AIB ALL-IRELAND CLUB SHC SEMI-FINALS
THURLES SARSFIELDS (Tipperary) v KILCORMAC-KILOUGHEY (Offaly)
(Portlaoise, Today, 2.0, Live TG4)
THAT Thurles Sarsfields would eventually make this stage was something of a rite of passage but Kilcormac-Kiloughey's route through Leinster was an equally compelling reason to fancy them today in Portlaoise.
The calm fluency they displayed in making sure Oulart The-Ballagh left a Leinster final for the third successive year with broken hearts defies their 5/1 odds although they are facing the All-Ireland favourites and Thurles are justifiably so.
Yes, both clubs won provincial finals for the first time and Thurles' record of averaging 23 points per game through Munster should be neutralised somewhat by a Kilcormac-Kiloughey defence that kept their various opponents to a mean of just a dozen, but the proof of today's pudding should be in the star players.
Lar Corbett's comments during the week that "you wouldn't put a horse out", in the sort of weather the post-county club championships are played in carries certain resonance, given his reputation as a hard ground hurler, but Sarsfields have that little extra touch of quality everywhere.
Thurles to win, but not as comfortably as odds suggest.
BOYLESPORTS ODDS: Thurles 1/6, Draw 11/1, Kilcormac 5/1 VERDICT: Sarsfields
ST THOMAS (Galway) v LOUGHIEL SHAMROCKS (Antrim)
(Parnell Park, Today, 4.0, Live TG4)
IT says something of the lack of penetration of Antrim and indeed Ulster hurling on the wider national consciousness that last year they won an All-Ireland club title when little was known about them. And this year, despite their manager PJ O'Mullan's assertion that they are a sleeker outfit again, only minor interest and coverage is devoted to their exploits.
They remain the only Ulster club to win an All-Ireland club title and last year they upset practically everyone bar themselves in going all the way to St Patrick's Day glory when Liam Watson blitzed Coolderry.
For what it's worth, their opponents tomorrow – St Thomas – are equally unheralded. They won their first Galway title last year and boast no fewer than six Burke brothers, including All Star midfielder David and Richie Murray.
Parnell Park has been the venue for some epic All-Ireland club semi-finals in recent years and neither, according to the bookies, are likely to sprint away with this one.
We'll plump for Loughiel, on the basis of experience, temperament and little enough else.
BOYLESPORTS ODDS: St Thomas 11/10, Draw 8/1, Loughiel 10/11