Sunday 17 December 2017

This weekend's GAA previews


Ulster club IFC final

Doohamlet (Monaghan) v Lisnaskea (Fermanagh), 7.0, Breffni Park

Doohamlet are battle-hardened, having beaten Bundoran, Sarsfields (Armagh) and Derylaughan and are led by captain Glen Comiskey, county senior Colin Walshe, Ted Duffy, Shane McManus and the two Niall Connollys.

But they face some serious class now in the likes of Mark Little and Brian Maguire in a Lisnaskea team that knocked out Tullylish (Down) and St Mary's (Antrim) and have also beaten county champions Roslea to reach next weekend's Fermanagh league final.

Verdict: Lisnaskea

Munster Club SHC Final

De La Salle (Waterford) v Thurles Sarsfields (Tipperary), 2.0, Pairc Ui Chaoimh, J Sexton (Cork) *Live TG4

De La Salle are one of three Waterford clubs to win this title in the last 10 years and, led by John Mullane, went all the way to the All-Ireland final in 2008.

In contrast, despite winning a 31st county title, Thurles are contesting their first Munster final, which surely makes the bookies odds a little generous. But they are understandable favourites, given the season that Tipp hurling has had, and the fact that they have Lar Corbett and Denis Maher up front and a half-back line of Michael Cahill, Padraic Maher and David Kennedy.

Both suffered from easy county finals and didn't looked particularly convincing in their semi-final victories over Sarsfields of Cork (De La Salle needed extra-time) and Kilmallock.

De La Salle are a lot more rounded now than in 2008, have Kevin Moran starring at centre-back, exciting young talent in Jake Dillon, Eddie Barrett and Eoin Madigan and a fabulous 'never say die' attitude.

Thurles may have more firepower but their midfield are going to have to up their game if they are to crown Tipperary's amazing year.

Odds: De La Salle 9/4 Thurles 2/5 Draw 9/1

Verdict: Thurles Sarsfields

Munster Club IFC final

Gneeveguilla (Kerry) v St Breckan's (Clare), 2.0, Gaelic Grounds, M Collins (Cork)

The Kerry champions, led by by DJ and Padraig O'Connor, have taken out Galbally and Newcestown and survived the latter after losing Ronan McAuliffe who is now suspended. St Breckan's of Lisdoonvarna ended a 21-year gap with this year's county title, have Pat Nagle as their main man and beat the Tipp and Waterford champions but the Kerrymen will be a tougher test.

Verdict: Gneeveguilla

Munster Club JFC S/f

St Mary's (Kerry) v Eire Og Nenagh (Tipp), 2.0, Cahirciveen, M Rock (Clare)

Nenagh won only their second county junior title this year, their first since 1986, but they're coming in cold and travelling to Kerry against a side that features Bryan Sheehan and has already beaten Cloyne.

Verdict: St Mary's

Bruree (Limerick) v Tallow (Waterford), 2.0, Kilmallock, M Collins (Cork)

The O'Briens, especially John and James V, lead Bruree in their opener, but Tallow beat Kilfenora already and notched up an impressive 1-15 that day.

Verdict: Tallow

Ulster club SFC final

Crossmaglen (Armagh) v Naomh Conaill (Donegal), 2.0, Clones, *TG 4 deferred

A classic case of youth versus experience.

Four-time All-Ireland winners Cross' need no introduction, back chasing their eighth Ulster title under the new management of Tony McEntee and Gareth O'Neill.

Featuring local legends like Oisin McConville, Aaron Kernan and Francie Bellew they've taken two big scalps en route, that of the defending All-Ireland champs St Gall's and Burren of Down and they arrive with rising county star Jamie Clarke back from a two-month suspension.

Naomh Conaill, fresh from only their second county title, may look like lambs to the slaughter, but Cathal Corey's young side have an excellent mix of youth and experience from the likes of Leon and Anthony Thompson and county U-21s Dermot Molloy, Leo McLoone and Ciaran Boyle, who contested this year's All-Ireland U-21 final.

