Cork firepower should be enough to claim under-21 title

Leitrim and Antrim likely to make winning starts to the Championship season

Cork’s Brian O’Driscoll in action during the semi-final against Cavan. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Cork’s Brian O’Driscoll in action during the semi-final against Cavan. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho


Cadbury All-Ireland U-21 FC final: Cork v Galway, Gaelic Grounds, 7.0
There’s a routine, business- as-usual feel to this year’s under-21 final after semi-finals into which two less practised counties carried hopes of getting to the conclusion of the season.

Both Cavan and Kildare will have substantial regrets at not having done better two weeks ago but neither can ultimately have many complaints. Kildare’s litany of wides has become the most-known fact from the semi-finals but throughout Galway looked sharper and more clinical and were deserving winners.

Cork had proved themselves the stronger team in the other semi-final against Cavan by staying with the three-times Ulster winners and then in a crucial, second-half spell putting a bit of distance on the scoreboard. That should have been that but instead John Cleary’s team obliged themselves to win the match for a second time.

Given the pressure they put themselves under, Cork showed bottle to edge out the match after Cavan had caught them in the run for the line but they would have been traumatised if they’d managed to throw away a dominant position.

The Munster champions’ forwards were their main weapon with Brian Sugrue particularly incisive although Brian O’Driscoll, pushing up from wing back was also influential.

There were warning signs for both teams in the manner of their wins. Galway, for all of their sharpness, were happy to play their own game and manager Alan Flynn mentioned during the week that he would have wished a higher workrate from his forwards to inhibit the abandon with which Kildare poured forward from defence.

Certainly if they yield that sort of territory and platform the classy Cork forwards are going to wear out the umpires’ backs rather than their arms.

Similarly if Cork drag their feet as they did at times against Cavan, they’ll be run off them by the pace and penetration of Galway.

It’s a hard call between two teams that have proven themselves in adversity. Galway’s middle triangle of Fintan Ó Curraoin, Thomas Flynn and centre forward Seán Moran present a significant challenge to Cork and can create openings for a quality full forward line.

If Galway’s forwards can follow their manager’s prescription and stop Cork getting forward in support of an already dangerous attack, the Connacht champions will have a good chance.

More likely however is that Cork can stem the flow of runners and take enough of the chances they create to win.
CORK: D Hanrahan; C Dorman, D Cahalane, A Cronin; B O’Driscoll, T Clancy, J Wall; S Kiely, I Maguire; A Cadogan, M Sugrue, J O’Rourke; D MacEoin, B Hurley, L Connolly.
GALWAY: T Healy; E Walsh, J Shaughnessy, D Cunnane; M Loughnane, D Burke, P Varley; T Flynn, F Ó Curraoin; C Mulryan, S Moran, D Comer; S Walsh, A Varley, I Burke.

Connacht SFC quarter-final:
New York v Leitrim, 8.00 (3.00 EST)
The New York mantra is always that some year something’s going to happen and the sight of Leitrim heading their way has sharpened that sense. Travelling manager Barney Breen however revealed honestly during the week that as a mid-table Division Four team, they wouldn’t be taking anyone for granted and will travel with a full-strength side. New York have come close at times although last year’s destruction by Sligo wasn’t one of those occasions. Monaghan’s Rory Woods plays for the home team at full forward and CJ Molloy, a native New Yorker and nephew of Donegal All-Ireland winning captain Anthony and who played in the All Stars exhibition match last November, scoring a goal in the process, is at centrefield. He made his debut when Leitrim last travelled for this fixture five years ago and the visitors were convincing winners. They can ensure that they don’t slip up here and make it back to play the winners of London v Sligo next month.

Leinster SHC preliminary round: Westmeath v Antrim, Cusack Park Mullingar, 3.0
This fixture provided one of the shocks of last year’s championship when the midlanders defeated Antrim. Although that achievement came just after a disappointing Division 2A league final defeat, as is again the case this year, the likelihood is that Antrim will be better prepared having secured their own status in the immediately higher division. Brian Hanley has worked at developing Westmeath but the loss of defender Philip Gilsenan is a blow to the team. Under Kevin Ryan Antrim have been more settled than during what was a turbulent season 12 months ago. Even though Loughgiel’s star forward Liam Watson isn’t involved tomorrow, they should be able to make amends for last year.