GAA Club Championship Previews
Oulart the Ballagh’s Eoin Moore in action. Photo: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
Munster SFC semi-final: Dr Crokes (Kerry) v Loughmore-Castleiney (Tipperary), Dr Crokes GAA, Killarney, 2.0 –
The shifting landscape of the AIB club championship must be causing Crokes’ hearts to beat a little faster, as the clubs that beat them over the past two seasons have already gone. They won’t however be counting their chickens just yet although they are hottest of favourites to see off the Tipperary dual champions for whom Noel McGrath and John Coughlan have been exceptional across the codes. Three years ago Aherlow gave Crokes a fright. Cork champions Castlehaven set out a very defensive stall but ultimately couldn’t resist Colm Cooper and company and it’s unlikely Loughmore will fare any better here.
Clare SFC final
Cratloe v Doonbeg, Cusack Park, 2.30 –A busy weekend for the winners, who have to play in Munster tomorrow. Doonbeg are traditional and solid with a couple of Newmarket hurlers who were in last week’s hurling final whereas Cratloe – a genuinely dual outfit – have Clare’s Brendan Bugler fresh from the intermediate hurling campaign. Cratloe have pace and youth, including hurling All Star Podge Collins and his brother Sean whose father Colm has just extended his management remit from club to county, and should tick the first box this afternoon.
Leinster SFC quarter-final refixture
Longford Slashers (Longford) v Portlaoise (Laois), Glennon Brothers Pearse Park, 2.30 – Delayed from last week because of a bereavement in Portlaoise, this will be a challenge for the Laois champions against a Longford side that dismissed Wicklow’s Rathnew . Last year Longford champions Killoe proved difficult but Portlaoise pulled through in the end, as they should tomorrow.
Munster SHC semi-final
Midleton (Cork) v Sixmilebridge (Clare), Páirc Uí Chaoimh, 2.0 [Deferred coverage, TG4] – With the focus so squarely on forwards – Niall Gilligan for the Bridge and especially Conor Lehane with his 2-10 for Midleton – in the respective county finals it will be up to defences to get on top here. The Clare champions had exceptional displays from Caimin Morey and captain Aidan Quilligan and will be forewarned. Equally Patrick O’Mahony is an effective young hurler at full back for Midleton. The Cork club have experience at centrefield with Kilkenny man Peter Dowling, who played in the 2011 All-Ireland final for O’Loughlin Gaels, but will be missing their other Cork starter Luke O’Farrell leaving Lehane and Brian Hartnett to carry the forward threat. Midleton have evolved through successful minor and under-21 teams and the home team can swing the latest instalment of the year’s defining rivalry.
Munster SFC semi-final
Cratloe/Doonbeg (Clare) v Ballinacourty (Waterford), Doonbeg/Cusack Park, 2.0 – Ballinacourty have the luxury of coming to Clare to watch tomorrow’s opponents a day before they face them in the provincial semi-final. They showed their experience – the vast majority of the team that contested the Munster final six years ago are still playing – and ability in holding off Drom-Broadford in the quarter-finals and , can emulate that 2007 achievement.
Ulster SFC semi-finals
Glenswilly (Donegal) v Roslea (Fermanagh), Healy Park, Omagh, 2.30 – Michael Murphy’s team are odds-on the become only the second Donegal club in 22 years to reach the final after an impressive win over recent All-Ireland winners St Gall’s. The Fermanagh champions have their own marquee forward in Séamus Quigley but the power of Glenswilly points to the favourites.
Kilcoo (Down) v Ballinderry (Derry), Athletic Grounds, Armagh, 2.30 – Kilcoo’s extraordinary battle with Crossmaglen finally went their way last weekend before a record championship attendance of 9,670. They now face another significant task, taking on the Derry champions after two straight weeks playing Cross in matches that went to extra time. Ballinderry lost the Derry league final last week but they showed composure and fortitude in the quarter-final win over Scotstown and could have the edge the edge on their fatigued opponents.
Leinster SHC semi-finals
Mount Leinster Rangers (Carlow) v Ballyboden St Enda’s (Dublin), Dr Cullen Park, 2.30 – Back on track after losing out in Dublin last year for the only time since 2006, Ballyboden are running out of time if they want to take provincial silverware. They should progress here.
Kilcormac-Killoughey (Offaly) v Oulart-The Ballagh (Wexford), O’Connor Park, 2.30 – Last year it was a surprise when Oulart lost out to Kilcormac but perceptions have altered radically in the last 12 months with the Offaly champions having been to an All-Ireland final. Oulart have lost the last three provincial finals but maintained their strong record against Kilkenny clubs with the recent win over Clara. They’ll be hugely motivated and – if the injury concerns over Darren Stamp and Eoin Moore clear – without the pressure of favouritism they may well be able to turn the tables on a Kilcormac side that hasn’t been hugely tested thus far.