Thursday 18 January 2018



EirGrid All-Ireland U-21 Football Final

Tipperary v Tyrone,

Parnell Park, 6.0, F Kelly (Longford). *Live TG4.

This year's final pairing is not as great a surprise as some believe. Tipp famously won a minor All-Ireland in 2011 with many of these players and Tyrone lost a minor All-Ireland final against Mayo with some of the same crew.

But there is no doubt that they both went into their semi-finals as underdogs so Tipp's victory over defending champions Dublin, and Tyrone's of highly-fancied Roscommon, did cause some ripples.

It throws up a unique and fascinating pairing. Tipp have never contested an U-21 final before while Tyrone's last title, remarkably, was with a star-studded team in 2003.

In Stephen O'Brien (who won a Sigerson with DCU this year) and Ian O'Riordan, Tipp have a fantastic midfield but Tyrone have huge faith there too in their pairing of Cathal McShane and Frank Burns.

Tyrone's Lee Brennan, 18, is a really exciting forward, Ruari McGlone is another and Padraig Hempsey anchors their defence. Tyrone may have more firepower.

Verdict: Tyrone

Christy Ring Cup SH - Round 1

(Extra-time if necessary)

London v Kildare,

Ruislip, 2.0, S Cleere (Kilkenny)

The Exiles have been home to have challenges against Antrim and Meath recently and Enda Cooney is a key man. They won this title in 2012 but struggled in 2A this year and face a Kildare side who won 2B and are the reigning Christy Ring champions.

Verdict: Kildare

Kerry v Down,

Austin Stack Park, 1.0, J Keane (Galway)

Kerry won this in 2011 and while they lost the last two finals they should have huge confidence after beating Antrim to return to Division 1B hurling next year. Down won it in 2013 but Ulster teams tend not to travel well in this competition.

Verdict: Kerry

Derry v Mayo,

Owenbeg, 2.0, T Carroll (Offaly)

Their superior Division 2A status and the fact that they are at home should give the Oak Leafers enough to win. Mayo reached the semi-finals last year but have struggled in 2B this year and there's no Keith Higgins.

Verdict: Derry

Meath v Wicklow,

Trim, 4.0, D Hughes (Carlow).

Beaten 2B finalists Meath have dual player Mickey Burke in midfield, have captain Seanie Heavey back from injury and have switched goalkeeper Charlie Bird to full-forward. After winning 2B last year Wicklow took 'Ring winners Kildare to a replay but they struggled badly in Division 2A and got relegated.

Verdict: Meath

Nicky Rackard Cup SH - Round 1

(Extra-time if necessary)

Donegal v Tyrone,

Letterkenny, 1.0, O Elliott (Antrim)

Division 3A champions Tyrone are the reigning champions and have serious history with 2013 winners Donegal who had a high-scoring, two-game tussle with them this year to hold on to their Division 2B status.

Verdict: Donegal

Monaghan v Longford,

Clones, 5.0, G McGrath (Dublin)

Longford won the Lory Meagher last year and have since won Division 3B but Monaghan contested the 3A final this year and are at home.

Verdict: Monaghan

Fingal v Roscommon,

Swords, 5.0, P Murphy (Carlow)

Fingal were beaten finalists last year and have since had a decent campaign in 3A but Roscommon beat them (3-24 to 1-11) in Dublin and have a much tighter defence.

Verdict: Roscommon

Armagh v Louth,

Athletic Grounds, 5.0, C Cunning (Antrim)

Armagh have won this competition twice (2010 and 2012) and finished mid-table in Division 3A whereas Louth are a 3B side who lost the final back in the 2011.

Verdict: Armagh

lory meagher Cup SH - Round 1

(Extra-time if necessary)

Fermanagh v Warwickshire, Enniskillen, 1.0, K Brady (Louth)

The Exiles made the 3B final but Fermanagh played 3A hurling this year.

Verdict: Fermanagh

Leitrim v Sligo, Ballinamore, 5.0,

K McGeeney (Roscommon)

Technically the two worst teams in the country as Sligo finished last in 3B and Leitrim were just one place ahead of them after beating them 1-15 to 2-10.

Verdict: Leitrim

Tesco Homegrown Ladies NFL

- Division 4 Final

Limerick v Offaly,

Parnell Park, 4.0, C Dourneen. *Live TG4

This women's final should provide a good opener for the U-21s and it features an unbeaten Limerick who've got a new manager and new look this year but still feature Dympna O'Brien and Janet Garvey. Offaly, who won the All-Ireland junior in 2013, are led by Mairead Daly and this will be close.

Verdict: Limerick


Allianz HL Division 1 Final

(extra-time if necessary)

Cork v Waterford, Semple Stadium, 3.30, Ryan (Tipperary).* Live TG4.

They may be meeting in Munster on June 7 but neither are likely to hold back as both could badly do with the boost of silverware, especially Cork who have lost three finals (2002, 2010, 2012) since they last won the league in 1998.

No one is surprised that Cork have replaced Damien Cahalane at full-back after the way he struggled with Mark Schutte in their semi-final but their choice of replacement is a big talking point.

