Weekend interprovincial and club championship previews

All-Ireland champions Dublin provide two players for Leinster’s challenge against Connacht

Former Dublin footballer Tomás Quinn will lead the St Vincent’s attack against Rhode in the Leinster Club SFC final. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho.

Former Dublin footballer Tomás Quinn will lead the St Vincent’s attack against Rhode in the Leinster Club SFC final. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho.

 

SATURDAY

Interprovincial SFC semi-final

Connacht v Leinster, Parnell Park, 6pm

There is something touching about the GAA’s belief in this competition. From afar, it’s a bit like a man bringing his wet-battery radio set to the Web Summit in the hope he can convince the kids that it’s the future. But regardless of its vastly diminished role on the GAA schedule, players still consider it an honour to play for their province. Leinster manager Seán Kelly has, for various reasons, been able to call on just two players from All-Ireland champions Dublin, John Small and Darren Daly, to his panel. It’s still packed with terrific footballers but more Dubs might have made the turnstile tick faster. It’s pointless trying to predict who will win these games but the turf accountants have the visitors at 11 to 8 with the home province 4 to 6. There are three players of the Connacht team which won the title in 2014 and John Tobin has been able to call on three players from defeated All-Ireland finalists Mayo for the tournament.

Interprovincial SHC semi-final

Connacht v Leinster, Nenagh, 2.45pm

For the purposes of this encounter, Galway is returned both spiritually and physically to Connacht. Still, Leinster coach Ciarán Hetherington has assembled a strong squad which includes Wexford’s Lee Chin and half a dozen All-Ireland winners from Kilkenny. The match will prove a useful challenge for Connacht’s Michael Donoghue as he puts his Galway candidates through the paces ahead of next season. A cohesive county side will have a natural advantage over an assembled cast and should win.

SUNDAY

Leinster Club SFC final

Rhode (Offaly) v St Vincent’s (Dublin), O’Moore Park, 2pm

Rhode have been the second best team in the province more frequently than they would like. This is their fifth Leinster final appearance of the last decade, an exceptional feat of consistency which would have yielded more silverware had they not met exceptional opposition in Kilmacud (2008 and 2010) and Sunday’s opposition (2014). But the presence of Pascal Keeleghan’s side is a timely fillip for Offaly football and they will fancy this. Diarmuid Connolly, the St Vincent’s talisman, has been playing elite football for almost a year solid now with no break. Worryingly for Rhode, he doesn’t appear at all fatigued by that task and along with former Dublin star Tomás Quinn and Mayo’s Enda Varley will front a shimmering Vincent’s attack. Still, the Dublin team allowed Longford champions Mullinalaghta to stay in touch for long periods of the second half. If the McNamees and the other of Rhodes senior players can prevent the woeful start which ruined their day two years ago, they could cause the last great upset of the year. But the belief here is that Vincent’s season is far from over.

All-Ireland Club SFC quarter-final

St Kiernan’s (Britain) v Slaughtneil (Derry), Greenford, 1pm

Mickey Moran is Derry’s man for all seasons. He was on the sideline for the county’s lone Sam Maguire success in 1993 and he is still there for the county’s most recent hour of splendour in Slaughtneil’s haul of provincial hurling, football and camogie honours. Don’t doubt he will be meticulous in preparing the football team for this assignment against a new force in the London game. Chrissy McCaigue and Paul Bradley lead a Slaughtneil team with too much firepower and know how after a gruelling Ulster campaign to slip up here. The London champions have been a consistent force over the past five years, with intercounty representative Adrian Moyles and Mayo native James Moran among their leading players. But anything other than defeat will be a stunning surprise.

Interprovincial SFC semi-final

Munster v Ulster, Parnell Park, 2pm

Pete McGrath is the Ulster manager and will be in it to win it. The Down man can recall a time when this competition held mass appeal – as in 35,000 people travelling to see the games. He has a strong squad but the boys of summer need a break so no Michael Murphy or neither of the Cavanaghs to be seen while Conor McManus is also absent. The inclusion of Tommy Walsh, the former Kerry superstar, on the Munster squad is interesting. There could be needle in this one because when you put 15 guys from Up There against 15 guys from Down Below on the same field and ask them to row over a football, they usually do. Munster, by a couple of yellow cards and a Michael Quinlivan goal.

Interprovincial SHC semi-final

Munster v Ulster, Thurles, 1.45pm

Anthony Daly has convinced half of Tipp’s All-Ireland winning team that the Christmas shopping can wait and has an exceptionally strong squad to pick from, including hurler of the year Austin Gleeson. In addition, he has drafted in John Mullane to his managerial squad so the sideline won’t want for passion or vocals. Could be a long day for the Ulstermen.

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