They've shown some serious fire-power in their defeats of Clontibret and Coalisland but, since their first in '96, Cross' have never lost an Ulster final and their all-action style should end the Glenties side's fairytale run.

Odds: Crossmaglen 4/11 Naomh Conaill 11/4 Draw 7/1

Verdict: Crossmaglen

Ulster club JFC final

Corduff (Monaghan) v Swanlinbar (Cavan), 12.15, Clones

Corduff have impressed so far, beating the Tyrone champs after a replay, then beating Naomh Colmille (Donegal) and Grange and racking up 3-35 in four games, with captain Gerry Mee starring at corner-back.

Swanlinbar racked up a whopping 4-16 to beat the Derry champions and then had an 11-point win over Drumaness of Down and are bidding to be the first Cavan club to win this title.

Verdict: Corduff

Leinster club SHC final

(Extra-time if necessary)

O'Loughlin Gaels (Kilkenny) v Oulart-The Ballagh (Wexford), 2.0, Carlow, T Carroll (Offaly)

A fascinating Kilkenny/Wexford derby here with more than the sniff of extra-time about it.There's no shortage of star names in Oulart -- Keith Rossiter, the Jacob brothers, Darren Stamp (back from injury) and Paul Roche -- who are managed by Liam Dunne and, rather prematurely, already being tipped for All-Ireland honours.

They took eventual All-Ireland champs Ballyhale to extra-time in a real thriller last year and, having lost two finals in the mid-90s, are desperate for a first title. However, they can't afford to leak late goals like they did against Raharney the last day.

O'Loughlin Gaels won Leinster in 2003 and, led by Martin Comerford, Brian Hogan, Mark Bergin and Alan Geoghegan, are back chasing a second title.

They've already had two outings and their extra-time victory over Ballyboden-St Endas may give them a slight edge today -- though they also conceded three goals in that game.

Odds: O'Loughlin 11/8 Oulart 4/6 Draw 9/1

Verdict: O'Loughlin Gaels

Leinster club JHC final

(Extra-time if necessary)

Drumcullen (Offaly) v John Lockes (Kilkenny), 2.0, Rath, J Keenan (Kildare)

Offaly's champions, led by the Gaths, Nicky Lalor and the switch of Harry Ryan from centre-back to full-forward, racked up a 21-point victory over Delvin in a peasouper to get here, but they're up against history.

Kilkenny clubs have reached every junior final since its inception in 2001 and only lost two.

Lockes only scraped past Adamstown thanks to an Owen McGrath free, but they're a well balanced side led by McGrath, Simon Burke and Mick Hartley.

Verdict: John Lockes

Leinster Special JHC final

(Extra-time if necessary)

Wolfe Tones (Meath) v Fingallians (Dublin), 1.0, Navan, R Cornally (Westmeath)

Wolfe Tones needed extra-time to beat Trumera, while Fingallians have beaten Fergal Og (Wicklow) and Edenderry on their way to the final.

Verdict: Wolfe Tones

Leinster club JFC final

(Extra-time if necessary)

Ballinabrackey (Meath) v St Andrew's (Carlow), 2.0, Portlaoise, D Maher (Westmeath)

St Andrew's from Bagenalstown have been remarkably helpful by agreeing to move this game so that Ballinbrackey boss and Rhode player Pascal Keeleghan avoids a direct clash with next weekend's Leinster senior final.

The Carlow intermediate finalists also gave up home advantage, but you can be sure their generosity will end there.

Milltownpass were reduced to 12 men when Ballinabrackey beat them in a low-scoring semi-final, while St Andrew's, who have a knack of scoring goals, have knocked out the Louth, Kildare and Dublin representatives.

Verdict: St Andrew's

Compiled by Cliona Foley

Irish Independent

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