Corofin are only provincial champs from 2014 to survive ruthless cull
Reigning All-Ireland senior club football champions Corofin are the only 2014 provincial champions still in line to retain their title this year.
The Galway champions continue their quest for another Connacht crown when they play St Mary's (Sligo) in the semi-final in Markievicz Park next Sunday. However, in a remarkably high cull, six of the other seven provincial champions failed to retain county titles.
Slaughtneil, who lost the All-Ireland final to Corofin last St Patrick's Day, were again crowned Derry champions but crashed out in Ulster on Sunday, losing to Scotstown (Monaghan) by three points.
St Vincent's, Leinster winners for the past two years and All-Ireland champions in 2014, lost the Dublin title to Ballyboden-St Enda's last Sunday, while Austin Stacks, the 2014 Munster champions, were beaten in the Kerry championship.
In hurling, Ballyhale Shamrocks, who won the All-Ireland title last March, failed to retain the Kilkenny title, while there were similar fates in their respective counties for 2014 provincial champions, Kilmallock (Limerick), Portaferry (Down) and Gort (Galway). It underlines the difficulty in retaining county titles for clubs involved in the All-Ireland series in February (semi-finals) and March (finals).
That strengthens the case for those who advocate completing the All-Ireland championships in December, an option which is likely to be high on the agenda when GAA director-general Páraic Duffy presents a discussion paper on player burnout and the fixtures' calendar in Croke Park today.
Corofin, who have shortened to 7/4 to retain the All-Ireland title, managed to avoid the carnage experienced by the other provincial winners, although they did have one very close call. It took three late points to salvage a draw with Tuam Stars in the Galway quarter-final.
Meanwhile, next Sunday's Galway hurling final in Athenry will be a novel affair between Craughwell and Sarsfields. Craughwell are in the final for the first time since 1932, while Sarsfields' last appearance was in 2002.
Craughwell's Niall Healy, who scored 1-11 against St. Thomas' in the semi-final, and Sarfields' Joseph Cooney are the only members of the Galway squad who will be in action in the final.