Preview: This weekend's knock-out club chamionship matches
It's another busy weekend of knock-out senior club championship action around the counties. Topping the bill are Senior Football Championship Finals in Carlow and Westmeath, and Senior Hurling Championship Finals in Sligo and Roscommon.
It’s semi-final weekend in the Bathshack Antrim SHC with Cushendall playing Ballycastle on Saturday and Dunloy playing Loughiel on Sunday. Cushendall were comfortable victors over Ballycastle in the first round of the championship and will be fancied to repeat the trick here after an impressive run of form on the way to this semi-final.
Reigning champions Dunloy are aiming for a fifth title in succession and are warm favourites to defeat Loughiel, but it could be a tricky test, especially if Keelan Molloy isn’t fit to play. The fact that Dunloy are campaigning on two fronts having already reached the senior football final may be a factor too, but it would still be a big surprise were Loughiel to take out last year's beaten All-Ireland finalists.
It’s semi-final weekend in the Armagh SHC as Middletown play Cúchulainns and Keady Lámh Dhearg play Derrynoose. Middletown have been the dominant force in the county for some time now. They’ve won seven of the last eight titles and are gunning for a fifth in a row. They’re warm favourites to get the better of Cúchulainns, while a Keady team who have reached the last two Finals are fancied against Derrynoose.
Éire Óg and Tinryland will meet in the Carlow SFC Final on Sunday, the first time these two clubs have contested it since 1992. Éire Óg have a greater tradition of success and won four titles in a row from 2017 to 2020. Tinryland were last champions in 1981 but, despite a less impressive pedigree in terms of historic titles won, are slight favourites going into this match based on form thus far in the championship.
There are two quarter-final replays in the Cavan SFC on Sunday as Killygarry take on reigning champions Gowna and 2021 champoins Ramor United play Laragh United. Killygarry will arguably have more momentum than Gowna having come from five points down in the second-half of last weekend’s terrific drawn match, but it’s likely to be another contest of fine margins in what’s a repeat of last year’s final. Ramor might have more of a pep in their step than Laragh because they trailed by seven points at one stage in their drawn encounter and were the ones to hit the equaliser late on.
It’s semi-final weekend in the TUS Clare SFC as St. Breckan’s play St. Joseph’s Miltown on Saturday and reigning champions Éire Óg Ennis play Cratloe on Sunday. Éire Óg are bidding for a historic third title in a row but they had to overcome a huge scare in the quarter-finals to beat Doora Barefield after extra-time. Cratloe performed well in their quarter-final against Kilmurry but their chances of causing an upset here may be dependent on whether or not Podge Collins is fit to play.
The other semi-final looks less clear-cut. Neither St. Breckan’s nor St. Joseph’s Miltown would have been tipped as county finalists this year but have both gotten stronger as the year progressed. St. Breckan’s were slightly more impressive in the quarter-finals, but St. Joseph’s have more experience of big days like this.
It's semi-final weekend in the Co-Op Superstores Cork Premier SHC on Sunday as Sarsfields play Imokilly and Midleton play St. Finbarr’s. That second semi-final tops the bill as it pits the 2021 champions Midleton against reigning champions St. Finbarr’s. Midleton are the only team with a 100 per cent record in the championship, but have injury worries over Conor Lehane and Sam Quirke. If Lehane isn’t fit to play or even not firing on all cylinders, it could tip the scales in favour of the champions.
Sarsfields are slight favourites in the other semi-final based on their impressive group stage win over St. Finbarr’s, but divisional outfit imokilly have both experience and class with players like Seamus Harnedy and Bill Cooper in their ranks and if they click on the day could cause an upset.
It’s quarter-final weekend in the Michael Murphy Sports & Leisure Donegal SFC. On Saturday, Glenswilly play Sean MacCumhaill’s and St. Eunan’s play Aodh Ruadh. On Sunday, reigning champions Naomh Conaill play Kilcar and Ardara are up against Gweedore. The pick of the matches is arguably that showdown between Naomh Conaill and Kilcar which is a repeat of the 2020 Final. Naomh Conaill have been typically efficient throughout this year’s campaign and go into the match as slight favourites, but such is the class that Kilcar possess they’re capable of springing an upset.
It’s semi-final weekend in the Down SFC as reigning champions Kilcoo take on Clonduff and Burren play Glenn. Kilcoo are aiming to win the Frank O’Hare Cup for the 11th time in 12 years but were somewhat below par in their quarter-final win over Carryduff which will give Clonduff some hope of springing a shock. Burren, who disrupted Kilcoo’s dominance in 2018, are favourites in the other semi-final, but a Glenn team that was relegated to Division Three in the League have been very impressive in the championship and will fancy their chances of causing an upset.
It’s Quarter-Final weekend in the Go Ahead Dublin SFC with both matches taking place on Sunday. Top of the bill is the meeting of Kilmacud Crokes and Na Fianna which is a repeat of the last two county finals. Crokes were triumphant on both occasions in what were two highly competitive matches. They’re fancied to win here too as it looks like Na Fianna will be without star forward Donal Burke.
