Weekend GAA previews
Tyrone aiming to complete six-in-a-row of McKenna Cup triumphs
Davy Fitzgerald: the Wexford manager’s charges face a difficult task against Brian Cody’s Kilkenny at New Ross. Photograph: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
McKenna Cup final
Derry v Tyrone, Páirc Esler, 7.0
The counties meet for the fourth final in seven years with Tyrone one match away from six-in-a-row but the last final they lost was to Derry in 2011. Both teams make plenty of changes to the sides that won the semi-finals but broadly it’s a fairly experienced Tyrone team against opponents with half a dozen under-21s. Twelve months ago Derry were unlucky to lose a saucy enough final in extra time. Damien Barton’s team have been playing quite well to date with James Kielt in good form in the win over Monaghan. Tyrone’s recovery from a first-day defeat by Cavan has been strong although blighted by the loss of Connor McAliskey for the rest of the season. Despite Mickey Harte’s insistence that he’s happy just to have gone the distance, Tyrone look the more likely winners.
Walsh Cup semi-final
Galway v IT Carlow, Pearse Stadium, 2.0
Galway have been pottering about nicely so far and should come through this against a Carlow IT team likely to have one eye – if not more – on next week’s Fitzgibbon Cup clash with holders Mary I.
Waterford v Kerry, Fraher Field, 12.30
A very dead rubber with the final tomorrow but Waterford’s developmental routines can yield a win.
[Matches at 2.0 unless stated]
O’Byrne Cup final
Louth v Dublin, Drogheda.
Just when it was thought Dublin couldn’t do anything further to demoralise Leinster, their thirds have progressed to the pre-season tournament final. It remains to be seen how many graduate to Jim Gavin’s panel – although the likes of Colm Basquel and Conor McHugh have been firmly on the radar and Paul Hudson, Ciarán Reddin and Jason Whelan have already played in the league. They recovered well to beat a disconsolate Kildare in the semi-final and now face a Louth team whose genuine progress under Colin Kelly has been a more upbeat story. Unlike Dublin, they are unbeaten so far and were impressive in shutting out – an admittedly 14-man – Meath last week. The roving menace of Derek Maguire looks like taking up where it left off last year and they have every chance of first win since 2009.
Connacht SFL final
Galway v Roscommon, Kiltoom
Same again in Connacht in a repeat of last year’s final. The late concession of three goals in an admittedly otherwise meaningless defeat by Mayo last week must have stung Roscommon even if manager Kevin McStay didn’t sound devastated but this carries echoes of genuine trauma after last July’s trimming in the Connacht replay. It will be a competitive test before they set about the Division One campaign in this year’s league. Galway for their part have welcomed back their double All-Ireland under-21 medallist Fiontán Ó Curraoin to centrefield after prolonged injury.
Munster SHL final
Limerick v Cork, Gaelic Grounds
When the counties met in the group stages the roof fell in on Limerick as defensive shortcomings saw them cough up seven goals. Curiously for a team that built the only 100 per cent record to date in the league, Cork managed just one other goal but manager Kieran Kingston will be pleased with the momentum generated. Limerick are expected to deliver an improved season under new manager John Kiely and will be keen to put the 21-point beating of two weeks ago behind them. Doubtless they will but Cork can win by a more modest margin.
Walsh Cup semi-final
Wexford v Kilkenny, New Ross
A compelling match for this early in the year. Under David Fitzgerald’s new regime, Wexford have been driven along and some good performances have followed. Now back at near full strength, Kilkenny will pose a formidable challenge and although Wexford are likely to be as fired up as a furnace for a bit of early-season silverware, when it comes to laying down markers Brian Cody’s teams have traditionally been more inclined to do the laying down, especially against teams potentially on the rise.
Kehoe Cup round 3 Longford v Louth, Glennon Bros Pearse Park; Wicklow v Trinity College, Greystones.
Westport (Mayo) v Kenmare Shamrocks (Kerry), Cusack Park, Ennis, 2.15; St Colmcilles (Meath) v Pomeroy Plunketts (Tyrone), Athletic Grounds, 2.15.
Kerry clubs are illustrative of a point made by Páraic Duffy in his annual report. There are eight that contest the county championship – along with a number of divisional sides – meaning that the county’s ninth best club competes at intermediate level. There are, by way of random example, twice as many clubs in the Mayo senior championship, meaning that the county’s 17th best wins the intermediate title. Hence Kenmare are steep odds-on to beat Westport despite the presence of Footballer of the Year, Lee Keegan on the Mayo outfit.
Three of the last five titles have gone to Kerry and with Paul O’Connor and Stephen O’Brien on board in attack, Kenmare won’t let down that pedigree. Mark Harte’s Pomeroy are the other likely finalists. They face St Colmcille’s, who feature one of the county’s best-known footballers, Graham Reilly whio somewhat controversially lined out in the O’Byrne Cup last week.
Carrickshock (Kilkenny) v Robert Emmetts (Britain), O’Moore Park, 1.0; Ahascragh-Fohenagh (Galway) v Lismore (Waterford), O’Connor Park, 2.15.
For a team that had the potential to challenge for a senior All-Ireland in recent years, Carrickshock’s relegation was particularly demoralising but having bounced straight back and having had to pedal harder than expected in Leinster, the assembly of Powers, Tennysons, Michael Rice et al should have too much for the British champions. Though whittling it down to a battle of the brothers is oversimplification, the second semi-final between Ahascragh-Fohenagh and Lismore brings into opposition the Mannions, Cathal and Pádraig, and the Shanahans, Dan and Maurice whose tussles will go a long way to sorting out who goes to the final. Lismore have the edge.
Louisburgh (Mayo) v Glenbeigh-Glencar (Kerry), Cusack Park, Ennis, 12.30; Dunedin Connollys (Britain) v Rock St Patrick’s (Tyrone), Athletic Grounds, 12.30.
Redemption scripts abound. Glenbeigh lost three of the last four Kerry finals before breaking through this season whereas in the other semi-final Dunedin Connollys from Edinburgh finally beat John Mitchels from Liverpool – finalists two years ago and then defeated Laois champions Rosenallis in the quarter-final. The road for the Scottish club, with a strong Mayo influence, probably ends this weekend but the Kerry side are favourites to join Rock, beaten after a replay two years ago by eventual champions Brosna.
Calry-St Joseph’s (Sligo) v Mayfield (Cork), O’Connor Park, 12.30; Mooncoin (Kilkenny) v Lamh Dhearg (Antrim), Trim, 2.0.
Mayfield from Cork city are roaring favourites to beat the Sligo champions who defeated Micheál Breathnach’s of Galway in the Connacht final and are an experienced club. In the other semi-final Mooncoin are expected to take another step towards a fifth All-Ireland for Kilkenny in the grade in six years but it was an Antrim club that broke that sequence and Lamh Dearg with the Herrons and former county footballer Paddy Cunningham involved, will do their best to disregard the script.