the intermediate finalists and that disparity should be too much at Casement Park.