Joe Kernan: Every chance of double success for Ulster
There are over 2,000 GAA clubs in Ireland so it is all the more creditable that two clubs from Ulster will be among the four who vie for All-Ireland club honours at Croke Park on St Patrick’s Day.
Loughgiel are first in action when they meet Coolderry (Offaly) in the hurling final while immediately afterwards Crossmaglen and Garrycastle (Westmeath) cross swords in the football showpiece.
For Loughgiel, this will be an opportunity to win what would be a first All-Ireland honour since 1983 and I have no doubt that with players like Liam Watson, Joey Scullion, Neil McAuley and Johnny Campbell on board they can achieve this.
Watson scored 0-16 in his team’s semi-final win over Na Piarsaigh (Limerick) and that kind of shooting augers well for their chances on Saturday.
For Coolderry, this will be a big chance to strike a blow for Offaly hurling and their manager is former Tipperary All-Ireland winning goalkeeper Ken Hogan who will have them well fired up for the occasion.
Crossmaglen have won five All-Ireland football crowns since 1997 and are now seeking back to back titles for a second time having recorded this feat in the 1999-2000 seasons.
Under joint managers Tony McEntee and Gareth O’Neill, the team have of course already retained their Armagh and Ulster titles but the feeling is that they can provide a much higher level of performance.
The Westmeath and Leinster champions include a lethal finisher in Dessie Dolan who could inflict serious damage on the Rangers if he is afforded time and space up front.
Dolan is also one of the most renowned free-takers in the country so the Rangers will transgress at their peril.
For the young guns in the Ulster champions’ line-up this will be a very special match but I have no doubt that they will be well able to meet the demands of the occasion.
Tradition, commitment and power are on Rangers’ side and I sincerely hope that come tea-time on Saturday we will be celebrating a memorable Croke Park Ulster double.
Wouldn’t that be something!