The other quarter-final sees Ballyboden St. Endas play Cuala who were six-point victors when the teams met in last year’s championship.
It’s quarter-final weekend in the Brooks Galway Senior Hurling Championship. St Thomas’ are gunning for an incredible sixth title in a row and are up against Cappataggle, while last year’s beaten finalists, Loughrea, face Clarinbridge. The other two quarter-finals see Turloughmore play Castlegar and Sarsfields face Oranmore-Maree.
It’s semi-final weekend in the UPMC Kildare SHC as Celbridge play Coill Dubh on Saturday and Nass play Maynooth on Sunday. Celbridge showed better form in the group phase than a Coill Dubh team that needed a remarkable comeback against Ardclough to make it to the last four. The second semi-final is a repeat of last year’s final which Nass won by eight points. The reigning champions are hot favourites to win a fifth title in a row this year.
It’s quarter-final weekend in the St. Canice’s Credit Union Kilkenny SHC. Topping the bill is the meeting of reigning All-Ireland champions Ballyhale Shamrocks and Dicksboro. The Shamrocks are going for an incredible sixth county title in a row, but this game is far from a foregone conclusion. The reigning champions have looked uncharacteristically fragile this year whereas Dicksboro impressed on the way to winning the League title. You’d imagine Ballyhale’s big-match mentality and sheer class in attack will see them through, but don’t be surprised if Dicksboro pull off a shock. The other quarter-final ties will see Mullinavat play O’Loughlin Gaels, Glenmore play Bennettsbridge, and James Stephens play Graigue Ballycallan.
It’s semi-final weekend in the Laois Shopping Centre SFC as Portlaoise play Graiguecullen and Portarlington play St. Josephs. Portlaoise are likely to be without Conor Boyle for their semi-final, but Kieran Lillis should be fit to start. The experienced town team will be fancied to advance to yet another final.
A Portarlington team gunning for a fourth championship in a row will be favourites in the other semi-final. They looked very sharp in their 18-point quarter-final win over Courtwood, and have already beaten St. Joseph’s in this year’s League Final.
It’s quarter-final weekend in the Bon Secours Limerick SHC as Patrickswell play Ballybrown and Doon play Mungret St. Pauls.
Patrickswell and Doon are favourites based on the fact that they play in Group 1 of the Limerick SHC, but these games are far from foregone conclusions, particularly the meeting of Mungret and Doon.
Mungret were unbeaten in Group 2 and are a rising power in Limerick hurling, having won the Intermediate championship in 2021.
Ballybrown will be fired up for their duel against neighbours Patrickswell, but with Cian Lynch and Aaron Gillane both in fine form this year, it’s hard to look beyond a win for The ‘Well.
It’s semi-final weekend in the London McAleer & Rushe SHC as St. Gabriel’s play Robert Emmetts and Brother Pearses play Thomas McCurtains. The clash of St. Gabriel’s and Robert Emmetts is a repeat of the last two county finals, with both teams winning one apiece. Reigning champions St. Gabriel’s will go in as slight favourites, but there won’t be much in it. In the other semi-final, Brother Pearses are fancied to get the better of a Thomas McCurtains team hoping to reach their first final since 1993.
It’s semi-final weekend in the Peter Hanley Motors Longford SFC. First up on Saturday is the meeting of Killoe Emmet Og and Colmcille followed by the clash of Dromard and Clonguish on Sunday.
When Killoe and reigning champions Colmcille met in the group stages, Killoe won comfortably enough. Since then, though, Colmcille’s form has been on an upward curve and this game is likely to be much tighter.
Dromard and Clonguish also met in the group stages and Dromard came out on top by a single point. Clonguish were without star player Jack Duggan that day though, and his availability this time around could be a game-changer.
It’s quarter-final weekend in the Connacht Gold Mayo SFC. On Saturday, Castlebar Mitchells play Ballintubber and Charlestown play Knockmore. While, on Sunday, Ballina Stephenites play Belmullet and Westport play Breaffy.
The clash of the round is the meeting of Castlebar Mitchells and Ballintubber who both went through the group phase unbeaten. Mitchells go in as slight favourites, but it wouldn’t be a huge shock if Ballintubber lowered their colours.
Reigning champions Westport looked good in the group phase, winning their three games by an average margin of 12 points, and will fancy their chances against Breaffy.
Last year’s beaten finalists, Ballina Stephenites, also won three from three in the group stage and their form-line is more convincing than Belmullet’s, while Knockmore will be warm favourites against Charlestown.
It’s quarter-final weekend in the Monaghan SFC as Latton play Clontibret and Scotstown play Aughnamullen. Scotstown bring a lot of momentum into their gam after winning three matches on the trot and are fancied to win through to a semi-final clash with surprise packets Corduff.
