The finalists for this year’s renewal of the Go Ahead Dublin Senior 1 Football Championship will be confirmed this weekend as the four remaining teams battle it out in Parnell Park across Saturday and Sunday.
First up on the agenda is the clash of Na Fianna and Ballyboden St Enda’s on Saturday afternoon (5.15), with both teams looking to improve on quarter-final displays that lacked consistency.
On Sunday afternoon (4.0), holders Kilmacud put their title on the line when they meet a committed Thomas Davis side – with former Dublin selector Brian Talty sensing both encounters could go down to the wire.
“I think the first thing you would say is that we probably have the four best teams left in the championship at this stage and that should lead to two excellent games next weekend.
“Maybe Ballymun Kickhams or St Jude’s might have been expected to make the semi-finals but, in general, these are the teams that we would anticipate seeing at the business end.
“It’s probably fair to say that the group games initially lacked a bit of bite but the intensity really increased in the final group matches as teams were fighting to reach the knockout stages or prevent themselves from entering the relegation equation.
“It was ‘do-or-die’ and that’s what championship football is all about.
“The intensity was increased and the quality of football played improved as a result, and we were treated to some high-quality and entertaining quarter-final matches. The reason those games were so enjoyable was because of the performances produced by the likes of Whitehall Colmcille, Cuala and Ballinteer St John’s.
“They put in huge displays and Whitehall, in particular, could count themselves a touch unfortunate not to have progressed at the expense of Na Fianna while Ballinteer almost came back from the dead against Ballyboden.
“The tightness of those games will surely stand to the likes of Na Fianna and Boden but both teams will also be aware of the need to improve on their quarter-final displays ahead of next weekend.”
Na Fianna’s focus will be set on getting the best out of a talented forward line that hasn’t kicked into life just yet despite the quality provided by the likes of Aaron Byrne, Brian O’Leary, James Doran, Conor McHugh and David Lacey.
In contrast, Ballyboden’s emphasis will be further down the field as they appeared to lose concentration and focus during the final quarter of their clash with St John’s, conceding two goals in quick succession and almost a third, despite enjoying a numerical advantage.
“Na Fianna certainly have the players but they really need to raise the standard from the last day,” said former Galway midfielder Talty.
“I look at the talent that they have in the forward line but I’ve been disappointed with what I’ve seen from them to be honest.
“I don’t think they are ruthless enough and I definitely think that they could work harder but having said that, they certainly have the potential to cause Boden a lot of problems.
“They have been helped by the presence of Michael Day at midfield, which has allowed Alisdair Fitzgerald to move back to wing-back, a place that suits him best and where I feel he has been brilliant so far.
“Paddy Quinn is flying for them too and defensively, they are reasonably solid, so they are in decent shape going into the semi-final.
“There are question marks over Ballyboden too but that is understandable given that they were missing lads like Aran Waters and Robbie McDaid, who have emigrated, and then Ryan Basquel was absent for the quarter-final.
“They definitely aren’t firing on all cylinders at the moment and I’m not sure was it over-confidence that saw them finish the game against Ballinteer so unconvincingly.
“Irrespective of the character that St John’s showed in that final quarter, Ballyboden should have killed off that game far more comfortably than they managed.
“Of course, manager Kenny Naughton has been forced to bring in some fresh blood this year and they are all more than capable footballers but maybe there’s a lack of experience there that could be exploited by Na Fianna.”
The second semi-final is a mouthwatering clash between the current holders and the beaten finalists from 2019, with Talty effusive in his praise for the attitude and work-rate that are central to Kilmacud and Thomas Davis.
“I am full of admiration for both teams as they are teams in the true sense in that they work for one another and leave everything out on the pitch.
“Lots of people marvel at the skilful players that Kilmacud have at their disposal but that’s no good without the effort and they have shown repeatedly how hard they work as a unit.
“It certainly helps when you can select an inside-forward line of Dara Mullin, Shane Walsh and Paul Mannion, which is the envy of all club teams in the country, and they possess the players further out the field that can get the best out of their talents.
“Thomas Davis will certainly be a match for them in terms of their organisation and effort on Sunday and Ciaran Farrelly deserves great credit for the application that he gets from his team, week in week out.
“Everyone does their bit, like we saw in their comeback win over St Jude’s when the two corner-backs scored their goals, and they really do play for one another with Fionn Murray excellent from placed balls – so Crokes will need to be careful in terms of their discipline.
“I really expect this match to be extremely tight but Crokes have the edge in terms of depth as seen by the introduction from the bench of the likes of Shane Horan and Shane Cunningham against Cuala.”