Weekend Gaelic Games previews

There’s club action in three provinces and 11-a-side hurling in New York

 Anthony Thompson’s Naomh Conaill side take on Clontibret in the Ulster Club SFC semi-final on Saturday night. Photograph: Evan Logan/Inpho

Anthony Thompson’s Naomh Conaill side take on Clontibret in the Ulster Club SFC semi-final on Saturday night. Photograph: Evan Logan/Inpho

 

SATURDAY

LEINSTER CLUB SHC SEMI-FINAL
Ballyhale Shamrocks (Kilkenny) v St Martin’s (Wexford), Nowlan Park, 1.30pm

The assumed clash of the last year All-Ireland winners, Ballyhale and Cuala, bit the dust with the latter’s shock defeat but this will also be a challenge for the current champions. The Shamrocks have done enough to get through to date without being in top gear but they are a lethal club force. Knit together at the back by Michael Fennelly’s eventual arrival for duty in the closing stages of the county championship, they have such obvious quality around the field – outside of the county forwards, Eoin Cody (below) managed 3-4 against Clonkill – that the extent to which they work hard can be overlooked. Martin’s have experience of the province without being the regular presence their opponents have become. They have Rory O’Connor back from suspension and a Ballyhale All-Ireland winner Michael Carroll active in the club. They also had a lively tussle in the county final in which their defence was top-class and Jake Firman stepped up to the scoring plate. They look capable of forcing the issue but only to a point. Verdict: Shamrocks

ULSTER CLUB SFC SEMI-FINAL
Clontibret O’Neill’s (Monaghan) v Naomh Conaill (Donegal), Healy Park, 7pm – Live on TG4

Scotstown must be ruefully shaking their heads after four cracks at the Ulster title came to nothing now that their successors, Clontibret have landed in quite an open championship. Mind you, they did a fair bit to open it by going to South Armagh and beating Crossmaglen. They now face the Donegal champions in what looks pretty much like the effective final. The Glenties side showed great resilience to recover from the midweek win in the twice replayed county final against last year’s Ulster winners Gaoth Dhobhair to carve out a win in Cavan against Castlerahan the following weekend. They have Eoghan McGettigan fit again and have been driven by All-Ireland winner Anthony Thompson. Clontibret have been helped by great performances by elder statesmen such as Vinny Corey – very effective in the quarter-final – but the key player remains Conor McManus, whose peerless ability to perform loaves-and-fishes routines from scraps of possession is particularly valuable at a time of year when scores are hard to come by.

Verdict: Clontibret

NEW YORK HURLING CLASSIC
Citi Field, New York, 12.30pm (5.30pm Irish time)
Semi-finals: Wexford v Limerick; Tipperary v Kilkenny

The annual Super 11s format tournament moves its location from Boston after two years to New York. It is Kilkenny’s first involvement in the event and they face All-Ireland champions Tipperary with the 2018 champions taking on Wexford.

SUNDAY  

MUNSTER CLUB SFC SEMI-FINALS
Nemo Rangers (Cork) v Austin Stacks (Kerry), Páirc Uí Rinn, 1.30pm

Champions Dr Crokes were well dusted off by East Kerry last week and so, Stacks – winners of the April competition to represent Kerry in case a divisional side won the county – confront the Cork aristocrats, who faltered a bit against Newcastlewest last week. Problem for Stacks is that it’s a long time to wait for a crack at the province when your opponents have been tipping away but they have experience and won Munster in 2014. Nemo were at best functional last week but are more recent provincial champions – from two years ago – and more practised. Verdict: Nemo

St Joseph’s Miltown-Malbay (Clare) v Clonmel Commercials (Tipperary), Miltown-Malbay, 1.30pm
Miltown laboured more than anticipated in putting away Rathgormack only in extra time and this doesn’t look too promising, as Commercials were in no mood to hang about when demolishing JK Brackens in the Tipp final. Eoin and Conor Cleary have been to the fore for the Clare side but Clonmel’s big guns, Kevin Fahey, All-Ireland hurling medallist Séamus Kennedy and Michael Quinlivan (above, right) were also rumbling well. They’ll fancy another cut off Munster. Verdict: Clonmel

 ULSTER CLUB SFC SEMI-FINAL
Derrygonnelly Harps (Fermanagh)v Kilcoo Owen Roes (Down), Athletic Grounds, 3pm

Derrygonnelly have surprised everyone with a run that saw early goals give them the edge against Cargin and then a penalty shoot-out edging the quarter-final against Tyrone champions Trillick. Kilcoo are more experienced though and with Jerome Johnston and Conor Laverty in form and Derry guru Mickey Moran in charge this year, will be expected to make it to another final – their third this decade. Verdict: Kilcoo

LEINSTER CLUB SHC SEMI-FINAL
St Mullins (Carlow) v Rathdowney-Errill (Laois), Netwatch Cullen Park, 1.30pm – Live on TG4

St Mullins’s terrific achievement in ousting Cuala slightly overshadowed the Laois side’s fearful hammering of St Rynagh’s – the Offaly champions admittedly reduced to 14 – the same day but they square up with a Leinster final place at stake. Marty Kavanagh’s accuracy goes hand-in-hand with some very creative touches and St Mullins’s confidence will have soared but Rathdowney-Errill supply a couple of high-grade talents in Laois’s McDonagh Cup Hurler of the Year Paddy Purcell and Ross King, scorer of two goals against Rynagh’s whereas their own Kavanagh, Mark (above), was also prolific in the quarter-final. Verdict: Rathdowney-Errill

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