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.
All-Ireland JFC semi-finals:
Ballinasloe (Galway) v An Port Mór (Armagh), Kingspan Breffni Park 2.0; Castleknock (Dublin) v Kenmare Shamrocks (Kerry), Mitchelstown, 2.0 – Two evenly balanced semi-finals with Ciarán Kilkenny’s return from Australia and availability for Castleknock dominating the news.
If defences look likely to hold sway in the Ballinasloe-Port Mór match with just one goal conceded between them in the provincial championships, attacks look more influential in the other with Castleknock averaging three goals a match and Kenmare having twice hit 20 points or more.
All-Ireland IHC semi-finals:
Killimordaly (Galway) v St Gabriel’s (London), Birr, 1.0; Silvermines (Tipperary) v Clara (Kilkenny), Portlaoise, 2.0 – Killimordaly won’t take this too lightly having lost to London opposition six years ago but they can avenge that defeat . The other semi-final however points strongly to Clara who rampaged through Leinster and who take on Silvermines after a more demanding provincial campaign in Munster.
All-Ireland JHC semi-finals: Bredagh (Down) v Fullen Gaels (London), Parnells GAA Club, Coolock, 1.0; Kildorrery (Cork) v Thomastown (Kilkenny), Cashel, 2.0 – Another London club, Fullen Gaels, have reached the junior semi-finals and might just have the edge on free-scoring Bredagh whereas Thomastown are the latest Kilkenny club to tilt at this title and they are strongly favoured to beat Kildorrery.
Connacht FBD League (SF) final
Sligo v Leitrim, Markievicz Park, 2.0 – Leitrim’s reward for group wins over both Roscommon and Mayo is a first appearance in the pre-season decider where they take on Sligo for the first time in a senior provincial final.
Kevin Walsh’s team are coming off a good win themselves, having repeated the championship dose they gave Galway last summer and managed to hold them scoreless for nearly 45 minutes in the process.
Home advantage can help prevail.
Walsh Cup (Leinster SH) quarter-final
Wexford v Offaly, Blackwater, 2.0 – Last week’s opening match against DIT was a bit of a struggle for Wexford and tomorrow’s match against the side that put them out of the Leinster championship won’t be easy.
Carlow v Galway, Carlow, 2.0 – Back on the road the Leinster champions can make it a successful debut against a Carlow side that had an encouraging win over Antrim last week.
Waterford Crystal (Munster SH) quarter-finals
Tipperary v Limerick, MacDonaghPark, Nenagh, 2.0 – Two strong selections reprise the championship meeting last May. Limerick have already won a match, beating Mary I last week but Eamon O’Shea will hope to get his stewardship off to a positive start.
Clare v University of Limerick, Sixmilebridge, 2.0 – Clare begin their season with the visit of a UL team, including Clare men Conor Ryan and Darach Honan, which had a good win over Waterford.