AIB provincial club SFC finals
Munster Club SFC Final: Dingle (Kerry) v Castlehaven (Cork), TUS Gaelic Grounds, 2pm [Live, TG4] – Another thing the presence of divisional teams does in Kerry is apparently pre-empt a poor outcome in the provincial championship. Of the 29 times that the county’s representatives have not been county champions, they have added a Munster title on just five occasions. One a more positive reading, last year’s winners, Kerins O’Rahilly’s, were also in that category (albeit that they have since been relegated).
Dingle, though, have shown impressive resolution since winning the club competition after losing the county semi-final. Some of their county players even skipped the Kerry holiday in New York. It doesn’t sound like the box ticking exercise that club teams have occasionally performed when they have lost to a divisional team.
Former Munster champions Clonmel Commercials took on Dingle in the semi-final and weren’t able to block the scoring threat posed by the Geaneys.
Familial strike forces are also on show for opponents Castlehaven. The Hurley brothers, Brian and Michael, have been extraordinarily productive in their the club’s three most recent matches with the former clocking 1-18, 10 frees, and the latter, 0-10.
It’s 26 years since the west Cork club last won Munster whereas Dingle have yet to win any provincial crown. They share no history (trying to think of even challenge matches had people scratching their heads). Both sides have a good spread of quality farther back – the Kerry men with All Star Tom O’Sullivan and Castlehaven with All Star nominee, Rory Maguire.
The Geaney’s, Paul, Dylan and Conor, all supply a threat up front but this is a match likely to be won by the team that adapts best to the challenges of the opposition forwards.
The preference here is for Castlehaven’s. Damien Cahalane and Mark Collins are solid in the half-backs whereas Maguire picks up what’s coming through. The whole team brings big work rate directed at getting the ball into the Hurleys. This is a big step up but they can do enough.
Ulster Club SFC Final: Ulster
Glen (Derry) v Scotstown (Monaghan), Athletic Grounds, 4pm [Live, TG4] – Were we simply drawing a straight line between the clubs’ most recent meeting two years ago, this would be an easy call. That day, Glen simply went to work on the Rory Beggan kick-out by using their big men as a wall and conclusively winning what broke and building a platform for a big, nine point win. This should be different, however.
Goalkeeper Beggan’s form has been extraordinary between kicking points from play, as well as frees and rolling the dice on contesting kick-outs in his own half-forward line.
Scotstown are not a radically different selection compared to 2021 but they have been improving since the start of the championship – a relatively anaemic defeat by Inniskeen, which was avenged in the county final.
Jack McCarron has been added this season and they are also under different management. There is a sense that they are as motivated for this as any team that knows its lifespan is closer to landing than lift-off.
They have been slightly unfairly branded as underachievers given the litany of Monaghan titles and the conversion rate of zero at provincial level but this includes two finals lost after extra time, which suggests they haven’t been that far off the mark
So far it has been a cracking championship. Both finalists have had to dig for late winning scores but Scotstown have done it against stronger looking sides, former All-Ireland winners Kilcoo and the Trillick side that destroyed Crossmaglen as opposed to 14-man Cargin and underdogs Naomh Conaill.
Glen have the deluxe centrefield pairing of Conor Glass and Emmett Bradley but the experience of Darren Hughes and the improving Michael McCarville may make it a contest. As champions, the Derry side still have a number of assets, like the top form of Conleth McGuckian but Jack Doherty missed the semi-final because of injury.
Speaking at the launch of the GAAGo schedules, pundit and former Crossmaglen All-Ireland winner Aaron Kernan expressed a preference for the Monaghan champions to spring a surprise.
“They have eight boys in the Monaghan panel at the moment who are playing and training at intercounty level all of the time. They were comprehensively beaten by Glen in Celtic Park two years ago in the first round of Ulster.
“That gives you that wee bit of motivation – not that you need it when you haven’t won a provincial in such a length of time. They’ll feel they have a point to prove in relation to that as well.
“In terms of actual outright scoring ability I think Scotstown have the better scoring potential up front. Glen have the better structure. So I would give a hesitant tip this weekend to Scotstown.”