Gaelic GamesMatch previews

Gaelic Games weekend previews: All-Ireland champions Kilcoo have edge on Glen in Ulster final

Football season concludes with women’s club finals in Croke Park for the first time

AIB club previews


Munster SFC final

Kerins O’Rahilly’s (Kerry) v Newcastle West (Limerick), Mallow, 3.0 [time and venue switch]


Both clubs have a similar profile in the championship, having each qualified for the final on one occasion, which both lost. O’Rahilly’s were beaten by Kilmurry-Ibrickane in 2009 and a couple of survivors are still around, including David Moran whose red card in the semi-final the team did well to survive.

They aren’t Kerry county champions this year and an interesting statistic, courtesy of Paul Brennan in The Kerryman shows that of the 28 times this has happened, the Kerry clubs have won just four provincial titles. Newcastle West come into this with momentum, having curtailed and eventually defeated a Clonmel side that looked good bets to add to their 2015 provincial title.

Their only other final was in a previous generation but they are an experienced crew, currently on a third provincial campaign in four years. Tactically they prevented Clonmel getting the sort of turnover ball that destroyed Nemo in the quarter-final and their own running game proved effective.

Cian Sheehan, an All Star nominee this year, gave perpetual motion in the middle third and Eoin Hurley’s marksmanship held up when really needed. They didn’t get as much as hoped for out of Mike McMahon in a traditional full-forward role but his work farther out the field was valuable.

Moran’s availability, presumably for the full match this time, may well be vital. Newcastle West were pillaged on their own restarts and if that hasn’t improved, the Kerry veteran will clean up and his use of the ball is likely to be more telling than Clonmel managed given that he has Tommy Walsh, Barry John Keane and Jack Savage are up front.

Verdict: Kerins O’Rahilly’s


Ulster SFC final

Watty Graham’s Glen (Derry) v Eoghan Rua Kilcoo (Down), Athletic Grounds, 1.0 – Live TG4

This is a long-awaited rematch after last year’s epic Ulster semi-final, which the Down champions won after extra-time. Their comparative progress to this year’s final gives mixed signals. Kilcoo have looked assured and boundlessly mobile, countering at pace and covering in numbers. Their two big wins over Enniskillen Gaels and Ballybay, by 11 and 10 points respectively, can be qualified by opposition vulnerabilities but the champions were powerful and relentless.

Glen may not have been overly impressive against Cargin in their semi-final and are seen as a bit too reliant on Danny Tallon in attack. But they won the big head-to-head in the province when seeing off the talented challenge of Errigal Ciaráin in the quarter-final.

They are more or less evenly backed and for a reason. Glen are well resourced between their intercounty centrefield of Conor Glass and Emmett Bradley and the others involved in Derry’s groundbreaking Ulster success, as well as the astute management of Malachy O’Rourke.

They are, however, missing a key figure from last year’s contest, Ciarán McFaul, who had a significant role in the Derry team’s performance.

Yet Kilcoo are boosted by their status as All-Ireland champions. Their fluid game plan, orchestrated by the ubiquitous Conor Laverty, is so good at retaining and transitioning ball from defence to attack that they are hard to unhinge.

Mark Poland’s comments elsewhere on these pages are well made when he says that with both teams so adept at the possession game, a mistake can decide things – as it did last year when Kilcoo turned over a Glen kick-out for Jerome Johnston to kick the crucial goal.

The Johnstons, the Branagans – Darryl is a big influence on their counterattack and last season’s club footballer of the year Eugene returns after suspension and Dylan Ward, who may well be tasked with minding Glass, all look ready for this and they are marginally favoured in what should be a great end to the football year.

Verdict: Kilcoo All-Ireland club final previews


SFC: Donaghmoyne Fontenoys (Monaghan) v Kilkerrin-Clonberne (Galway), Croke Park, 5.0 – Live, TG4

On the balance of titles, Donaghmoyne have five All-Irelands, won in 11 years, to their opponents’ one but Kilkerrin are champions whereas the Monaghan club landed their last title seven years ago.

The clubs crossed paths in last season’s semi-final when two goals from Galway star Nicola Ward proved the difference. The Galway champions were imperious in the semi-final this year against roll of honour toppers Ballymacarbry and they look improved on the team that won a first All-Ireland.

Whereas there is a considerable bank of experience in the Donaghmoyne team, like Caitríona McConnell who top-scored in the semi-final defeat of Kilmacud (and got married the same weekend), they also have contemporary county talents in the Garland twins, Amy and Lauren. It’s hard to see where they can close the gap on last year’s verdict, however.

DONAGHMOYNE: L Martin; J Geoghegan, N Callan (capt.), A Callan; F Courtney, S Courtney, E Traynor; C Courtney, E McElroy; A Garland, R Courtney, S McConnell; C McConnell, L Garland, A Burns.

KILKERRIN-CLONBERNE: L Murphy; C Costello, S Gormally, C Dunleavy; K Mee, N Ward, H Noone; S Divilly, L Finnegan; O Divilly, L Ward (capt), L Noone; E Noone, A Morrissey, C Miskell.

Verdict: Kilkerrin-Clonberne

IFC: Longford Slashers (Longford) v Mullinahone (Tipperary), Croke Park, 3.0 – Live, TG4

The first teams to play a women’s club All-Ireland final in Croke Park, Slashers and Mullinahone are coming from different perspectives: the Longford champions had an impressive win over Charlestown and look like a team on the move whereas Mullinahone have done extraordinarily well to come back from a junior final defeat last season to reach another final at the higher grade.

LONGFORD SLASHERS: E Casey; L Kenny, E Reilly, G Kenny; O Nevin, E O’Brien, C Farrell; A O’Brien, A Cosgrove (capt); L Nolan, G Shannon, K Lee; Kate Shannon, J Barry, Kara Shannon.

MULLINAHONE: A Browning; E Horan, G Horan, A O’Brien; E Cody, M Walsh, J Brett (capt.); N Shelly, L Dowling; R White, L O’Shea, A O’Shea; C Gunn, A Langton, K Egan.

Verdict: Longford Slashers


JFC: Naomh Abán (Cork) v Salthill-Knocknacarra (Galway), Kilmallock GAA, Limerick, 1.0

Naomh Abán keep up the Cork challenge at this grade but for Salthill-Knocknacarra it’s a first All-Ireland. The Cork club’s defence can swing the verdict for them.

NAOMH ABÁN: L Hughes; U Twohig (capt.), M Dineen, A Creedon; E Kelly, R Corkery, M.E. Kelliher; A McDonagh, G Lucey; A Hoare, E Murphy, C Phelan; A Maher, L McDonagh, G Murphy.

SALTHILL-KNOCKNACARRA: L Carroll; O de Bairead, A Mullen, S Donnellan; E Madden, S Divilly, R Reddington; Z Rather, A Finnerty (capt); L Kelly, L O’Donnell, K Thompson; D O’Connell, A Manley, A Nash.

Verdict: Naomh Abán.

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times