Plunkett's poised for Fionnbarra joust - but who will join them?
THE knockout stages of the Louth football championships have arrived, with all four JFC quarter-finals down for decision this coming weekend.
Stabannon will host the first double-header on Saturday evening, with the action continuing on Sunday at the Gaelic Grounds in Drogheda.
The Senior Championship takes centre stage the following weekend and details of those ties were confirmed by the CCC on Monday.
On Saturday 23rd Haggardstown will play host to the first of two double headers, beginning with the clash of Cooley Kickhams and Dreadnots at 5.30pm, with St Patrick's v Mattock Rangers to follow at 7pm.
The other double-header is on Sunday evening, the 24th, in Dunleer, where Newtown Blues and Geraldines face off at 5.30 and St Mary's take on Dundalk Gaels at 7pm.
No details have been confirmed as yet of the Intermediate quarter-finals which will be staged on the last weekend of the month, alongside the two Junior semi-finals.
Naomh Fionnbarra v Westerns
Stabannon – Saturday 5.30
Naomh Fionnbarra have looked pretty much untouchable so far, rattling off 8-39 in just two group games against St Nicholas and Lannleire. The Nicks might not have been expected to put up much of a fight against the 2011 champions, but the ensuing 2-19 to 0-8 victory over Lannleire was ominous.
Wayne Kierans probably hasn't even selected his strongest team yet, with William Woods only arriving back in the country shortly before the first game.
Westerns, on the other hand, will feel they have under-performed slightly. A big win over Wolfe Tones in round one was to be expected, but Paddy McGuinness' men would have fancied their chances of causing an upset against Glen Emmets - that didn't materialise.
It's hard to see them winning this game based on that form, even if there are slight question marks over Bernard Osborne's fitness.
Verdict: Naomh Fionnbarra
John Mitchel's v S McDermott's
Stabannon – Saturday 7.00
This match-up may come as a slight surprise to Sean McDermott's as John Mitchel's would not have been expected to emerge as group winners. However, they showed they mean business with an opening-round win over St Kevin's and then easily accounted for Cuchulainn Gaels.
Second place was always the realistic target for Seans in the four-team Group D, but they weren't hugely impressive against Stabannon or Dowdallshill in the scrap to join Oliver Plunkett's in the last eight.
In years gone by they would have been hot favourites to brush the Ballybailie men aside, but the gap has narrowed and it could be one of the closer contests of the weekend. The prize is a semi-final place on the opposite side of the draw to Plunketts and Finbarrs. McDermott's get the nod, but not by much.
Verdict: Sean McDermott's
Glen Emmets v Lannleire
Gaelic Grounds – Sunday 5.30
Glen Emmets dropped straight back down from Intermediate last season, but it doesn't appear to have affected their hunger or confidence.
Westerns looked like a real banana skin for them in their opening match when the Reaghstown outfit already had a game under their belt, but the 2012 champs were more than up to the task and they duly dispatched Wolfe Tones to win the group.
The prize for top spot was always huge as it placed the Tullyallen men on the opposite side of the draw to Plunketts and Finbarrs and they will now be a warm order to make it back to the final.
This could be a trickier assignment than it first appears, but only if Lannleire find a few more gears. They were soundly beaten by Naomh Fionnbarra and looked extremely vulnerable agianst the Nicks, but they've had a few weeks to re-group.
We still think Emmets will have too much firepower, however.
Verdict: Glen Emmets
Oliver Plunkett's v St Kevin's
Gaelic Grounds – Sunday 7.00
Second place in Group B really was a booby prize for St Kevin's as they face into a mission impossible on Sunday.
A two-point defeat to John Mitchel's - albeit followed by a convincing win over Cuchulainn Gaels - is hardly ideal form to be taking into a quarter-final showdown with the hot favourites for Christy Bellew glory.
Plunketts made short work of the four-team group without really hitting top gear, which makes St Kevin's task all the more ominous. They kicked 3-44 in three outings, but Colm Coyle will be more pleased with his side's defensive record as they conceded just 1-13.
It's difficult to see St Kevin's faring any better than Dowdallshill, Sean McDermotts or Stabannon and a Plunkett's v Naomh Fionbarra semi-final looks like a foregone conclusion.
Verdict: Oliver Plunkett's