This week­end’s GAA pre­views

The Irish Times - Sports Weekend - - GAELICGAMES CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -

TO­DAY

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.

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