Sunday's GAA club previews
Ballygunner’s Pauric Mahony and Shane Dowling of Na Piarsaigh whose sides meet in the Munster club hurling final. Photograph: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Munster club SHC final
Ballygunner (Waterford) v Na Piarsaigh (Limerick), Semple Stadium, 2pm – These clubs met in the Munster semi-final in 2011. Since then, Ballygunner have established themselves as the most consistent side in the province but have yet to transfer that dominance into an All-Ireland legacy. Their form against Thurles – they posted 2-15 – suggests Shane O’Neill’s team will make another strong push.
Ballygunner’s comprehensive dismissal of Cork champions Glen Rovers is slightly undermined by their subdued opening half show, when they struck just 0-3. They caught the Cork champions with a devastating second-half burst and punished Glen with seven frees. Philip Mahony will join his brother Pádraig, still battling back to fitness, on the sideline for this one as he must serve a red card suspension. If Na Piarsaigh can keep the free count down, they may have enough attacking strength and diversity to secure their place as the dominant force in the southern theatre. David Breen is out with a broken hand but it is a team laced with experience and with Kevin Downes and Shane Dowling (above) leading their attack, they have the talent to maintain a remarkable provincial streak.
Galway SHC final replay.
Craughwell v Sarsfields, Pearse Stadium, 1.45pm – No freewheeling classic to banish the blues for Galway hurling fans in the drawn game but the final was riveting. A late free by Niall Morrissey kept Sarsfields alive but with the teams exchanging leads six times over the match and free-takers dominating, it was a tense match. The move to Salthill won’t please the hurling grassroots and, given the weather, may make a bit of a lottery of the day. Little to separate two teams that have been tough-minded all championship but maybe a sense that Craughwell’s time has arrived.
Connacht SFC club final
Castlebar Mitchels (Mayo) v Corofin (Galway), Tuam, 2pm – Corofin are remarkable in that their crushing dominion over the local scene doesn’t seem to hinder them when they test themselves in national competition. The All-Ireland champions will carry vivid memories of the semi-final between the teams two years ago, which gave Mitchels a first provincial final appearance in 20 years. In the opening 10 minutes, Corofin literally owned the day and should have been out of sight.
But Castlebar showed grit to match a strong spread of ability in the team and will return to Tuam confident they can repeat their coup. This is like a virtually a home game for the Galway men.
Their response to that Mitchels’ setback has been to go on an 18-match winning spree. They haven’t lost a game since.
Ironically, that run may have helped convince Mayo players Stephen Rochford, the Corofin manager, is the man to lead them next year. Rochford will get his first serious look at a Mayo team but will know Castlebar well. Coping with the height of Barry Moran and the influence of Richie Feeney will be key. But Corofin have become such a complete, intelligent team they can extend their eternal summer for another winter.
Leinster SFC club semi-finals.
St Loman’s (Westmeath) v Ballyboden St Enda’s (Dublin), Cusack Park, 2pm – In keeping with intercounty trends, the Leinster club championship has been dominated by Dublin for the last three years. This match is a good barometer for a likely extension of that pattern. Ballyboden’s dethroning of St Vincent’s had a lightning start as its foundation, with Andrew Kernin contributing 1-1.
The Westmeath champions have been weakened by the departure for Lebanon of their centre half back Paddy Dowdall.
They have in their ranks two of the brightest of Westmeath’s summer stars, John Heslin and Paul Sharry. Luke Dempsey highlighted Sharry’s influence at midfield and his duel against Michael Darragh Macauley (above right) is one of the subplots of the day. Dempsey is an old hand in wringing wonders out of Westmeath teams and this will be no gimme for the Dublin champions in front of an ramped-up local crowd . But they should advance.
Portlaoise (Laois) v Killoe Emmet Óg (Longford), O’Moore Park, 2pm – Michael Quinn hopes his involvement with Ireland in this evening’s International Rules Test won’t affect his ability to influence this semi-final in Killoe’s favour. He was a crucial figure in the Longford side’s edgy win over Meath champions Navan. Declan Rowley’s team have been knocking around the edges of a Leinster final run for a few seasons and won’t be travelling here to make up numbers. They have the prerequisites of any dominant club side- a quality place kicker in Denis McGoldrick and a big, troubling midfielder in Simon Kiernan. Portlaoise’s 2-5 to 0-10 win over the Kildare champions Sarsfields was a story of hard graft on a miserably wet day. They are strongly fancied to advance in what is the second meeting between the teams in four seasons but the Longford men are capable of making them sweat.
Kerry SFC final replay
Killarney Legion v South Kerry, Fitzgerald Stadium, 2.30pm – Legion were already the Kingdom’s representatives in Munster following a ruling which sorted out a logistical problem. South Kerry, as a divisional side, could not participate. But Nemo Rangers of Cork ended Legion’s interest. In the drawn Kerry final Legion led 0-7 to 0-4 ahead at the break but relied on an injury-time score from Jamie O’Sullivan to keep their hopes of a first title since 1946 alive. The gossamer talents of James O’Donoghue aren’t best suited to these quagmire days and South Kerry, led by Bryan Sheehan, may have enough to send Legion on their way without the silverware.