Preview: This weekend's knock-out senior club championship matches
By John Harrington
We’re getting down to the business end of most county senior club championships across the country.
The Offaly SFC Final between Tullamore and Ferbane tops the bill this weekend, but 18 other championships will feature knock-out rounds this including semi-finals in the Meath SFC, the Antrim SFC, the Carlow SFC, the Laois SHC, the Leitrim SFC, the Westmeath SHC, and the Wicklow SHC.
We preview the knock-out rounds in each club championship and at the bottom of this article you can also view the fixture list for all the senior club championship matches taking across the counties this week.
The first of the two Northern Switchgear Antrim SFC semi-finals takes place on Friday evening as Casement’s Portglenone meet Dunloy. It’s something of a surprise that Dunloy have reached the last four because they were relegated from Division 2 of the League, but their form has been much improved in the championship. Portglenone are League champions and will go into this match as slight favourites, but Dunloy are a team with a lot of momentum after their quarter-final win over Lamh Dhearg so shouldn’t be discounted.
In the other semi-final on Sunday, reigning champions Cargin play city rivals St. Brigid’s. Both teams are unbeaten in the championship to date and it should be a rip-roaring match, but Cargin’s greater experience means they go in as slight favourites.
The Armagh SFC quarter-finals begin with Friday night’s meeting of Madden and Ballymacnab. Madden impressed when topping their group and are boosted by the return of star man Niall Grimley. Ballymacnab are weakened by the absence of injured defender Ronan Kennedy, but will hope a dangerous forward-line that features Rory Grugan, Jack Grugan, and Gavin McParland will get them over the line.
On Saturday, reigning champions Crossmaglen are hot favourites to get the better of Armagh Harps. With Oisin O’Neill fit and firing again, Rian O’Neill, Cian McConville, and Jamie Clarke in their ranks, they have formidable firepower.
On Sunday, Killeavy and Clan na Gael face off in what should be a fascinating tie. Killeavy impressed when topping their group, but Clan na Gael have the competition's top scorer in Shane McPartlan and will fancy their chances of causing an upset.
Also on Sunday, an in-form Clann Eireann side are fancied to get the better of Silverbridge. The 2021 champions won all their group games by an average of 10 points, and in Conor Turbitt have one of the in-form forwards in the county.
Bagenalstown Gaels take on Tinryland in the first of Sunday’s Carlow SFC semi-finals at Netwatch Cullen Park. When these two teams met earlier in the competition Tinryland came out on top by three points and will go into this game as slight favourites to repeat the trick. The day’s second semi-final will see Éire Óg go head to head with Rathvilly. These two teams know each other very well having played one another in the 2020 and 2021 county finals, with both winning one each. Rathvilly showed the better form in the group stage, but there won’t be much between the teams.
In the first of the weekend’s four Cavan SFC quarter-finals, Ramor United play Laragh United on Friday night. Ramor have the greater championship pedigree in recent years, reaching five of the last seven semi-finals and winning titles in 2021 and 2016, and that experience should give them an edge.
A quarter-final double-header on Saturday sees Kingscourt play Cavan Gaels and Killygarry play Gowna. Kingscourt won all of their group games so will be favourites to come through in the first game of the day, while reigning champions Gowna could have the edge over a Killygarry team weakened by injuries to Mattie McKenna and Conor Smith.
The final quarter-final of the weekend on Sunday sees Crosserlough play Ballinagh. Crosserlough are the only unbeaten team in the county having already won the League title, and are fancied to advance to the last four.
There’s a really novel feel about this weekend’s Clare SHC quarter-finals due to the absence of the two clubs who have dominated the scene in recent years, Ballyea and Sixmilebridge, who shared the last eight championships between one another.
Saturday’s double-header of quarter-finals sees Kilmaley play Feakle and Clooney Quin play Scarriff. Feakle won all three of their group matches comfortably enough and have shown more consistency than a Kilmaley team that have blown hot and cold. Scarriff are also unbeaten after topping a tough group against the odds, and in Mark Rodgers have a potential match-winner against Clooney Quin.
Sunday’s first quarter-final sees Crusheen play Newmarket. The form-line suggests a win for a Newmarket side that topped their group after three wins on the bounce.
The fourth quarter-final of the weekend – Clonlara v Éire Óg – will arguably be the most hotly contested with the winner likely to be installed as championship favourites. Clonlara’s form-line is better, but an Éire Óg attack that features Shane O’Donnell and David Reidy looks seriously potent.
