Weekend's Ladies Football Championship previews
By Jackie Cahill
Croke Park is ready to stage two mammoth TG4 All-Ireland Ladies Senior Football Championship semi-finals on Sunday.
At 2pm, it’s the meeting of Connacht rivals Mayo and Galway, followed by a repeat of the 2018 decider, when holders Dublin tackle Cork (3.45pm).
Both games will be shown LIVE on TG4, as the four competing counties battle it out for Final slots back at Croke Park on Sunday, September 15.
This is the very first time that the Senior Championship semi-finals will be held at GAA HQ – and two potential classics lie in store.
Before all of that, the 2019 TG4 All-Ireland Junior Finalists will be confirmed.
St Tiernach’s Park in Clones will play host to a semi-final double header on Saturday, with both games LIVE on the Ladies Gaelic Football Association’s Facebook Page.
Louth, the 2018 runners-up, take on Antrim at 1pm, with the meeting of Fermanagh and London to follow at 2.45pm.
Saturday August 24
TG4 All Ireland Junior Championship Semi-Finals
Louth v Antrim; St Tiernach’s Park, Clones, 1pm – LIVE on LGFA Facebook
Louth were beaten finalists last year – and they have the bit between their teeth as they aim to go one step further this time.
The Wee County retained their Leinster title before seeing off London and Carlow to top Group A - and book a safe passage to the semi-finals.
Louth are many people’s favourites to win the TG4 All-Ireland Junior title, but they’ll face stiff opposition from Ulster Champions Antrim.
The 2019 Lidl National League saw Louth enjoy a big win over Antrim in the Division 4 group stages, but the Saffrons turned the tables at the semi-final stage, winning out by 2-20 to 2-14 after extra-time in a classic tie.
Antrim lost the divisional final to Fermanagh, who are familiar opponents this year, but Louth will show no complacency as to do so could prove fatal against Antrim, who are seeking a first All-Ireland Final appearance in three years.
LOUTH: U Pearson; E Hand, S Quinn, S McLoughlin; C Nolan, M McMahon, D Osborne; E Byrne, A Byrne; R Carr, S Byrne, A Russell; L Boyle, K Flood, N Rice.
ANTRIM: A McCann; S Haughey, E Kelly, N Killen; M Hanna, C Brown, K Farren; S Tennyson, A McFarland; L Dahunsi, O Corr, N Enright; C Carey, E Magee, Á Tubridy.
Fermanagh v London; St Tiernach’s Park, Clones, 2.45pm - LIVE on LGFA Facebook
Fermanagh won the Lidl National League Division 4 title by defeating Antrim in the Final – but they lost out against the same opposition in the Ulster decider.
Fast forward to the All-Ireland Championship and Fermanagh had the upper hand over Antrim again, while victory over Derry made it two from two as the Erne County topped the Group B standings.
Fermanagh, the 2017 All-Ireland Junior winners, will be quietly confident of notching up another notable result but London are tough opponents.
The Exiles ran Louth to just a point in the group stages before taking out Carlow to finish second in Group A.
On any given year, London are something of an unknown quantity as they don’t compete in the Lidl National League.
But they have plenty of talent in their ranks and will be anxious to atone for last year’s semi-final loss to eventual champions Limerick.
A victory for London here would see them through to a first All-Ireland Final since 2008, as Fermanagh aim for a second Croke Park appearance in three years.
FERMANAGH: R Gleeson; A Maguire, E Murphy, A McGovern; M McGloin, C Murphy, S McQuaid; R O’Reilly, A Flanagan; J Doonan, L Maguire, D Maguire; A O’Brien, E Smyth, B Bogue.
LONDON): C O’Reilly; N Walsh, R Hunt, N Mulholland; C Twohig, N Lister, S Roche; N Daly, K Canavan; C O’Sullivan, H Noonan, C McCarthy; C McGahan, A Kilkelly, C O’Brien.