Latton have arguably shown better form than Clontibret thus far in the championship, but any team with Conor McManus at the point of their attack can’t be discounted. The winner of that game will play Inniskeen in the other semi-final.
It’s semi-final weekend in the Molloy Environmental Systems Offaly SHC as champions Shinrone play Ballinamere on Saturday and Kilcormac-Killoughey play St. Rynagh’s on Sunday.
Shinrone won their first ever Offaly SHC last year and Ballinamere are a rising power in the game so the first semi-final of the weekend has a fresh look to it. The teams already met in the group stage when a late Ballinamere charge saw them come out on top, and another tight, exciting match is anticipated here. Shinrone will have learned a lot from that game, and their greater big-match experience might be vital.
Kilcormac-Killoughey will be favourites in the other semi-final. They’ve won all their matches to do date in the championship, including a five-point win over Sunday’s opponents. The addition of underage stars like Adam Screeney and Brecon Kavanagh has given last year’s beaten finalists an added dimension, but a very experienced St. Ryanagh’s outfit will fancy their chances of causing an upset.
Four Roads and Athleague will do battle in the Roscommon SHC Final on Sunday. Both sides have shown good form throughout the season, though defending champions Four Roads have been especially impressive. In a match of fine margins, the scoring power of Cathal Dolan could swing the contest in favour of Four Roads.
On the football front, reigning senior champions Strokestown will be relegated to the Intermediate grade in 2024 if they lost this weekend’s relegation play-off against Western Gaels. Injuries to key players like Sean Mullooly, Cathal Compton, David Butler, and Colm Neary has badly weakened the reigning champions. It should be a close-fought match against a Gaels team who haven’t performed well this year either, but have quality players in the likes of Cathal Cregg, Finbarr Cregg, Kevin Higgins and Seanie McDermott.
For the fifth year in a row, Easkey and Naomh Eoin will contest the Sligo SHC Final. Easkey triumphed on the three previous occasions, with Naomh Eoin winning their sole senior championship in 2019. Beaten All-Ireland Junior Finalists, Easkey, are warm favourites to make it four titles in a row.
It’s semi-final weekend in the FBD Insurance Tipperary SHC with Thurles Sarsfields playing Loughmore/Castleiney on Saturday evening and Toomevara playing Kiladangan on Sunday afternoon. There’s never much between Mid-Tipp rivals Sarsfields and Loughmore/Castleiney, and this should be another ferocious battle. Sarsfields have put together the more convincing body of work so far this year, but with the McGrath brothers in harness Loughmore-Castleiney always have a fighting chance.
Toomevara have been the surprise packages of the Tipperary SHC and have made it to the last four on merit, but they’ll go into their semi-final against 2020 champions, Kiladangan, as underdogs.
It’s quarter-final weekend in the Connolly’s of Moy Tyrone SFC. First up is the meeting of reigning champions Errigal Ciaran and Moortown on Saturday with Trillick and Edendork meeting later in the afternoon. On Sunday, Coalisland Na Fianna and Ardboe face off, while Dungannon play Dromore.
St Loman’s Mullingar play Coralstown-Kinnegad in the Shay Murtagh Westmeath SFC Final on Sunday. This is the third time the two teams will have played one another this season with two of those matches ending in draws. Another tight game is expected here though the form-line slightly favours a St. Loman’s team who were very impressive victors in their semi-final over Tyrrellspass. They also have much more experience of the big day having contested the last eight finals, winning five of them. A young Coralstown-Kinnegad team are very much the coming force in Westmeath football and won’t lack for confidence, but the scoring power of county stars like John Heslin and Ronan O’Toole could give St. Loman’s an edge.
It’s quarter-final weekend in the Dominic Smith Expert Electrical Wexford SFC. First up on Saturday is the meeting of reigning champions Castletown and Starlights. These two teams met in the 2020 Final when Starlights won by two points and other close battle is anticipated here.
That match is followed by the clash of Gusserane and Glynn-Barntown, a game that could be defined by whether or not Gavin Sheehan is fit to play for Gusserane.
The first of Sunday’s games will see HWH-Bunclody play Kilanerin in what’s likely to be another game of fine margins. That’s followed by the meeting of Shelmaliers and St. Anne’s. When the teams met in last year’s Final it was Shelmaliers who won by 20 points, so St. Anne’s will be hoping to give a better account of themselves here.
It’s quarter-final weekend in the Boom and Platform Hire Wicklow SFC. First up on Saturday is the meeting of Tinahely and Bray Emmets. Tinahely topped their group but Emmets have recently found form and could spring an upset. Reigning champions St. Patrick’s play 2021 champions Blessington in what should be another keenly contested match.
Arklow Geraldines-Ballymoney are the only team who won all five group matches and if that form-line holds through will be fancied to beat Éire Óg Greystones in the first of Sunday’s quarter-finals. In the final match of the weekend, Rathnew will be slight favourites against Kiltegan.