Aidan Ryan, who hasn't played for Cork since 2010 and hasn't featured in any league game this year, comes in at number three.

Their entire defence was reshuffled the last day due to Mark Ellis and Cormac Murphy's injuries but they're now back, which releases Aidan Walsh to midfield where he was much more influential in the late stages against Dublin.

The only surprise about Waterford is that Derek McGrath's youth policy has paid such quick dividends. Their unbeaten run through 1B was no surprise but they've since taken out Galway and beating Tipp in the semis will give them huge confidence.

Pauric Mahony and Patrick Horgan's metronomic free-taking will probably cancel each other out so the big question here is who will win midfield and what other forwards will step up to the plate and Cork's full-forward line, with Paudie Sullivan ready to come in, looks to have more penetration.

Last meeting: Cork 0-24 Waterford 0-14 (2014 Munster SHC q'final replay).

Odds: Cork 8/15, Waterford 15/8, Draw 9/1.

CORK - A Nash; S O'Neill, A Ryan, S McDonnell; L McLoughlin, M Ellis, C Murphy; D Kearney, A Walsh; B Cooper, S Harnedy, R O'Shea; A Cadogan, C Lehane, P Horgan.

Verdict: Cork

Connacht SFC First Round

New York v Galway, Gaelic Park, 8pm (Irish time), C Branagan (Down).

Galway's league was a bit inconsistent but they have since got the Corofin boys back and beat Kildare in the last round. Johnny Duane, Danny Cummins and Liam Silke are all starting and they've plenty on the bench, including Gareth Bradshaw and fit-again Tom Flynn. No one likes heading to the great unknown of the Bronx where Ian Galvin has only seven of last year's starters who got a 22-point trimming from Mayo.

But the still have plenty of skill and experience in players like Ross Wherity (Donegal), PJ Banville (Wexford), Darren Freeman (Monaghan), Keith Scally (Westmeath), Brian Connor (Offaly), JJ Matthews (Longford), Niall McFeely (Derry) and an all-Ulster full-back line of Ronan McGinley (Tyrone), Gerard McCartan (Down) and Keith Quinn (Down).

They've also got some decent preparation with Cavan's recent trip to the Big Apple for two games. The last time New York gave anyone a good fright was Galway in 2010 when they had them on the rack but then had two men sent off and so the visitors shouldn't be complacent. Galway reached the All-Ireland quarter-finals in 2014 and with Kevin Walsh now in charge they should be ambitious this summer.

Last meeting: Galway 2-13 New York 0-12.

Odds: Galway 1/1,000, New York 20/1, Draw 50/1.

Verdict: Galway

Leinster SHC Round Robin

- Round One

Antrim v Laois,

Ballycastle, 3.30, P O'Dwyer (Carlow)

Home advantage always helps Antrim but Laois's only win in the league this year was up in Armoy so they won't fear the trip.

These two have a lot of history, including a relegation play-off in late March which Cheddar Plunkett's side won and they have Matthew Whelan back since then. Antrim are at a low ebb after losing their place in 1B to Kerry. PJ McConnell and two more have since left and Kevin Ryan has drafted in a lot of U-21s to try to give them impetus.

Last meeting: Laois 2-18 Antrim 1-13 (2015 Div 1B relegation play-off).

Odds: Laois 8/15, Antrim 7/4, Draw 9/1.

Verdict: Laois

Westmeath v Carlow,

Mullingar, 3.30, J Keenan (Wicklow)

Two Division 2A teams here and little separated them in their earlier meeting when a late Niall O'Brien point swung it Westmeath's way. They actually topped 2A but lost the final to Kerry. Denis Murphy led Carlow to a two-point victory (at home) when they met in championship last summer and home advantage could swing another tight one again.

Last meeting: Westmeath 1-14 Carlow 1-13 (Division 2A, Rd 5).

Odds: Westmeath 4/7, Carlow 13/8, Draw 9/1.

Verdict: Westmeath

Irish Daily Star Camogie League

- Division 1 Final

Cork v Galway,

Semple Stadium, 1.30, * Live TG4

Get in early to Thurles because the country's finest camogie players should provide an excellent opener. Cork need no introduction but goalkeeper Amy Lee is a newcomer who has impressed. Galway have been just as consistent and in Niamh Kilkenny, Susan Earner, the McGraths and Ailish O'Reilly have players who can put it up to them.

Verdict: Cork

Irish Daily Star Camogie League

- Division 2 Final

Laois v Waterford,

Netwatch Cullen Park, 2.30

Laois' only blip so far was losing to Wexford but Niamh Dollard and Co impressed when beating Kilkenny, after extra-time, in the semi-finals. Waterford, led by Trish Jackman and Nicola Morrissey, have been the form team of the division.

Verdict: Waterford

Irish Daily Star Camogie League

- Division 3 Final

Carlow v Dublin,

Cusack Park Mullingar, 1.30.

Another double-header here and especially sensible given that Carlow's Byrne, Nolan, Kinsella, English and Brennan families all have sons and daughters playing. Particularly hectic day for Mark Brennan who will be managing their women and then playing for their men but Dublin's women, who have lost the last two finals, may thwart his double hopes.

Verdict: Dublin

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