Douglas and St. Michael’s clash in a Bon Secours Hospital Premier SFC play-off on Friday evening to determine who plays Duhallow in the quarter-finals. When these two teams met in the group-stage it was Duhallow who won by a single point, and this game is likely to be just as tight.
The first of the weekend’s two quarter-finals takes place on Saturday when reigning champions Nemo Rangers play Clonakility. Nemo won three matches from three in the group phase and the firepower provided by Mark Cronin, Luke Connolly, and Paul Kerrigan should see them advance.
Sunday’s quarter-final sees Ballincollig and Castlehaven go head to head. The in-form Brian Hurley could well be the match-winner for Castlehaven here.
The safety net has been removed in the Michael Murphy Sports and Leisure SFC with the preliminary quarter-finals taking place this weekend. The eponymous Murphy has been in fine form this year for Glenswilly and will be the main reason why they go in as favourites against Glenfin in the first preliminary quarter-final of the weekend this Saturday. Also on Saturday, Cloughaneely will play Ardara and Sean Mac Cumhaills will play Four Masters. The final preliminary quarter-final of the weekend will see Gweedore play Dungloe on Sunday.
The Go Ahead Dublin SFC Quarter-Finals take place this weekend and the first of them should be a cracker as reigning All-Ireland champions take on a star-studded Ballymun Kickhams team. Crokes have won three matches from three in the group phase, but a Kickhams team that can call on players like Evan Comerford, John Small, James McCarthy, and Dean Rock have a fighting chance.
The second of Saturday’s quarter-finals wees Ballyboden St. Enda’s play Castleknock. Ballyboden topped their group with a 100% record but can’t take anything for granted against a Castleknock team inspired by Ciaran Kilkenny.
St. Jude’s take on Cuala in the first of Sunday’s quarter-finals. St. Jude’s also won three from three in the group stages and are warm favourites to advance here. The final quarter-final of the weekend will be a local derby between Raheny and St. Vincent’s. Raheny have a lot of momentum after scoring seven goals against Lucan Sarsfields in their last group match, while St. Vincent’s eliminated last year’s beaten finalists, Na Fianna, so this should be a cracker.
The first of the weekend’s four Joe Mallon Motors Kildare SFC quarter-finals should be a cracker as Celbridge play Sarsfields. Celbridge won three from three in the group stages and are the form team, but while Sarsfields stuttered in the early rounds they’re a good team on paper. Key to this game will be whether Ben McCormack is fit or not to start for Sarsfields.
Last years’ beaten finalists, Clane, are up against a Johnstownbridge team that won all three of their group matches but now have injury douts over key players Paul and Keith Cribbin. If they’re not fit to play, it’s advantage Clane.
An Athy team that can call on classy footballers like Kevin Feely, David and Mark Hyland, and Niall and Barry Kelly are fancied to come out on top in their quarter-final against Raheens.
Reigning champions Naas still look a cut above every other team in the county and are hotly fancied to win their quarter-final against Moorefield.
We’re down to the semi-finals in the Laois Shopping Centre SHC championship with Rathdowney Errill playing St. Lazerian’s Abbeyleix and Camross playing Clough Ballacolla on Sunday. An unbeaten Rathdowney team will be slight favourites in the first semi-final, but an up and coming young Abbeyleix team will fancy their chances too.
Reigning champions Clough Ballacolla are going for a fourth title in a row and beat Camross by 11 points in last year’s Final, but they haven’t been at their imperious best this year. Camross were triumphant when the teams met in the League and started their championship campaign well, but their form has tailed off somewhat. There won’t be much in it, but Clough Ballacolla’s greater spread of scorers in attack could give them the edge.
Both Connacht Gold Leitrim SFC semi-finals take place in Avant Money Páirc Seán Mac Diaramda on Sunday. First up is the meeting of Fenagh St. Caillin’s and Mohill. After winning the League, Fenagh stuttered somewhat in the opening rounds of the Championship but excelled in their 1-22 to 2-3 quarter-final win over Leitrim Gaels when Ryan and Riordan O’Rourke scored a combined 12 points from play. It’ll be a fascinating clash against a Mohill team that won all their group matches, including a victory over reigning champions St. Mary’s .
The other semi-final sees the champions of the last two years go head to head as St. Mary’s play Ballinamore Sean O’Heslins. St. Mary’s will go in as slight favourites, but a Ballinamore team that impressed in their quarter-final win over Glencar-Manorhamilton and are coached by newly appointed Leitrim coach, Mickey Graham, are capable of causing an upset.