Sunday August 25
TG4 All-Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Finals
Mayo v Galway; Croke Park, 2pm - LIVE on TG4
This promises to be an intriguing encounter between two sides who know plenty about each other.
Galway won the Lidl NFL Division 1 clash between the counties, before they met again in the TG4 Connacht Senior Final.
After a brilliant game finished level at Elvery’s MacHale Park in Castlebar, Galway ran out winners in the replay at Limerick’s LIT Gaelic Grounds to strike a psychological blow.
Both teams have been in super form since, winning all of their games.
Galway took care of Kerry and Westmeath in the group stages of the All-Ireland series, before coping better with testing weather conditions to get the better of Waterford in the quarter-finals.
Mayo have been improving with every game, and look to be a team on a real mission.
The green and red have beaten three Ulster opponents in their last three games – Tyrone and Donegal in Group 4, and Armagh in the last eight of the competition.
Mayo have one of the most formidable attacks in the country, and inside forwards Sarah Rowe, Rachel Kearns and Grace Kelly have been in scintillating form.
Kelly’s exploits earned her The Croke Park/LGFA Player of the Month award for July, and Galway are well aware of the havoc that the Moy Davitts star and her full-forward line colleagues can wreak.
But Galway are no slouches in the scoring department themselves and captain Tracey Leonard is bang in form.
A Mayo win would send them back to the All-Ireland Final for the first time since losing out to Dublin in 2017, while Galway are targeting a first Final appearance since 2005.
GALWAY: L Murphy; S Burke, N Ward, S Lynch; O Murphy, B Hannon, C Cooney; L Ward, Á McDonagh; O Divilly, M Glynn, M Seoighe; T Leonard, S Conneally, R Leonard.
MAYO: A Tarpey; N O’Malley, D Caldwell, É Ronayne; K Sullivan, Ciara McManamon, C Whyte; Clodagh McManamon, E Needham; S Cafferky, M Reilly, N Kelly; S Rowe, R Kearns, G Kelly.
Dublin v Cork; Croke Park, 3.45pm - LIVE on TG4
Dublin to continue on their Championship winning streak – or Cork to dethrone the holders?
All will be revealed at Croke Park as the famous stadium prepares for a tie that could rock it to its foundations.
This fixture has all the ingredients required to explode – and with excellent weather conditions forecast, spectators won’t be disappointed.
Dublin won the 2018 Final meeting between the counties in front of a record 50,141 attendance at Croke Park – but only one of them can make it through to the 2019 showpiece back at GAA HQ on Sunday, September 15.
Cork have had the upper hand on Dublin this year, winning both of the Lidl National League Division 1 fixtures between the counties.
Cork claimed a five-point victory in Round 7, before ending Dublin’s reign as League Champions in a stunning semi-final at Nowlan Park, a fixture that required extra-time to separate them.
Cork went on to claim the League silverware on offer, before landing the Munster title.
The Rebelettes beat Cavan convincingly before suffering a blip against Armagh.
They were right back on form in the recent All-Ireland quarter-final, dismantling Tyrone to book a return to Croke Park.
Dublin, meanwhile, made it eight-in-a-row in Leinster and Mick Bohan’s charges followed that up with big wins against Waterford and Monaghan in the group stages, before defeating Kerry in the All-Ireland quarter-finals.
Captain Sinéad Aherne has been in scorching form in her last two games, scoring 1-11 against Monaghan, before adding 2-5 in the Kerry win.
Cork racked up 7-18 in their last outing against Tyrone – with ten players on the scoresheet.
DUBLIN: C Trant; É Rutledge, N Collins, M Byrne; A Kane, S Goldrick, O Carey; L Magee, S McGrath; C Rowe, N McEvoy, L Davey; S Aherne, N Healy, J Dunne.
CORK: M O’Brien; H Looney, E Meaney, S Kelly; A Hutchings, M Duggan, E Kiely; N Cotter, M O’Callaghan; O Farmer, C O’Sullivan, Á O’Sullivan; L Coppinger, E Scally, O Finn.