Tuesday 23 January 2018

GAA Previews

Colm Keys and Daragh O Conchuir


Bord Gais All-Ireland U-21 HC final

Clare v Antrim, Semple Stadium, 5.0, C Lyons (Cork), *LIVE TG4

(Extra-time if necessary)

In the 50-year history of this competition there has never been a perceived pre-match imbalance like it.

It's a welcome distraction for so many of the Clare players involved in the senior set-up as they break up the first week of three in their wait for the replay against Cork.

Ten Banner players were part of the official 26-man squad for last Sunday's drawn All-Ireland SHC final and Aaron Cunningham would have made that 11 had he been fit – it reflects the depth of what is Clare's golden generation.

Tony Kelly, David McInerney, Colm Galvin and Podge Collins are the stellar names, but Shane O'Donnell featured regularly in the earlier part of the season for the seniors, as did Peter Duggan, while Cathal McInerney adds to the significant firepower up front.

The big conundrum for Clare is if they can get out of Thurles without picking up a significant injury. How times have changed since the sense of injustice they felt at the end of 2008 Munster final when Tipperary got a controversial late point, courtesy of a disputed puck-out, to deny the home side in Ennis.

Antrim, by their own admission, travel in the hope of simply achieving a respectable scoreline. They may just find Clare, with one eye on a bigger prize, in a more benevolent mood. The Ulster champions produced a heroic semi-final performance against Wexford when Stephen McAfee and Ciaran Clarke provided most of the attacking thrust.

But the Banner represent a massive step up in class for every other team in the grade this year and Antrim can only learn from the experience this evening.

Verdict: Clare

Antrim – G Dixon; C Morgan, M Donnelly, T Coyle; T O Ciarain, P McNaughton, C Johnson; J McGreevey, E Campbell; S Dooey, S McAfee, N McKenna; D McKernan, C McCann, C Clarke

Clare – R Taafe; P Flanagan, D McInerney, J Browne; S Morey, A O'Neill, S O'Halloran; C Galvin, T Kelly; P Duggan, P Collins, S O'Donnell; C O'Connell, C Malone, D O'Halloran

All-Ireland 'B' U-21 HC final

Kildare v Kerry, Semple Stadium, 3.0, F Horgan (Tipperary), *LIVE TG4

(Extra-time if necessary)

Kerry won the minor 'B' title three years ago, but Kildare stopped them in their tracks in last year's U-21 semi-final as the Munster side sought a fourth successive crown in the grade.

Kerry should be more competitive this time around against a Kildare side missing their star player, Conor Kenny, who has transferred to Tipperary this year, and Naas players who had made themselves unavailable.

Verdict: Kerry

Kildare – P McKenna; S O'Flynn, C Farrell, C Gordon; K Murphy, D Flaherty, K Connor; P Kennedy, J Byrne; N Kenny, F Conway, M Delaney; R Casey, G Keegan, E Dempsey.

Kerry – N Leen; TB McElligott, A Fealy, K Orpen; D Fitzell, B Murphy, T Casey; B Brosnan, B O'Leary; M O'Leary, D Collins, P McGrath; PJ Connolly, P Boyle, D Leahy.




Galway v Kilkenny, Croke Park, 4.0, G O'Dowd (Limerick)

This is an intriguing decider, with Galway attempting to win only their second title, and their first in 17 years, while former standard-bearers Kilkenny are chasing a 13th championship, but their first since 1994.

The counties have never met in an All-Ireland final before, which adds to the sense of freshness surrounding the blue riband.

Kilkenny have a 100pc record in this year's championship and they were responsible for Galway's only defeat. That came three months ago, however, in the opening tie of the round-robin series. Only two points separated the sides and they have both improved since.

The Cats overcame league champions Cork in a thrilling semi-final. A brilliant goal from Katie Power edged them ahead and they prevailed by the minimum.

Galway dispensed with three-in-a-row-chasing Wexford, and though the Yellowbellies were a shadow of their former selves this year, it was an important win for a team that had suffered at their hands so often.

Ultimately, though, Kilkenny have beaten all the top teams to get to this juncture and look to have slightly the better form.

Verdict: Kilkenny

GALWAY – S Earner; T Manton, S Dervan, H Cooney; S Cahalan, T Maher, L Ryan; N Kilkenny, M Dunne; E Haverty, N McGrath, E Kilkelly; B Hanney, AM Hayes, A O'Reilly

KILKENNY – E Kavanagh; M Power, K McDonald, J Frisby; L Fennelly, E Keane, E Aylward; C Phelan, A Dalton; G Walsh, A Dunphy, K Power; S Farrell, D Gaule, A Neary


Galway v Limerick, Croke Park, 2.0,

A O'Brien (Wexford)

Galway won all three of their Group 2 ties to set up a semi-final against Waterford, which they won by 1-15 to 1-7.

Orlaith McGrath has made the step up from last year's victorious minors and she played a big role, as did Rebecca Hennelly, Aoife Callanan and Dee Burke.

As winners of the Division 2 league, Limerick were fancied to be intermediate champions, but their passage to the final has been far from smooth.

In their semi-final against Meath, Limerick emerged with a hard-earned eight-point victory. Dual star Dymphna O'Brien hit two goals for Joe Quaid's charges to shake off their opponents. Niamh Mulcahy finished with seven points, while Mary O'Callaghan and Caoimhe Costello are also dangerous in attack.

That array of talent in the attacking third could prove the difference.

Verdict: Limerick

GALWAY – R Callanan; T Kenny, S Healy, C Gill; P Kenny, S Noone, S Keane; A Callanan, C Cormican; K O Dwyer, R Hennelly, M Cooney; F Keely, O McGrath, A Donoghue

LIMERICK – S Moynihan; F Hickey, S Carey, J Mulcahy; M Ryan, M Casey, R Delee; D Fitzpatrick, K Campbell; C Costello, N Mulcahy, D Murphy; M Keating, M O'Callaghan, D O'Brien


Kildare v Laois, Croke Park, 12.0, D Ryan (Dublin)

This promises to be a cracking encounter between neighbouring counties desperate for All-Ireland success.

Both teams had fine league campaigns, with Laois winning the Division 3 title and Kildare reaching the Division 2 decider.

The O'Moores registered a three-point win when the sides met in the first round of the group stages and progressed to a semi-final against Westmeath, which they battled through.

Kildare recovered impressively from their early setback and beat Down in Newry to reach this final. For the Lilies, the experience of the likes of Susie O'Carroll, Clodagh Flanagan, Siobhan Hurley, Carol Nolan, Niamh Concannon and Roisin O'Connell could be crucial.

Verdict: Kildare

KILDARE – S O'Keefe; J O'Donoghue, A Trant, N Concannon; F Trant, C Nolan, A Lyons; C Forde, O Bambury; C Flanagan, S Hurley, M Lyons; L Keatley, S O'Carroll, R O'Connell

LAOIS – L Dunne; M Burke, K Cuddy, C Downey; A Dunphy, S A Fitzgerald, E Delany; C Walsh, E Mahony; J Dunne, D Quigley, L Mahony; S Burke, N Dollard, O Parkinson

Irish Independent

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