Thursday 22 February 2018

Big day for Baltinglass

Coogan Hardware SFC

Baltinglass v Kiltegan, Aughrim, Sunday 4pm:

This is a double header not to be missed, the two Baltinglass teams playing important make or break matches on the same programme must surely bring out every GAA supporter in the Slaneyside town. A Baltinglass double cannot be ruled out but Kiltegan and Knockananna will have something to say about that.

The Senior match is the last of the quarter-finals and I believe that no matter what the bookies may say we can expect a great battle before we know who will be joining Blessington, Rathnew and St Mary's in the semi-finals.

Baltinglass have power in ever line on the team. Starting with John Flynn, now clearly and rightly regarded as the best in the county. Alan Nolan, a man that was on Harry's panel early in the year; his brother Rory, a half back flyer.

Big James Sheeran and returned exile Mikie English at midfield. Upfront is where the real power lies with at least five of the six forwards proven score getters.

Match by match Joey Kelly is one of the top scorers in the county. John McGrath has everything, strength, fielding ability and accuracy in abundance; Henry Sinnott can kick points from impossible angles and is dangerous right up to the last kick of any game.

Jason Kennedy, the most improved player on the team can also take his points from long range. And conceding frees won't be the answer. Joey can point them with his eyes shut; McGrath is mighty form longer range and if they are 45s or further they have a 'Cluxton' in the pack.

Probably the ace in the pack is Kevin Murphy. Since his move to full forward he has proved a great ball winner on the edge of the square and an equally good finisher.

If Ciaran Foley is included in the forwards it will be as a ball winner, and no better man at the job.

After losing out so narrowly in the final last year Baltinglass will be fully fired up to make amends this year. They may have struggled a bit against Rathnew in the first match but it was still a big call to come back after conceding two early goals and still claim victory over their great rivals.

'Deno' Heislip's men showed their real strength against Hollywood in the second match. They were on top in all sectors of the field but the Slaneysiders hardly expect to get it as easy this time round.

What about Kiltegan? What can they offer against such a strong, experienced and well prepared side?

Plenty would be the manager Damien Scallan's answer. They too have trained diligently this year They did lose out to Carnew in their first match but bounced back with a narrow win over group team Shamrocks in the second match.

They had a good win over Tinahely but almost slipped up again when they took on the Greystones side Eire Og. They redeemed themselves in the replay and played good football on the day to join the big boys in the quarter-finals.

They depend a lot on the three county players, Seanie, Jacko and Rory Finn.

However they have some very useful young players like Ronan Byrne, Shane O'Keeffe, Shane Cullen, P.J. Daly, Barry Dalton and an ever improving goalie Fergal Harmon.

Add it the experience of veteran John O'Toole, John Farrell, Anthony Furlong and the captain Mikey Foley and you have a nice mix of youth and experience.

So who is it going to be? The form book says very definitely Baltinglass but then this is knockout championship. My head nods towards the Slaneysiders as well but the heart says Kiltegan. I am not going to opt for a draw again so I must go for Baltinglass.

JAFC semi-final

Baltinglass v Knockananna, Aughrim, Sunday:

The Baltinglass supporters will be out early and hoping to see their Juniors get the day off on a winning note by booking their place in the final of the A championship.

They have a lot of players with a lot of experience, even if some of them are very young.

They take on a Knockananna team that is also a nice blend of youth and experience so this one also had the promise of a great contest.

Baltinglass have a good defence built around rising star Stephen Heislip and Senior star of yester year, Thomas Furlong.

Brian Flemming will again give them a pull at midfield while they have great forwards in another rising star Adam Fleming, Brian Lord and this year's scoring sensation, Paudie Swinborne.

Knockananna have a fairly experience panel to pick from. Leading their defence is J.P Foley, a star of what was considered Wicklow's best Minor team in recent years, and Paddy Byrne.

They also have two very promising teenagers in Tristan Maher and Brandon Doyle.

They also have plenty of power up front with a full forward of Damien Byrne, Johnny Wybrant and very likely Kevin Tyrrell. Add in sharp shooters like Stephen Hinchey and Darren Flynn and you can see that the Baltinglass defence will have their hands full should the supply of ball be good enough.

This one looks too tight to call so I will go for a draw.

D'Arcy Sand IFC

Ballymanus v Coolkenno, Baltinglass, Saturday, 5.30pm:

So tight is the battle for qualifying places in Group 2 of the IFC Mick Hagan has to play the two matches in the group at venues many miles apart at exactly the same time to insure fair play all round.

Aughrim and Ballymanus ate tied at the top on six points but Ballinacor are hovering to close for comfort on four points. A win for the Glenmalure men at Arklow would see them draw level with Aughrim and Ballymanus, should they lose at Baltinglass - so not alone should we have great battles at both venues but phone connections between the two venues will also be busy.

With Coolkenno already through the Billies could be in with a great chance of winning.

The problem is that Coolkenno must still get at least a draw to see them get the semi-final from the group. The preferred tie breaker is Head to Head and in the event of the Billies winning they would not only draw level with Coolkenno at the top of the table but could pip then for the top spot under this rule.

My guess is that with their heavy match schedule Coolkenno will not want to go the scenic route. Both matches are just too close to call.

On form up to now Coolkenno could just shade it in Baltinglass bit the Billies with their big hitter Mark Kenny back from the US will be no push over. A draw is a distinct possibility.

Aughrim v Ballinacor, Arklow, Saturday, 5.30pm:

Aughrim has to be fancied in this one; they are the form team, were unbeaten until taking on Coolkenno last week.

Their young players like the Lambert brothers and Oisin Doyle are playing very well.

A lot could depend on whether Stephen Mann is back on full throttle. As always the Keenan and Kavanagh brothers will in the thick of the fray. If, as expected, Darren Kavanagh is available again, he will also give them a boost.

However Ballinacor also have class; At least one of the Dowlings are home and could take the pressure of Paddy Byrne and Christopher Murphy at midfield.

Calmun Rowden is back and coming to top form and Conor Parsons is having a great year. Controling an ever improving Robert Lambert will be their biggest problem. Aughrim are the form team but the Glenmalure men are due a lucky break. Could Saturday be the day?

IHC semi-final

Carnew v Kilcoole, Arklow, Saturday 12noon:

The way should be cleared for the final of the Intermediate hurling championship on Sunday when both semi-finals are played as a nice double header at Arklow.

On all known form Carnew must start favourites for the first semi-final against Kilcoole.

In the League section Carnew came out on top - 2-10 to 0-11 thanks to goals by Corman Doyle and Conor Behan. Eoin Keddy was Kilcool's top scorer that day with Ronan Keddy and Fintan Donnelly also on target. This one will be close but Carnew should reach the final.

Verdict: Carnew

Eire Og v Glenealy, Arklow, Sunday, 1.30pm

This should be the hurling match of the week, if not the championship.

Quite a number of fans had pencilled in this as the final pairing but the draw took care of that.

Hurling is on fire in Glenealy but keeping back enough players from the senior team to make a championship chasing second string is still a big challenge.

Now that Eire Og have got football out of the way and can concentrate on the small ball they are sure to be a force. A lot of their players play both games so fitness will be no problem.

If players like the Kelly brothers, Stephen and James and Billy Cuddity hit top form they will give the team a big lift and I am going for them to scrape through

Verdict: Eire Og

Ashford double header

A nice double header at Ashford on Saturday evening.

AGB will take on Blessington in the second semi-final of the JCFC at 4.30pm

The first of the semi-finals in the Keating trophy sees An Tochar take on St Patricks at 6pm

Wicklow People

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