It’s quarter-final weekend in the Anchor Tours Louth SFC with St. Patrick’s playing St. Mochta’s, Geraldines playing Naomh Mairtin, Dreadnots playing Cooley Kickhams, and St. Joseph’s playing St. Mary’s.
Reigning champions St. Mary’s haven’t fully caught fire yet this year, but they remain a formidable side and if players like Ryan Rooney and Daire McConnon get enough supply are fancied to get the better of St. Mary’s.
The meeting of St. Patrick’s and St. Mochta’s looks like the tie of the round. It’s the fourth year in arow they’ve met in the championship and St. Mochta’s have won the three previous showdowns, but an unbeaten St. Pat’s look like the form team here.
It’s semi-final weekend in the Fairyhouse Steel Meath SFC as Donaghmore/Ashbourne play Summerhill on Saturday, and Ratoath play Wolfe Tones on Sunday.
Donaghmore/Ashbourne have exceeded most peoples’ expectations by making it this far, but showed in their quarter-final win over St. Colmcille’s it’s foolhardy to underestimate them. Once again though they’ll go in as underdogs against a Summerhill team that combine a mean defence that has conceded just two goals in the championship with a very lively attack.
The meeting of Ratoath and Wolfe Tones is a heavyweight clash of the reigning champions (Ratoath) and 2021 champions. Ratoath are gunning for their fourth title in five years but showed some frailties in their quarter-final win over Dunshaughlin which was only delivered courtesy of an injury-time goal. Wolfe Tones, in contrast, look like a team on a steadily upward curve and could spring a surprise here.
This weekend’s only county senior final sees Tullamore and Ferbane go head to head in the Tullamore Court Hotel Offaly SFC Final. The teams have played already in the championship, with Tullamore coming out on top, but Ferbane were missing a number of players that day through injury. Tullamore come into the match as slight favourites, but Ferbane produced the more impressive body of work in the semi-finals when they defeated reigning champions Rhode after extra-time. It’s likely to come down to very fine margins, and the bench strength that Ferbane showed in that victory could well be decisive by the final whistle.
History will be made in the Roscommon SFC quarter-finals this weekend with divisional teams competing in them for the first time as West Roscommon play Padraig Pearses and North Roscommon play S.t Brigid’s. The divisional teams are made up of players from intermediate and junior clubs. On paper, both games look like very tough match-ups for the divisional teams against two heavyweight clubs, particularly as their only competiitive match preparation was a game they played against one another in July when West Roscommon came out on top.
The other two quarter-finals this weekend see Roscommon Gaels play Oran and Boyle play Clann na nGael.
It’s quarter-final weekend in the FBD Insurance Tipperary SFC. First up on Saturday is the meeting of Loughmore/Castleiney and Moyle Rovers in what’s likely to be the tie of the round. Both teams have been somewhat inconsistent this year, but tend to deliver on the big day. Loughmore’s defence is weakened by the injury absence of John Meagher, but they’re still slight favourites here.
Also on Saturday, reigning champions Clonmel Commercials will be red-hot favourites to get the better of Ballina. With players like Michael Quinlivan, Jack Kennedy, Sean O’Connor, and Seamus, Colman, and Conal Kennedy in their ranks, the south Tipp team are a formidable unit.
On Sunday, a JK Brackens team that won all three of their group matches should have too much for Killenaule. While last year’s beaten finalists, Upperchurch-Drombane, are fancied against Kilsheelan/Kilcash.
The first match of the knock-out Tyrone SFC took place on Thursday evening when Errigan Ciaran cruised into quarter-finals thanks to a 0-17 to 0-9 win over Killyclogher. On Friday, Loughmacrory will play Trillick and Moortown will play Donaghmore. On Saturday, it’s Omagh against Ardboe and Edendork against Carrickmore. While, on Sunday, it’s Eglish against Dungannon and Galbally against Dromore.
Lough Lene Gaels meet Castletown Geoghegan in the Westmeath SHC semi-final on Sunday with the winner progressing to meet Raharney in the Final. Lough Lene Gaels haven’t reached the Final since 2009 and will go in as underdogs against reigning champions Castletown Geoghegan. When the two teams met in Round 5 of the Championship it was Castletown Geoghegan who came out on top by three points.
The Wicklow SHC is down to the last four with Bray Emmets playing Glenealy in Saturday’s semi-final and Carnew Emmets playing Kiltegan on Sunday. Reigning champions Bray are gunning for a historic fifth title in a row and will be hard to stop. Glenealy brought them to a replay in last year’s final, but haven’t really caught fire in this year’s championship just yet. Kiltegan will be slight favourites to get the better of Carnew Emmets in the other semi-final.