This weekend’s GAA previews
All-Ireland U21HC semi-finals Derry v Kilkenny Semple Stadium, 4.0, Live TG4 Derry have had an historic season, picking up a first Ulster title at the grade since 2008 since when Antrim had won every year. Their victory in the province was marked by physical presence and cool heads, overcoming a bad start in the final against Down, having emphatically dethroned Antrim.
As is the county tradition there are a number of dual players, including representatives of the outstanding Slaughtneil club, which won both Ulster football and hurling titles at the end of last year. One of them, Cormac O’Doherty, hit 2-5 against Antrim, and showed well against Cuala in the All-Ireland semi-final last February. They nearly all have senior inter-county experience.
This however will be different. Kilkenny have the cohort that won the All-Ireland minor title three years ago. A couple of the players have played for Brian Cody this year, albeit not an extensive list, and Liam Blanchfield started last year’ s All-Ireland final.
Eddie Brennan’s team came through Leinster without too much anxiety although some of their shooting was poor against Dublin and they benefited from Wexford’s early red card in the provincial final although 0-30 is good scoring regardless.
They have been getting good returns from Richie Leahy, who also had a decent cameo against Waterford in the senior qualifiers, and Luke Scanlon, scoring star of last year’s intermediate All-Ireland win. Maybe tellingly both were missing against Dublin.
Verdict: Kilkenny Galway v Limerick, Semple Stadium, 4.0, Live TG4 As is frequently the case, the Munster champions have looked formidable plotting their way through the provincial battlefield and are hot favourites here. T
he counties met at minor three years ago and Limerick won well but a year later Galway were minor champions, six of whom start on Saturday evening.They have four seniors from the panel that contests next month’s All-Ireland, including Young Hurler of the Year favourite Conor Whelan as well as 2015 minor captain Seán Loftus, Jack Grealish, and Tom Monaghan, who along with Loftus came off the bench in the Leinster senior final against W ex ford.
Limerick’s displays in Munster saw them sweep aside Tipperary and Clare but dig in for a resilient win to deny Cork a clean sweep of elite titles in the province.
They are a well-balanced team with senior full forward Kyle Hayes nominally playing centre back but Cork dropped off, leaving him as a sweeper. It’s likely to be more orthodox today but Hayes won’t be discomfited by that. Of the other big names Cian Lynch’s industry continues to impress given his exceptional talent – attributes not always combined at under-age – and Aaron Gillane’s free taking and Peter Casey’s sniping give the attack menace.
Overall and despite the presence of the Galway seniors and the in-form Whelan in particular, Limerick are too well practised at this stage whereas the Connacht champions have the usual challenge of getting rapidly up to speed.
Verdict: Limerick All-Ireland senior camogie championships semi-finals Dublin v Kilkenny Gaelic Grounds, Limerick, 5.15, Live RTÉ 2 Dublin are making a first semi-final appearance since 1990 after an impressive quarter-final win over Wexford a fortnight ago. The Dubs are aiming to make a first final since 1986 and to lift the O’Duffy Cup for the first time since 1984.
Reigning All-Ireland champions Kilkenny were undefeated as they topped a strong group that included Clare, Dublin, Galway and Waterford and they came out on top when the two sides met in the group stage last month. The Cats are hoping to claim back-to-back titles for the first time since 1991 when they completed a famous seven-in-a-row.
Verdict: Kilkenny Cork v Galway Gaelic Grounds, Limerick, 7.0, Live RTÉ 2 Cork will be full of confidence after a hugely impressive group campaign. Apart from a scare against Offaly, Cork have looked very comfortable so far in this year’s championship and will be hoping they can reach their fourth consecutive All-Ireland final.
Galway won three of their four group games, with their only loss coming at the hands of reigning champions Kilkenny, and defeated Tipperary convincingly in the quarters to qualify for the last four.
Verdict: Cork All-Ireland Ladies SFC quarter-finals Galway v Cork Cusack Park, Mullingar, 12.30, Live TG4 Donegal v Mayo Cusack Park, 2.15pm, Live TG4.