Tuesday 21 November 2017

Today's Previews

Eoghan O’Gara named to start for Dublin. Photo: Sportsfile
Eoghan O’Gara named to start for Dublin. Photo: Sportsfile

Dermot Crowe

Ulster SFC Final - Down v Tyrone, Clones, 2.0

Out of nowhere, virtually, comes the latest Down power surge, the disharmony and disenchantment of last year and the early spring having given way to a new wave of empathy and euphoria after wins over Armagh and Monaghan. Beating Armagh after a 25-year-wait in the championship earned the county a first win in Ulster for four years.

The victory over Monaghan took most people by surprise and had them marvelling at the audacity of the performance; how fearlessly they took the game to Monaghan, how well they kicked, the uber-confidence of the finishing.

It has thrown the Ulster Championship somewhat askew. Tyrone would have been planning for Monaghan and now face a team on an unexpected bolt, giddy and rejuvenated, with little to lose. Of the team that started the 2010 All-Ireland final to Cork, only Mark Poland and Kevin McKernan, outstanding in the win over Monaghan, remain.

Connaire Harrison is one of their exciting younger players, a kicker of inspirational scores, and in Caolan Mooney and Darragh O'Hanlon they have two gifted attacking wing-backs. Shay Millar has come seamlessly into the team to work and cover ground and had 23 possessions against Armagh. Niall Donnelly, another to make his debut in that game, won the critical penalty in the win over Monaghan. From were they were, desolate after losing to Clare in the league, on a 14-game losing roll, they have transformed themselves and reunited the panel which looked frayed and prone to parochial splits.

Yet Tyrone's form has looked even better, most recently the demolition of Donegal when they streamed through their defensive lines with often ridiculous ease. Down, while they were on the ropes near the end of the semi-final, have developed an effective swarm at the back but this is a formidable test against a hardened Tyrone.

Down: M Cunningham; N McParland, G McGovern, D O'Hagan; D O'Hanlon, C McGovern, C Mooney; K McKernan, N Donnelly; J Murphy, C Maginn, S Millar; J Johnston, C Harrison, R Johnston.

Tyrone: N Morgan; A McCrory, R McNamee, C McCarron; T McCann, P Hampsey, P Harte; C Cavanagh, C McCann; D Mulgrew, N Sludden, K McGeary; M Bradley, S Cavanagh, M Donnelly.

Verdict: Tyrone

Leinster SFC Final

Dublin v Kildare, Croke Park, 4.0

There are whisperings, no more, that Kildare can shake Dublin's tail a little today. Not that they will win, but that they can demonstrate that they are a credible challenger in the province.

Their progress through the league has been steady under Cian O'Neill and their underage report card is healthy in recent years. Since the league they have also strengthened their hand with the return of Paddy Brophy, in impressive condition, from Australia and another former AFL recruit, Daniel Flynn, from injury. Flynn, who missed all of last year's championship because of a hamstring injury, presents a serious threat to Dublin and is one of the best forwards in the game, a player of real quality.

Kildare also have Niall Kelly, who scored five points here in the Division 2 league final against Galway, speed in David Slattery and work-rate in Fergal Conway. They can cause Dublin problems, but how they manage when Dublin have the ball is the worry. They've conceded only four goals in ten matches between league and championship this year. Trying to deny Dublin a goal, or no more than one, is an essential starting point.

But they are already in a good place, having reached the final after six previous failed attempts, and their championship performances are markedly better than last year's. They also have Division 1 to look forward to and the side is still young with room to develop. Two years ago Dublin beat them by 19 points and scored five goals. This will show how much they have come on since then. But not enough to win.

Dublin: S Cluxton; D Daly, M Fitzsimons, E Lowndes; J McCarthy, C O'Sullivan, J McCaffrey; B Fenton, C Kilkenny; N Scully, P Mannion, C O'Callaghan; P Andrews, E O'Gara, D Rock.

Kildare: M Donnellan; M O'Grady, D Hyland, O Lyons; J Byrne, E Doyle, K Cribbin; K Feely, T Moolick; F Conway, N Kelly, D Slattery; P Brophy, D Flynn, C McNally.

Verdict: Dublin

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