Titles in Connacht and Munster up for grabs
CONNACHT SFC FINAL St Brigid’s (Roscommon) v Castlebar Mitchels (Mayo), Dr Hyde Park
The All-Ireland champions might have been bracing themselves for Corofin but instead Castlebar are Hyde-bound, buoyed by a good season as well as the positive record of Mayo clubs in this fixture (winning five of the last six Connacht finals against Roscommon opposition over the past 20 years).
There was further good news earlier in the week with Danny Kirby getting enough of a reduction in his eight-week suspension to allow him line out tomorrow. Because of their experience, Brigid’s mightn’t worry about their far less strenuous path to the provincial final. But their opponents have been well road-tested. With three county players – Tom Cunniffe, Richie Feeney and Barry Moran – on the team they have a strong core but, like all serious club outfits, also considerable depth in 20 players who can be called upon at this level.
Moran will hope to maintain the excellent form shown against Aidan and Séamus O’Shea in the county final by getting on top at centrefield against Karol Mannion. Their defence has to get it right to prevent Senan Kilbride and Frankie Dolan inflicting terminal damage but full back Eoghan O’Reilly was man of the match against Corofin and he was ably assisted by Cunniffe and Alan Feeney.
It’s also not easy for any team to keep going after winning an All-Ireland and Brigid’s have been on the road a long time. There’s a strong possibility the outsiders can come up trumps.
MUNSTER SHC FINAL
Sixmilebridge (Clare) v Na Piarsaigh (Limerick),
Since almost the start of the provincial championship, Na Piarsaigh have been favourites for the title. The club has an unusual 100 per cent record in Munster having won on their only previous excursion two years ago.
That it’s been no pleasure cruise is underlined by tomorrow’s ultimate challenge of having to go to Ennis to take on their manager Seán Stack’s own club team – revisiting a dilemma Stack had as a player 20 years ago when he played against the Toomevara side he was coaching. Having their unwillingness to see the match staged in Cusack Park as well known as it has become is also awkward once the toss was lost.
The Limerick champions had to recover from a 10-point deficit against Loughmore and then had their full back Kieran Breen red -carded, a liability that haunted them in the semi-final against Passage – having to switch their accomplished wing back Cathal King to the edge of the square .
Sixmilebridge have momentum having played week in week out to take the Clare title and then conduct an impressive raid on Páirc Uí Chaoimh last week. Páidí Fitzpatrick’s job on Conor Lehane was sufficiently restrictive to make a difference but as the ’Bridge’s go-to marker, he’ll have a broader range of options when it comes to allocating him a forward tomorrow.
The Clare champions also have a varied attack, at the heart of which the veteran Niall Gilligan orchestrates both movement and scoring chances. Pa Sheehan (above) and Jamie Shanahan delivered last week and there’s more to be got out of Séadna Morey.
There are however a couple of indications that tilt this towards the Limerick champions: for all of their travails they have finished both matches strongly under heaps of pressure and that resilience is important. Secondly they have exciting forward talent in Kevin Downes, Shane Dowling and this year’s Limerick minor David Dempsey.
LEINSTER SFC SEMI-FINALS St Vincent’s (Dublin) v Summerhill (Meath), Parnell Park
St Vincent’s ability to create adversity and then escape from it was again in evidence two weeks ago in Mullingar when they had to cope without Dublin’s All-Ireland-winning centre back Ger Brennan for virtually the whole match. Brennan and fellow Dublin star Diarmuid Connolly are suspended tomorrow.
More positively, Mossy Quinn gave another master class in playing as a target man, holding up ball and finishing precisely.
On quarter-final form, Eamon Fennell can negate Conor Gillespie’s influence around the middle. An impressive Vincent’s defence can do the rest.
Portlaoise (Laois) v Moorefield (Kildare), O’Moore Park
Two clubs who must feel they should have achieved more in recent years meet in the second semi-final.
The Laois champions were teetering on the precipice in Longford last week before they effected their escape in extra-time whereas Moorefield had 15pts to spare against St Martin’s to maintain the rhythm of their unbeaten season.
Centrefield will be important and on the basis that Portlaoise can hold their own against Darryl Flynn, the competitive pitch of their defeat of the Slashers should help to see them home.