Gaelic Games – This weekend’s club fixtures
Ballinderry Kevin McGuckin (right) has had his red card rescinded so will be back to play in midfield alongside James Conway against Glenswilly tomorrow. photograph: inpho
ULSTER SFC FINAL
Ballinderry (Derry) v Glenswilly (Donegal), Healy Park, Omagh, 3pm, (Referee: Padraig Hughes, Armagh)
The atrocious record of Donegal clubs outside their own county has always been a bit of a head scratcher. You have to go back 38 years for the last time an Ulster club title went to the hills and even then it was a combined Ballyshannon/Bundoran team called St Josephs who won before disbanding two years later. Since then, only two Donegal clubs have even played in a final.
The core of this Glenswilly side has been together since Michael Murphy’s father Mick gathered every 10-year-old in the area back in the late-1990s and started training them. They’re not just Murphy Jnr plus 14 extras but he is obviously the jewel in the crown. Neil Gallagher has been heroic throughout and an interesting addition has been Monaghan man Eamon Ward, a vet who moved to the area after winning three titles in his home county with Clontibret.
It’s not slight on them to observe that they arrive in Omagh via the gentler side of the draw. St Gall’s didn’t offer as stiff a test as many had expected and Rosslea were never able to close the six-point gap they opened up before half-time.
Ballinderry, by contrast, had to come the long way round with wins over Clonoe and Scotstown before overcoming a Kilcoo side that had already knocked out Crossmaglen. Plus they had to do so with 13 men for much of the second half. Not only are they battle-hardened, they have had Kevin McGuckin’s red card rescinded so he will be back to play in midfield alongside James Conway.
The Derry side ought to have too much firepower when it comes down to it. Conleth Gilligan, Ryan “Sucky” Bell and Colin Devlin make up about as potent a winter attack as you could wish for and having twice lost finals to Cross in recent years, they will surely see this as a clearing of the decks of which they must take full advantage.
MUNSTER SFC FINAL
Dr Crokes (Kerry) v Cratloe (Clare), Gaelic Grounds, Limerick, 2pm (Referee: Conor Lane, Cork)
Cratloe would be as well not to take too personally the fact that Crokes are 1/33 for this. Indeed, there’s a fair chance the Killarney side would be double-digits-on regardless of the opposition. Crokes have lost two championship games in five seasons in Kerry and Munster – to South Kerry in 2009 and to Nemo Rangers the following year. They are clearly operating on a different level to everyone else in the province.
That said, Cratloe won’t want for either effort or physique. The presence of such a generous wedge of the Clare hurling panel – including three current All Stars - went a long way towards carrying them past Ballinacourty in the last round, not to mention past Doonbeg in the Clare final the previous day.
The scheming ways of Podge Collins is far from the sort of test Eoin Brosnan will appreciate and if they can gather enough possession far enough up the pitch, Cathal McInerney is a particularly solid free-taker.
But teams have tried out every which way to beat Dr Crokes and none have come overly close. Castlehaven stuck 13 men behind the ball and suffered a famine of ball as a result. Loughmore-Castleiney came armed to the teeth and only succeeded in annoying the Kerry champions into dishing out a hiding. Whatever Cratloe try here, it will only stem the inevitable for so long.
LEINSTER SHC FINAL
Oulart The Ballagh (Wexford) v Mount Leinster Rangers (Carlow), Nowlan Park, Kilkenny, 2pm, (Referee: John Keenan, Wicklow)
Martin Storey and Keith Rossiter nearly pulled muscles after their win over Kilcormac/Killoughey trying to make sure we didn’t dismiss the chances of Mount Leinster Rangers - so we won’t.
The Carlow champions have been making steady progress over the past few seasons and had been threatening to bloody the nose of the higher-ups for a while. Ballyboden were just the unlucky ones who walked onto the punch.
But to a certain extent it wouldn’t matter who Oulart were playing tomorrow, the very idea of defeat must be intolerable within Storey’s panel.
They’ve played in five Leinster finals without winning one - no other club has lost more than three without cashing in at least once.
When they get going, they’re a fluid stick-passing side that are pleasantly easy on the eye, capable of running up large totals in short spells to kill games off.
Mount Leinster Rangers are nobody’s mugs and they’ll be back at this stage before long. Oulart have been burned too many times though.