Noah Farrell will hope to lead Kildare Lily Whites to success in the Electric Ireland Celtic Challenge on Saturday.
Noah Farrell will hope to lead Kildare Lily Whites to success in the Electric Ireland Celtic Challenge on Saturday.

Electric Ireland Celtic Challenge: Six finals down for decision


Preview: Electric Ireland Celtic Challenge Finals

SATURDAY JUNE 4

Corn Michael Feery

Sligo v Mayo, Markievicz Park, 12pm

When these counties met all the way back in April, Sligo got out to a very fast start, laying down a marker by rattling in two early goals. However a remarkable performance from full forward Colm Enright dragged Mayo back into the game at the Connacht GAA Centre of Excellence.

The Castlebar Mitchells player shot 1-9 as Mayo went on to pick up a six point win, and strong performances from players outside the traditional hurling heartland clubs in East Mayo have been a notable feature of this team’s campaign.  

Mitchels, Westport, Claremorris and Caiseal Gaels are all strongly represented with several players each togging out today, as the management team of Brian Finn, Austin Kenny and David Hurley look to broaden the hurling base within the county and try to raise the profile of the game in some of Mayo’s bigger urban strongholds.

It could be argued that Sligo have made more forward progress than any other hurling county over the past decade, and the manner in which this group bounced back from that opening round setback bodes extremely well for the county.

Robert O’Kelly Lynch is the next brother from his extremely talented family to come through the Naomh Eoin club, while there is plenty of scoring power in the full forward unit, where Adam Rolston and Ciarán Keenan have been prolific.

Scoring 3-21 against Meath Royals in the semi-final represented the best performance so far from the Yeats County, who will hope to capitalise on home advantage in this decider.   

Corn Tom Hogan

Wicklow Gold v Kildare Lily Whites, Abbottstown, 12pm

These two counties have embraced the Electric Ireland Celtic Challenge in spectacular fashion in 2022, entering five teams between them in a bid to expose as many players as possible to the honour and the responsibility of playing for your county.

Kildare have thrown the net out far and wide in a bid to try and improve on the foundations underneath an adult hurling scene that is improving in leaps and bounds, as evidenced by this year’s dominant championship run in the Christy Ring Cup.

The high standard of coaching in the county has been in evidence as they’ve produced some very cleaver hurling through this campaign, with players like the midfield combination of Cian Degrieck and Jack Courtney controlling games from the centre of the park.

The first round game between these two sides was a tense and tight affair, but Wicklow Gold have exploded into life in their last two games, scoring 10-26 across two hours of knockout hurling against Tyrone and Louth.

Look for players like David Peppard, Ciarán Traynor and Joshua Barry to lead the way in front of the posts for the Garden County, who will be hoping for success on the double this coming weekend.

This game will be streamed live, please check back in closer to the weekend for details.

Corn John Scott

Limerick Sarsfields v North Cork, TUS Gaelic Grounds, 12pm

In a competition that is all about development, few teams have shown as much progression from one game through to the next as Limerick Sarsfields.

One of two teams entered into the Celtic Challenge from the Treaty County, the Sarsfields group, representing the City and West Divisions in the county, picked up just one point in the group stages of the competition. However they emerged battle-hardened and ready to take on Kilkenny and Dublin opposition in the knockout stages, racking up excellent performances and setting up this afternoon’s home clash with North Cork.

The revolution in underage hurling in Cork has been well-known to anyone involved in development squad hurling over the past few years, and that was evidenced by the Rebel County’s decision to enter four teams in this year’s Celtic Challenge, meaning that nearly 120 hurlers from the county got to pull on the traditional blood and bandages jersey at various stages, all at a very high level.

North Cork are the last ones still standing, and their 4-21 to 3-15 win over Limerick Sarsfields would indicate that they will have something of a psychological upper hand heading to the TUS Gaelic Grounds on Saturday.

