Dublin’s Emmett Ó Conghaile: has impressed manager Jim Gavin during the O’Byrne Cup. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho
All throw-ins 2.0 unless stated
O’BYRNE CUP SEMI-FINALS
Kildare v DIT, St Conleth’s Park
Apart from the friction created by Tommy Moolick’s injury, sustained while playing for UCD against his county, last week capped a satisfactory campaign for Kildare and Jason Ryan. There have been good performances from Darroch Mulhall and Eoin Doyle to name two and Daniel Flynn is apparently intent on returning from his AFL career. The county has a tight grip on this competition, leading the roll of honour with 10 titles.
Opponents DIT are on the other end of the spectrum, never previously having reached the competition semi-finals. Paul Brogan, brother of Bernard and Alan, got the critical goal in the win over Carlow IT but the home side must be fancied to reach another final, where they would host Dublin or Meath at home.
Meath v Dublin Páirc Tailteann
The counties who have contested the last three Leinster finals pick up the thread of their argument early in the year. Mick O’Dowd will be running the rule over potential new recruits, a matter of particular urgency with the injury list at present. But it was an established player Graham Reilly who most caught the eye during the group stages which saw Meath emerge unbeaten thanks to a sterling recovery against DCU in the final match, which ended in a draw,
It would be a good start to the year for the home side to register at least a good performance in this fixture given the scale of their defeat last July in Croke Park.
Dublin are also in experimental mode and encouragingly some of the best displays have been coming from players outside the regular first-team group. Former hurler Tomás Brady was very effective in the win over Laois and Emmet Ó Conghaile earned the public praise of manager Jim Gavin last week.
In addition Dean Rock has been in fine form of late and is likely to push hard for an established place this year. Although far from full strength, Dublin can progress to the final of the one competition so far to elude Gavin.
McGRATH CUP SEMI-FINAL
Cork v Waterford Clashmore
Brian Cuthbert’s team have started the season brightly with comfortable wins although Tipperary proved competitive last week. Cork’s line-ups have been largely based on the need to try out players it was old hand Donncha O’Connor who took last week’s scoring honours with a penalty goal and four points from play. The much-trialled Michael Cussen is back and being used at centrefield – it’s sometimes forgotten that he was an All Star nominee seven years ago.
Cuthbert is hit probably harder than any manager by the college participation in this tournament, as UCC and CIT players are unavailable to him.
Waterford have had a positive run so far and are trying out former county hurler Liam Lawlor. His arrival in defence helped, according to manager Tom McGlinchey, to steady the ship in the late run that sealed a five-point win over Cork IT. They’ll do well to compete in this, though.
FBD CONNACHT LEAGUE
Pick of tomorrow’s fixtures is in Castlebar where Mayo need only a point to secure a place in the final against Galway, who survived a fight back by a Leitrim team looking to win the competition for the third successive year to make it through the group.
Roscommon were disappointing in losing to NUI Galway but John Evans is trialling new combinations and felt the students were also fitter last week with the Sigerson nearly upon them. Brian Murtagh is back on the panel after a good year with his club St Faithleach’s and in a striking departure, the county have managed to reverse the flow of players to Australia by tempting Michael Dufficy from Melbourne, where his father and former Tulsk player Oliver settled in the early 1990s and where he had experience playing for one of Carlton’s feeder clubs.
The higher-profile trans-code exponent is Mayo’s Gavin Duffy who the county were hoping to have available for this year’s Connacht league and if the paperwork is in order he may make his debut here. Mayo should make it to the final.
Elsewhere NUI Galway will be expected to be too strong for IT Sligo at the Connacht GAA Centre and in Moycullen, Galway manager Kevin Walsh continues to experiment and brings in three debutants, Tomas Dolan (Athenry), Seán Ó Cuirrín (Carna/Cashel) and Paul Whelehan (Ballinasloe), among a total of 10 changes to the team that inflicted a first FBD defeat in three years on Leitrim.
The holders travel to Markievicz Park to take on Sligo in what has become a dead rubber.
DR McKENNA CUP
The week’s weather has piled a stack of postponed fixtures into tomorrow’s schedules in order to clear next week’s semi-finals for action. All three groups are tightly poised and with scoring average rather than scoring difference determining who goes through if teams are level on points, the calculators will be out tomorrow.
Both of Group B’s third round matches were postponed and Fermanagh travel to Ballyshannon needing just a point to top the table after a strong start but vulnerable if they lose heavily to Donegal and Derry post a big win over Queens at Owenbeg.
In Group C, Tyrone are hot favourites to preserve their 100 per cent record by beating Antrim in Healy Park and progressing. In second place Armagh currently lead the rankings for the last semi-final place as best runner-up.
WATERFORD CRYSTAL CUP
The Waterford Crystal quarter-finals are spread across today and tomorrow. This afternoon Cork play CIT in the college. Last week Jimmy Barry-Murphy’s team survived a late comeback by another college side, UL, and again the side named is experimental. Luke O’Farrell, who top-scored last week, is rested but Paudie O’Sullivan returns at full forward.
Elsewhere, Waterford, for whom Brian O’Halloran was in form with 1-4 from play against LIT, head for Kilmallock to take on a Limerick side of whom much is expected this year. Finally, Kerry, who have been busy on the transfer market with Patrick Kelly and James Logue moving from Clare and Tipperary respectively, will host UCC in Tralee (NB at 1.30).
Tomorrow in Sixmilebridge the counties that have contested the last three finals, Clare and Tipperary, meet at an earlier stage. It’s Clare’s first competitive outing of the season but Tipp had a good contest last weekend against Mary I from Limerick and it took three late goals from All Star Séamus Callanan to seal the win.
Tomorrow’s round two matches see UCD make the journey to Gorey to take on a Wexford side to which manager Liam Dunne has made a number of changes since last week’s challenge defeat by Tipperary. Wexford are also in action today in another challenge, against Clare. All Star centrefield nominee Lee Chin is given a run at centre back. In the other match an experimental Galway head to Mullingar to play a Westmeath side that under new manager Michael Ryan was slightly unfortunate not to get something out of last week’s match against Offaly.