FIAICH College will be strongly fancied to defend their Lennon Cup title ahead of the semi-finals this week, but they will have to be at their best to get past last year's finalists St Mary's Diocesan School in Darver on Wednesday.
They boast a stong spine in Clan na Gael duo Ian Carr (centre half back) and Oladimeji Olajabu (midfield) and Young Irelands Michael Gray on the forty - all survivors from last year's success - and with Frank Osadebe, Ayobami Odomoso, Cian Moran, Donal Boyle, Jason McArdle, Conall Shields and goalkeeper Stephen Murphy coming in to bolster their ranks, the Dundalk outfit are a serious force to reckoned with once again.
St Mary's are always a threat at this level, but may need to field a stronger team than in the group stages if they are to reach the final. They boast a good goalkeeper in St Colmcille's Mark Varley, who will be guarded by his clubmate Ryan Coone at fullback. Wolf Tones star Gideon Lugoye is experienced at this level and Oliver Plunkett's players Conor Early at midfield, Ben Donnelly in defence and Padraig McHugh in attack will be key men on Wednesday. Kieran Brangan, Matthew Brannigan, Kevin Dunne, Tomas O Loistin, Jack Downey, Richie Culhane and Darren Heeney should also figure prominently.
St Mary's were convincing winners over Bush by 38 to 0-5, while thet also overcame St Joseph's in a much tighter contest, 1-12 to 1-10, before defeating Scoil Ui Mhuiri easily to march through the group stages undefeated. O'Fiaich were 2-12 to 0-12 winners over De La Salle before proving way too strong for St Olivers.
The second semi final sees Ardee Community College take on St Joseph's C.B.S. The Ardee side are slight favourites here but the Joes are not without a chance. Michael Smith and Kevin Traynor (Syddan), Emmet Duffy (Sean McDermott's), Ciaran Scriven (Westerns) and St Mary's Martin Duffy form a strong spine, while Hunterstown goalkeeper Niall Carrie and his clubmate Ryan Burns in attack will ve key men. Neil Reilly, Daniel Commins, David Carroll, Ryan Rooney and Alan Matthews are others who should shine and Mattock's Terry Donegan brings plenty of experience to the team.
St Joseph's have a solid midfield partnership in John Connolly (Dreadnots) and Sean McConnell (St Fechin's), while Conor Farrell of the Blues plays a vital role at full back. Others sre to make an impact are Conor Barton in goals and John Connolly, Leigh Synnot and Sean Doherty. Michael Flanagan, Conor Victory, Peter Browne and Ryan Gargan, all from St Fechin's, should figure prominently, while Josh Cormican and Adam Brodigan of Oliver Plunkett's will be key men also.
The Shield semi finals see the Marist take on the Bush and Scoil Ui Mhuiri facing Colaiste Ris and both games are hard to call. Bush will fancy their chances, but will get nothing easy against the Marist, while Scoil Ui Mhuire will be no push over for Colaiste Ris, for whom Conall McEneaney and Paul Halpenny form a good midfield pairing. The impressive Dara Hamill on the forty gets great support in attack from Tadhg McEneaney, Conor McGill and Paraic Reneghan. James Loughran, Ciaran McEnetggart, Jason Greene and Stephen Bellew are other players who have figure prominently so far, but the injured Padraig Kiernan is a big loss.
Scoil Ui Mhuiri will be expecting the usual big performances from Sean Halpenny, Cathal Costelloe, Michael O'Hare, Ciaran O'Brien, Craig Devlin, Eoin Dillon, Dean Matthews, Sam Mulroy and Daragh Shevlin if they are to overcome the Dundalk School.
The Marist will be confident after overcoming De La Salle in their quarter final. Liam Clarke and Adam Lynch are good midfield performers, while Fergus English will guard the goals and Ryan Traynor, Cormac Callan, Peter Thornton, Paddy Byrne and Gareth Neasy are a big asset to the team. Jack Greene will score plenty and Dean Maguire is a big threat up front also.
Bush come into the semi final on the back of some good performances, despite losing against St Mary's and St Josephs. Dylan Lynch performed superbly in the group games as has Dara Lafferty and if his brother Eoghan has recovered from injury they will be much stronger. Sean McGeough, Dylan McGarrity, Aaron Rogers, Joseph McCann, Oisin Gribben, Emmet Rogan and Ronan Quinn should also figure prominently.