Corn Jerome O’Leary

Westmeath v Offaly, Abbottstown, 12.15pm

It’s been an incredible year for U-17 hurling in Offaly, as the Faithful County won the Electric Ireland Leinster minor championship for the first time in 22 years last month, and there’s no doubt that a lot of the players involved in this local derby clash will hope to catch the eye of county manager Leo O’Connor and put themselves in contention for selection for their upcoming All-Ireland semi-final.

O’Connor has been keen to work with Enda Mulhare and the county’s Celtic Challenge team, releasing several players so that the Mulhare’s group can recover from an inauspicious start to this competition, suffering losses to Meath and Wicklow Blue in the first two rounds of games. An 0-20 to 1-10 victory over Meath in last weekend’s semi-final contest would suggest that they are a different proposition now and have trained on well as this competition has progressed.

It's been a topsy-turvy campaign for Westmeath so far, who were hugely impressive against Carlow but struggled in another all-Leinster clash against Meath. Seán Brennan captains the team and is part of a very talented defensive unit, while up front there is plenty of goalscoring potential in an U-16 group that is expected to compete well in next year’s minor competition.

Both counties will have memories of the fantastic Corn William Robinson final that they played against each other at TEG Cusack Park in 2021 in front of a large crowd, which proved to be a fantastic springboard for Offaly in particular.

Corn Michael Hogan

Galway v Tipperary, Abbottstown, 2.15pm

Galway have historically been one of the more successful counties in the Electric Ireland Celtic Challenge, despite usually spreading their talent across two or three teams. This year just one group was entered, and unsurprisingly, the county that has dominated minor hurling for many years now proved to be successful.

It wasn’t plain sailing however, and they’ve been pushed to the pin of their collar several times, most notably in their semi-final at Coachford against West Cork, where their 0-25 to 0-24 win came at the end of one of the most enjoyable and remarkable hours of hurling to be played all year.

Like many other teams involved in the Electric Ireland Celtic Challenge this weekend, Tipperary are also still involved in the All-Ireland minor hurling championship, waiting in the wings to take on either Galway, Clare or Laois in a semi-final contest.

Based on the form of their Celtic Challenge group, there are plenty of young Premier County hurlers waiting in the wings to step in if the call should come. Their 3-20 to 0-21 win over Clare in Sixmilebridge in the semi-final crowd an unbeaten campaign where Jim Ryan, Daniel Rossiter and Kieran Grace have shown immense craft and skill in big games.

This game will be streamed live, please check back in closer to the weekend for details.

SUNDAY JUNE 5

Corn William Robinson

Laois v Wicklow Blue, Abbottstown, 1pm

Similar to Offaly, Laois are still very much involved in the Electric Ireland All-Ireland minor championship, and this weekend they face a huge game against Clare that is effectively an All-Ireland quarter-final.

However the immense depth that is there in the county has been demonstrated by their outstanding run in this year’s Celtic Challenge, which has featured big wins over a host of Leinster rivals, followed by a masterclass against a highly-rated Roscommon team in their semi-final contest at home.

Eoin Murphy, Jack Downey and team captain Cian Hill all scored freely in that contest against the Rossies, and as one of a handful of unbeaten teams, they’ll take plenty of confidence into the last of this weekend’s six title deciders.

Laois will need every bit of that confidence and form, as they prepare to take on the second of Wicklow’s two panels, both of which have caught the eye in spectacular fashion throughout this competition.

It’s been a difficult year for Wicklow hurling at adult level, but this Wicklow Blue panel have given plenty of evidence that they are capable of being part of a genuine revival for the Garden County. Players like Seán Kenny and Michael Óg O’Neill in defence already have the physical profile and the hurling craft to make a meaningful impact at U-20 level, while up front, Willie Cash, Johnno Moorehouse, James Boland and Brandon Rossiter have all racked up the scores in wins over Westmeath, Offaly, Meath, and Antrim (twice).