Friday, September 08, 2017

IT’S one of the biggest weekends of the year on the local GAA calendar with Intermediate Football quarter-finals, Junior Football semi-finals and Senior Hurling semi-finals all down for decision. GER MCNALLY looks ahead to all the action.

The meeting of Naas and Celbridge in the SHC semi-finals, a repeat of last year’s final, could be one of the highlights of the weekend but there is lots to look forward to
Photo : Piotr Kwasnik

Court Yard Hotel Leixlip Intermediate Football Championship Quarter Finals

Saturday 9 September

Venue: St Conleths Park, St Kevin’s V Raheens, 3.45pm,  Ref: Niall Colgan

A match up that probably both teams would have preferred to happen later in the competition, it would have made for a worthy final. That won’t happen now and one of these team’s seasons will end on Saturday. Since they last played in senior, in 2005, Raheens have been knocking hard on the door at intermediate level and have been very close to lifting this title on a number of occasions in the recent past.

It hasn’t happened for them but they looked well placed this year until they were rocked by a Round 2 defeat against Kilcock. They recovered well to beat Rathangan in Round 3 but that loss must have put some doubts in their minds.

St Kevins have been in great form all year and recently beat SFC quarter-finalists Round Towers in the Division 2 league final and a good Rathangan team in Round 2.

Before Raheens fell to Kilcock they would have got a confident vote but that result really does raise questions. At their best, they still appear to have the edge over a very competitive Championship but no better team than St Kevins to take advantage if they are below that.

Verdict: Raheens


Venue: Hawkfield , Clogherinkoe V Two Mile House, 7pm,  Ref: Liam Herbert

Another game between two sides with genuine title aspirations. Since beating Two Mile House in the 2012 Junior final in dramatic fashion, Clogherinkoe have become a very solid Intermediate team but they have lost at this stage of the competition in the last three years.

If they are to break through that barrier they will have to overcome a Two Mile House side who have got their Championship back on track with wins over Straffan and Sallins since losing in the opening round to Rathangan.

The ‘House have the pain of last year driving them on, when they were only seconds away from lifting the title, and they still have one of the most potent attacks in the Championship.

This is by far the stiffest test that Clogherinkoe have faced in the Championship this year and even though they have beaten Two Mile House in their last two championships meetings, they could end up with the familiar feeling of losing in the quarter-final here.

Verdict: Two Mile House


Sunday 10 September

Venue: Hawkfield , Kilcock V Ballyteague, 5.30pm,  Ref: David Coady

Kilcock caused the upset of the Championship so far this year when they beat Raheens in Round 2. It was a far cry from their less than impressive Round 1 outing against Kilcullen and must be enough to get them favourites tag here.

But on the last two occasions Ballyteague played in the quarter-final, in 2016 and 2013, they weren’t given much of a chance but only lost out after a replay both times, against Raheens and Ellistown respectively.

They haven’t made it to the semi-finals since 2010 and much of their hopes could depend on whether Jimmy Hyland recovers from the injury that saw him limp out of their Round 3 win over Kill with less than ten minutes on the clock.

Even with him, you’d have to fancy Kilcock if they can replicate their form of the Raheens victory.

Verdict: Kilcock


Venue: Hawkfield , Monasterevan V Suncroft,  7pm,  Ref: Brendan Hickey

Monasterevan haven’t exactly sparkled in their first year back in Intermediate football after their relegation from Senior last year but they will see this as a very good chance to make it through to a semi-final.

In Padraig Nash and Wayne Fitzpatrick they possess two of the best young forwards in the Championship but this will not be straight forward for them.

Fionn Dowling, as always ,will carry a lot of responsibility for Suncroft but Eoghan Lawless is always a danger and Kallum Ennis has shown a good eye for goal this year.

Monasterevan will start as favourites but there’s always the likelihood of an upset in the Intermediate Championship and Suncroft could just edge this game to make a Championship semi-final despite a disastrous league campaign this season.

