Thursday 21 September 2017

TODAY'S HURLING AND FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEWS Dermot Crowe

Dermot Crowe

Munster SHC quarter-final

Cork v Waterford

Semple Stadium, 4.0

A fixture that once captivated audiences before losing some of its fizz, with one championship meeting since the Munster final replay in 2010. Of the two, Cork reunite in better fettle and are justified favourites to reach a semi-final rematch with Clare.

Their progress over the last 12 months has been impressive, recovering from a hard Munster final defeat to put out Kilkenny and roll all the way to September. Their attack has three exceptional forwards and the arrival of Alan Cadogan is another to relish. He was outstanding in the league, with a direct and eager style of play and a natural talent for picking off scores.

Cork scored only one goal en route to the All-Ireland final last year and then opened up with both barrels against Clare. Cadogan – and the imminent return of Paudie O'Sullivan – should give them more teeth as a goalscoring team, although it may take him time to settle into the pace of championship hurling. It did in the case of Conor Lehane; it did not in the case of Seamus Harnedy.

Recent challenge matches against Limerick and Dublin, the latter behind closed doors, advanced the claims of Aidan Walsh who is named at midfield but Conor O'Sullivan, who was missing through injury for the league, has not been able to win back his place. Damien Cahalane gets his chance, named at full-back, and Mark Ellis has also been selected, a powerful hurler and big man, supporting the view that Cork are looking to beef up the team.

From that Munster final defeat four years ago, Cork, remarkably, have just two survivors starting. Waterford have five and would have seven but for injury to Stephen Molumphy and suspension in the case of Shane O'Sullivan. They are trying to blend in young players alongside some of the older guard. But the confidence gained from a few promising shows in last year's qualifiers will have been challenged by a league that finished in relegation.

They include four championship newcomers, with Maurice Shanahan a big loss through injury. The four new arrivals are Tadhg de Búrca and Barry Coughlan in defence, who may swap places, and Colin Dunford and Austin Gleeson in attack. Dunford has come into the team on what they've seen in training; Gleeson is last year's minor centre-back who plays as a forward for Mount Sion. The decision to leave out Seamus Prendergast shows a preference for speed over physicality.

Michael Walsh is named at centre-back but has been playing in the middle of the field in recent challenges including the last against Tipp which was held in camera. Eddie Barrett, an athletic and combative hurler from De La Salle, is given his first championship start beside Kevin Moran. Waterford generally hurl well against Cork but it is unlikely they have enough for them to win.

Cork: A Nash; S O'Neill, D Cahalane, S McDonnell; C Joyce, M Ellis, L McLoughlin; D Kearney, A Walsh; C Lehane, C McCarthy, P Cronin; A Cadogan, S Harnedy, P Horgan.

Waterford: S O'Keeffe; T de Búrca, L Lawlor, N Connors; J Nagle, M Walsh, B Coughlan; K Moran, E Barrett; C Dunford, P Mahony, A Gleeson; B O'Sullivan, S Walsh, J Dillon.

Verdict: Cork

Ulster SFC quarter-final

Derry v Donegal

Celtic Park, 2.0

Unusually high levels of mystery enshroud today's combatants at Celtic Park, given that one was a recent All-Ireland winner and the other had high visibility through the league, reaching the final which they tamely surrendered to Dublin by 15 points. Donegal's solid promotion from Division 2 was followed by a heavy-legged reversal in another final to Monaghan, their conquerors at last year's Ulster summit when the wheels started to loosen for Jim McGuinness' side.

This is a huge game for Donegal in discovering if they still have the bite and wherewithal to win things. They face into it with an injury doubt over Neil Gallagher, an area of the field where Derry are strong with Fergal Doherty and Patsy Bradley two experienced foragers. Mark McHugh's loss hardly needs evaluation. Rory Kavanagh is suspended. Against that, Christy Toye has shown a rejuvenation in the twilight of his career. And Donegal still have proven performers throughout.

Michael Murphy can play out the field if necessary though there must be a strong temptation to plant him near the Derry goal, hit them with high ball and see how they like it, with Paddy McBrearty and Colm McFadden in close attendance. Karl Lacey might have been earmarked for Mark Lynch before his operation; Donegal will know Lynch's importance to Derry and seek to nullify him.

Derry's approach has been based on a deep and defensive strategy and the creation of open space up the field to counter-attack into, using two men on the inside forward line. They are learning as they go along and this will be another part of the learning curve; but it may have to be a lesson packaged in defeat.

Derry: T Mallon; D McBride, G McKinless, C McKaigue; K Johnston, M Lynch, G O'Kane; F Doherty, P Bradley; C McFaul, S L McGoldrick, E Lynn; B Heron, E McGuckin, C O'Boyle.

Donegal: P Durcan; E McGee, N McGee, K Lacey; F McGlynn, L McLoone, A Thompson; N Gallagher, M McElhinney; C Toye, R McHugh, O MacNiallais; P McBrearty, M Murphy, C McFadden.

Verdict: Donegal

Connacht SFC q/final

London v Galway

Ruislip, 3.0

A relatively low-risk environment for Alan Mulholland to blood four Galway championship inductees but one, James Kavanagh, is already an experienced campaigner after his days with Kildare. Joining him on a first senior championship start for the Tribesmen are Paul Varley, Michael Lundy and Eddie Hoare. All bar Varley, an All-Ireland winner at under 21 in 2013, are playing in a new-look attack. They are without the injured Paul Conroy.

Only eight survivors are named from the side which narrowly lost last year's qualifier to Cork at Croke Park. London include five Galway natives in their side for the game: Mark Gottsche, Damian Dunleavy, Paul Geraghty, Eoin O'Neill and goalkeeper Adrian Faherty. A comfortable Galway win is expected.

Galway: M Breathnach; D O'Neill, F Hanley, J Duane; G Bradshaw, G O'Donnell, P Varley; F ó Curraoin, T Flynn; M Lundy, S Walsh, J Kavanagh; M Martin, E Hoare, D Cummins.

London: A Faherty; P Butler, S Curran, D McCarthy; S Hannon, T Gaughan, M Walsh; M Gottsche, M Carroll; G Crowley, D Dunleavy, C O'Neill; E O'Neill, P Geraghty, J Feeney.

Verdict: Galway

Leinster SHC

Laois v Antrim

O'Moore Park, 3.0

The expected showdown has arrived, with the winner, theoretically at least, gaining the less strenuous of the Leinster quarter-finals. That may be one for debate given the promising reports coming back from Wexford's form in recent challenges, and general improvement over the last 18 months. Home advantage is a big help to Laois who are aware of and prepared for the stiff challenge. They should see it through.

Verdict: Laois

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