GAA previews: Ballyhale look to affirm their place in history while Kilmacud seek redemption

The climax of the club season sees two Ulster clubs intent on disrupting the party


O’Byrne Cup (Leinster SF) final: Longford v Louth, Glennon Bros Pearse Park, 2.0

After the blasted heath of last week, the O’Byrne Cup reverts to fixtures to which the competing teams have no objection. Longford were blameless in the shenanigans whereas Louth triggered it. Verdict: Longford

Dr McKenna Cup (Ulster SF) final: Derry v Tyrone, Athletic Grounds, 6.0


Derry have made a point of needing late scrambles to rescue matches, most recently last week when they caught Down late and beat them on penalties. They also required two late scores to draw the round-robin between the counties. Verdict: Tyrone

Walsh Cup (Leinster SH):

Antrim v Galway, Darver, 2.0

Wexford v Kilkenny, Chadwicks Wexford Park, 6.0

The ignition of the floodlights in Wexford has attracted a sell-out attendance of more than 12,000. Darragh Egan has been disavowing any great investment in the result as opposed to the run-out but it would be a surprise if that dispassionate attitude prevailed in the circumstances. Verdict: Wexford

Lidl NFL Division 1

Galway v Donegal, Tuam Stadium, 2.0; Dublin v Meath, DCU St Clare’s, 5.15 – Live TG4


All-Ireland club SHC final

Ballyhale Shamrocks (Kilkenny) v Dunloy Cúchullains (Antrim), Croke Park, 1.30 – Live TG4

Ballyhale caused a slight surprise when deposing defending champions Ballygunner in the semi-final but given who they are, not much. The Kilkenny champions have been fitful this campaign, disappearing for a half here and there but always coming through. The sense was that they had a mission to deal with the team that turned them over in last year’s final and duly delivered.

Ballyhale don’t go into many big matches at outsiders and it’s hard to think of one between the 2010 All-Ireland final and December’s semi-final – both of which they won.

Semi-finals may be all about winning but the same applies to finals to an ever greater degree.

Might Ballyhale’s focus blur a little now that the chief task of beating the champions is complete? Dunloy came through against St Thomas’ with a good display, the core of their attack, Keelan Molloy and Conal Cunning, proving match winners.

It won’t assist the favourites that All Star Adrian Mullen is carrying an injury and is doubtful to play, but there’s no doubting their firepower. The aerial ball paid off against Ballygunner and forced Philip Mahony to firefight rather than sweep and with Colin Fennelly in good form, combining with Eoin Cody and TJ Reid, who has a scarcely believable five medals – more All-Irelands than any other club – Ballyhale have undoubted menace up front.

They will need to strike early if they want to trigger doubts in the opposition and given the good All-Ireland performances of Dunloy’s predecessors Slaughtneil, including against Ballyhale, the favourites don’t want their opponents afforded any encouragement.

Verdict: Ballyhale

All-Ireland club SFC final

Kilmacud Crokes (Dublin) v Watty Graham’s Glen (Derry), Croke Park, 3.30 – Live TG4

Contrasting perspectives for the football finalists: Kilmacud are still – understandably – haunted by last year’s final and its late, stunning twist whereas the Derry champions have built momentum through the province and a searching semi-final, which they should nonetheless have won more easily.

Moycullen’s perseverance did shine a light of Glen’s composure and self-confidence. On the other hand, Kilmacud after a clearly superior display nearly panicked into allowing Kerins O’Rahillys a glimpse of success, which they didn’t exploit. It showed, though, how jittery Kilmacud can be under late pressure such is their desire to atone for last season.

There are a couple of other aspects to this: the Dublin team’s indiscipline, either through nerves or an intentional determination to break up opposition attacks at source, will need to improve.

David Moran dominated the Kilmacud centrefield the last day and Glen’s Conor Glass is a current All Star in the position and he and Emmett Bradley hacked up in the semi-final. The Leinster champions have a strong defensive foundation though, well marshalled by Rory O’Carroll but supplemented by plenty of pace.

They’ll need to be in the zone, as Danny Tallon was MOTM the last day.

Can Glen’s defence restrict the Kilmacud attack with plenty of runners and Shane Walsh providing the inspiration – to say nothing of the vague possibility of Paul Mannion entering the fray?

Overall, the dynamic slightly favours Glen.

Verdict: Glen

Munster SHL final

Cork v Tipperary, Páirc Uí Rinn, 3.0

A fair old atmosphere built up in the venue for last week’s visit of the All-Ireland champions. Cork put in a good display for the time of year, which entitles them to be favoured here. Verdict: Cork

Munster SHL: Limerick v Kerry, Tralee, 1.0

Walsh Cup (Leinster SH)

Offaly v Laois, O’Connor Park, 2.0; Westmeath v Dublin, Kinnegad, 2.0.

Kehoe Cup (Leinster SH)

Kildare v Down, Hawkfield, 1.0; Carlow v Meath, Netwatch Cullen Park, 2.0

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Division 1

Mayo v Cork, Connacht Centre of Excellence, 1.30; Waterford v Kerry, Piltown, 2.0

Division 2

Cavan v Armagh, Drumlane, Milltown; Laois v Monaghan, MW Hire O’Moore Park; Laois v Monaghan, MW Hire O’Moore Park; Tipperary v Westmeath, Fethard Town Park 3G.

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times