Compiled by SEAN MORAN
O’Byrne Cup Final
Dublin v Kildare, Parnell Park, 7.0 – After last week’s bloodless victory in Drogheda Dublin manager Jim Gavin struggled to remember the number of player’s he’s looked at during this month’s Bord na Móna O’Byrne Cup but deep-drilling research reveals it to be 32 in all and that’s without taking into account that half of those, who played in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final weren’t available for various reasons – college commitments, injury etc.
Performance during all of this trialling has kept up well but this evening they’re in against a very strong Kildare selection at the beginning of a year when that county’s desire for redemption is most urgent.
Jason Ryan’s arrival to vary the coaching, the eventual exhaustion of the Seán Johnston controversy and an awaiting Division One campaign make for an upbeat start to the year, which they can underline this evening.
McGrath Cup Final
Kerry v Tipperary, Seán Treacy Park, Tipperary Town, 2.30 In what has been a dispiriting fixture for Tipp down the years, the home side can at least reflect on what was an improved display in last year’s championship and the fact that their McGrath Cup matches have been closer affairs.
Peter Creedon has sensibly said that he’s wary of fast tracking underage stars into senior football but most of this afternoon’s attack come from the minor All-Ireland winners of two years ago and they will get a good sense of life at the top against a Kerry side with a 50-50 blend of experience and youth.
Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s team has been putting up big scores and should come through this but it will competitive.
Dr McKenna Cup Final
Monaghan v Tyrone, Athletic Grounds, 7.30 – Tyrone’s buoyancy in the Power NI McKenna Cup sets them up for a challenging league campaign and this evening they’re up against the other form team in the competition.
Under Malachy O’Rourke Monaghan have had a good month, bringing in some new faces and managing to get results as they went. Theirs is a less experimental selection than Tyrone’s but whereas they have a good shot at extending their lead at the top of the competition’s roll of honour, Mickey Harte’s team have enough momentum to retain the title.
Walsh Cup (Leinster SH) quarter-final – NUI Galway v Kilkenny, O’Loughlin Gaels, 2.0 – Kilkenny field a development squad in the opening defence of the first title won last year. NUIG are gearing up for the Fitzgibbon and have a first-round win under their belt and hopes will be high for a trophy win over the All-Ireland champions.
Waterford Crystal (Munster SH) quarter-final – Cork v Waterford IT, Páirc Uí Rinn, 2.0 – Jimmy Barry-Murphy’s team were able to stack up a respectable 3-20 against UCC last week and take on another college side this afternoon, again with an experimental team, but should advance.
All-Ireland IFC semi-finals: Charlestown Sarsfields (Mayo) v Cookstown Fr Rocks (Tyrone), Glennon Bros Pearse Park, Longford, 2,0; Finuge (Kerry) v Monasterevan (Kildare), Gaelic Grounds, Limerick, 2.0 – Cookstown allowed their attention to wander in the Ulster final and ended up in what was needless extra- time. Despite winning this All-Ireland three years ago they’re underdogs against Charlestown, a club that won the Connacht senior title in 2001, and have bounced back to the senior ranks. Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice has a busy weekend with his club Finuge fancied to beat Monasterevan this afternoon.