Verdict: Suncroft


Tom Cross Junior Football Championship Semi Final

Saturday 9 September

Venue: St Conleths Park, Caragh V Robertstown, 2pm, Ref: Fergal Barry

Caragh have been in fine form en route to the semi-finals and made it through the groups in relatively straight forward fashion. Their six point in the last round against fellow semi-finalists Rheban suggests they are in good form.

Jake Corrigan scored two goals in that game and they have plenty of experience and know in how in the form of the likes of Dan Campbell, Austin Nevin and Kevin Connor.

Experience and know how is something not lacking in the Robertstown team either. They have introduced some young players to their team over the last couple of seasons but when it comes to scores they still rely heavily on Aidan Dunne, especially if Joe Kavanagh is injured.

This is both team’s first time back in the semi-finals since they last won the competition, 2010 for Caragh and 2011 for Robertstown, but Corrigan could fire Caragh through.

Verdict: Caragh


Venue: Hawkfield , Ballymore Eustace V Rheban, 5.30m,  Ref: Anthony Herbert

Ballymore have been picked as favourites for this Championship from the start but they will need a big improvement on their last display against Milltown. They went 25 long second half minutes without a score during that game but you would have to imagine that was a one off.

They have a lot of young talent coming through and still possess many of the side who won Leinster Intermediate title in 2010. Eoin Kavanagh is their main man in attack.

Rheban were motoring along nicely in the groups before being second best against Caragh in the final round of games. Perhaps they already had one on knockout stages having already qualified before that game but they have lost in the semi-final to the eventual winners in the last two seasons and history could repeat itself.

Verdict: Ballymore


Haven Hire Senior Hurling Championship Semi Finals

Sunday 10 Sep

Venue: St Conleths Park, Ardclough V Confey, 2.30pm,  Ref: Raymond Kelly

Only Clane have won more Kildare Senior Hurling Championships than Ardclough but they have only been to two finals since their last win, in 2006. The Fitzgerald brothers, particularly the brilliant Martin, carry much of their scoring threat but the experienced campaigner Tony Spain showed there is still plenty of life left in him with two goals in their last game against Clane.

Confey have bounced back well since their preliminary round loss to Celbridge but they will be hoping that Paul Divilly has recovered after Wednesday’s football replay against Round Towers. Sunday’s game could be his third Championship game in eight days and even for somebody of his conditioning, that’s a big ask. It’s not just any player doing that for Confey, Divilly is their key man, Colm Chan also played a full game on Wednesday. They were slightly fortunate to come away with a draw last time against Coill Dubh and the form lines point to an Ardclough win.

Verdict: Ardclough


Venue: St Conleths Park, Naas V Celbridge, 4.15pm,  Ref: Fergus Devereux Jnr

The first of two important meetings between the clubs after their football teams were also paired together at the midweek draw.

The game is a repeat of last year’s final and put simply, a massive day for Naas hurling club. After beating Celbridge in last year’s group stages they were outfought and outmuscled by Celbridge in the final and ended up being comprehensively beaten.

Naas dusted themselves off and came back even beaten this year and only two weeks ago tore Celbridge apart on the way to scoring five goals.

Celbridge haven’t seemed themselves this season and have found it hard to adjust to life without Gerry Keegan. Fergal Conway is also a big miss due to his footballing duties but Mark Moloney will return after suspension after missing out on the quarter-final win over Éire Óg Corrachoill.

Playing such an important game in the quarter-final just eight days previously won’t help Celbridge’s cause either so everything is pointing towards a Naas win.

And yet, they still have to go out and do it. It’s one thing going out and scoring five goals against 14 men in the group stages but they now have to replicate that result when the season is on the line.

Losing to a Keegan inspired Celbridge in last year’s final is one thing but Naas will start as big favourites for this game and in many ways, it’s an even bigger game for the club than last year’s final. They have to stand up and justify their favourites tag, they are good enough, it’s just a matter of showing it on the field now.

Verdict: Naas

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