Weekend fixtures: Club football and hurling Championship previews

It’s hard to imagine St Vincent’s coming up against a better side than Ballymun this side of Christmas

Today Dublin SFC final
Castleknock v St Vincent's Parnell Park, 3.00
It's entirely possible that we will be reflecting sometime in mid-March on the fact that the All-Ireland club final was really played on a Wednesday night in late October in Parnell Park. Sport has a way of making fools of us all – club football especially – but it's hard to imagine St Vincent's coming up against a better side than Ballymun this side of Christmas, if at all.

Diarmuid Connolly was imperious that night, curling over points from play on the run at will. Castleknock are on a miracle run just to be here. A telling sign of how they and Vincent's have lived on different planets for most of their existence is the fact that this will be their first ever meeting in senior football. Ciarán Kilkenny will have to do his thing, Des Carlos will need another flawless day from frees and Castleknock will likely need a goal or two – all just to stay competitive. But Vincent's have some making up to do for last year's final and should deal with whatever Castleknock bring to the table.

Connacht club SFC quarter-final
Tourlestrane (Sligo) v Castlebar Mitchels (Mayo) Markievicz Park, 2pm
 The use of Markievicz Park has not worked to Tourlestrane's favour in their recent forays into provincial competition. In their last five Connacht Championship matches at the Sligo town venue, stretching all the way back to 1997, they haven't managed a single win – losing to St Brigid's (twice), Castlerea, Killererin and Allen Gaels. It's as pretty much impossible to see them fashioning one here, either, with Castlebar rated as 1/25 favourites.

Tomorrow
Leinster club SHC quarter-finals
Oulart-The Ballagh (Wexford) v St Rynagh's (Offaly) Innovate Wexford Park, 2.00 (Deferred coverage, TG4, 3.30)
 Much will depend here on whether or not St Rynagh's secretly feel they have their year's work already. They ended a 23-year wait for an Offaly title a fortnight back, a famine that encompassed eight losing finals along the way, including three in four years between 2012 and 2015. All things being equal, there shouldn't be a huge amount between these sides but Oulart have the experience and will want more out of 2016 than just another county title.

Raharney (Westmeath) v St Mullins (Carlow) Cusack Park, Mullingar, 2.00
St Mullins took a massive beating from last year's Westmeath champions Clonkill at this point in 2015 and Raharney disposed of their countymen comprehensively a fortnight ago. Formlines aren't always solid at this level but it would be a reasonably big surprise if the Carlow side were anything more than competitive here.

Cuala (Dublin) v Borris-Kilcotton (Laois) Parnell Park, 2.00
 Borris-Kilcotton are only an entity since 2010 and this is their first attempt at a Leinster campaign. It isn't likely to go particularly well against the Dublin champions who had to dig deep last Saturday against Kilmacud Crokes. The winners here face either Raharney or St Mullins in the semi-final, with the other side of the draw a minefield. Cuala should take care of business and hunker down for an enjoyably long November.

Munster club SHC semi-finals
Ballyea (Clare) v Thurles Sarsfields (Tipperary) Cusack Park, Ennis, 2.00 (Live, TG4, 1.30 )
 This might not just be the turkey shoot the 1/4 odds available on Thurles suggest it should be. Ballyea are in virgin territory but they've just come through arguably the most competitive county championship in the country, the fifth different winner in Clare over the past six seasons.

Thurles have never beaten a Clare team in Munster and though they are obvious All-Ireland contenders with anything up to eight current or recent Tipp seniors available to them, they made hard work of putting Ballygunner away last week. As with Pauric Mahony, they can't concede a bundle of frees to Tony Kelly and expect to walk away with this. It almost cost them against the Waterford champions so this will be a test of how well they've learned the lesson.

Patrickswell (Limerick) v Glen Rovers (Cork) Gaelic Grounds, Limerick, 3.30 –
The Glen did themselves no justice at this level last year, making a right hames of their first Munster campaign in 26 years by turning a 0-8 to 0-3 lead against Ballygunner into a 0-19 to 1-9 defeat. They ought to give a better account of themselves here against a Patrickswell side that haven't had a game at this level since 2003. No Cork team has won a game in Munster since 2009 – that streak has to end sometime. Maybe here.

Waterford SFC final
Ballinacourty v The Nire Fraher Field, Dungarvan, 2.45pm
 Ballinacourty pulled off a bit of a shock in beating Stradbally in the semi-final, with the evergreen Gary Hurney stitching the goal that made all the difference in the second half.

There won’t be a whole pile to choose between them as the two sides meet in the final for the first time since 2008. At a push, Ballinacourty possibly have the momentum.

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin is a sports writer with The Irish Times

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