Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport GAA

Calling the shots

Niall Holly
Niall Holly
Declan Bogue

By Declan Bogue

ALL-IRELAND SENIOR CLUB FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP

KILCOO (Down) v BALLYBODEN (Dublin) (Today, Kingspan Breffni Park, 3.30pm)

Winners of this tournament four years ago, Ballyboden are a much-changed team and still had to be at the top of their battling game on a sticky pitch to see off the challenge from Carlow's Eire Óg in the Leinster decider.

The Dublin team's big names include Michael Darragh Macauley and Conal Keaney, but with the former rarely both starting and finishing a game nowadays, Kilcoo can look to limit his influence.

Kilcoo identified a weakness in their game through the Ulster campaign, most especially against Derrygonnelly, so come the final they had switched their full-back Aidan Branagan to the middle of the park. He dominated his man, Naomh Conaill's Ciaran Thompson, to such an extent that it was possibly one of the main factors of the victory.

Kilcoo have the talent and if there is one thing they will never lack for, it is the raw desire and the dedication of players such as the five Branagan brothers and Conor Laverty.

This is a step up for them, for sure, but the same can be said for Ballyboden. If there's a shock this weekend, this is it.

VERDICT: Kilcoo

ALL-IRELAND SENIOR CLUB HURLING CHAMPIONSHIP

SLAUGHTNEIL (Derry) v BALLYHALE (Kilkenny) (Tomorrow, Pairc Esler, 2pm)

THERE are many reasons to say that this will be Slaughtneil's strongest chance to reach an All-Ireland final.

As detailed elsewhere on these pages, this eight-week period they have had since the Ulster final - and for a couple of weeks prior to that as well - is the longest spell they will have had exclusively devoted to hurling.

In 2016, they had to wait 18 weeks for the semi-final. A year later, that had narrowed to 16. Under the new system, they have been able to maintain the interest and momentum like never before.

And the game is in Newry. In some ways, a bit of a splash of rain and some cold weather might have suited them better to try to turn the match into a dogfight, with the kind of lenient refereeing you normally get as competitions come towards the end.

But. But. But.

They are coming up against 'career hurlers' here. Slaughtneil have that tag of being footballers playing hurling, but there is a difference when you come up against the quality of the Ballyhale forward line that contains Adrian Mullen, TJ Reid, Colin Fennelly and the Codys.

VERDICT: Ballyhale

ALL-IRELAND INTERMEDIATE CLUB HURLING CHAMPIONSHIP

ST ENDA'S (Antrim) v TULLAROAN (Kilkenny) (Today, Parnell Park, 1.30pm)

THE progress of Antrim's St Enda's has been a joy to behold in 2019. When manager Terence McNaughton took over he wasn't even targeting promotion but here they are, around 40 games into a season, coming up against Tullaroan, with the much-beloved and admired Walsh brothers in Parnell Park.

The danger is that they could get caught in the headlights a little. The standard of club hurling that Tullaroan were exposed to this year, along with their access to suitable challenge games, gives them the edge.

VERDICT: Tullaroan

ALL-IRELAND JUNIOR CLUB HURLING CHAMPIONSHIP

EOGHAN RUA (Derry) v CONAHY (Kilkenny) (Today, Parnell Park, 1.30pm)

Eoghan Rua, Coleraine are battle-hardened and have benefited from being regraded to junior status. They had too much for Newry Shamrocks in the provincial decider and with Niall Holly, Ruairi Mooney and the McGoldrick clan, they are not lacking for leadership and heart. This will not be any sort of a walkover, and the margin will be tight.

VERDICT: Conahy

BANK OF IRELAND DR McKENNA CUP

SECTION A

DONEGAL v MONAGHAN (Tomorrow, Ballybofey, 2pm)

Monaghan will be inclined to put a strong team out just as they did last week.

VERDICT: Monaghan

BANK OF IRELAND DR McKENNA CUP

SECTION B

ANTRIM v FERMANAGH (Tomorrow, Ahoghill, 2pm)

One of those games impossible to predict with both managers looking to try out debutants and lads auditioning for spots. They met last month in a challenge match that Antrim won.

VERDICT: Antrim

BANK OF IRELAND DR McKENNA CUP

SECTION C

TYRONE v CAVAN (Tomorrow, Omagh, 2pm)

Cavan looked a bit ropey against Armagh last weekend and need to get to work on their defence. It looks like Cathal McShane is off to Australia and so won't be around to help them out, but Tyrone always like to hit the ground running in January.

VERDICT: Tyrone

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph