TODAY'S AIB ALL-IRELAND CLUB SEMI-FINALS
v St Gall's (Antrim)
Parnell Park 2.30 (Live on TG4)
COROFIN, who won the All-Ireland title in 1998, are back in the semi-final for a second successive year but they'll be up against it with St Gall's who are celebrating their third appearance in the semi-final in the club's 100th anniversary year. You can bet that gives them even more cause to land the title on St Patrick's Day.
The Galway champions have Kieran Fitzgerald available again after a serious hamstring injury and they'll need him -- even with a resolute defence which only yields an average of 0-8 per game. Fitzgerald's presence and experience will be crucial against the Antrim men who boast the three talented McGourty brothers in their ranks, one of whom, CJ, is in top form with 1-16 in the Ulster championship.
St Gall's had a tough path to this point, beating four teams in the province, while the Galway side's route was less taxing -- they defeated Glencar-Manorhamilton from Leitrim and Mayo's Charlestown in the final.
The Ulster men look to have more scoring power than Corofin who are very dependant on Kieran Comer in this department. St Gall's have Fermanagh's Rory Gallagher and Kevin Niblock and Sean Kelly to boost their scoring power and that should do it for them.
Verdict: St Gall's
Kilmurry-Ibrickane (Clare) v Portlaoise (Laois)
Gaelic Grounds, 2.30
Kilmurry-Ibrickane are bidding to reach the final for the first time, while Portlaoise are in the semi-final for the seventh time.
The Clare men saw off Dromcollogher-Broadford, Stradbally and Kerins O'Rahillys to win the Munster title before beating Tir Chonaill Gaels (London) in the All-Ireland quarter-final.
Michael McDermott's well-drilled side specialise in not conceding much -- no goals against so far emphasises the point. Munster club Player of the Year Darren Hickey and wing-back Enda Coughlan have been to the fore in this regard. But Portlaoise's defence has been measly too, only yielding an average of 5.5 points against Mattock Rangers, Seneschalstown, Clara and Garrycastle en route to reclaiming the Leinster crown.
The difference between the teams, however, is that Portlaoise look to have more resources in front of goal. Ex-Celtic FC youth Paul Cahillane, Barry Fitzgerald and Peter McNulty managed 6-27 between them in the Leinster campaign.
Kilmurry will make life extremely hard for the favourites and have plenty of motivation with, among other things, Declan Callinan missing out through a suspension arising from video evidence. Ultimately, however, the Leinster champions look to have the edge. They trained right through Christmas without a break and played several challenge games. We think they'll be razor-sharp this afternoon.