Week­end pre­views and team news

The Irish Times - Sports Weekend - - SPORTS - By Keith Dug­gan

Le­in­ster club SHC fi­nal Bally­bo­den St Enda’s (Dublin) vBal­ly­haleSham­rocks(Kilkenny)

(Net­watchCul­lenPark,2pm)

Sea­sons change. There is no clear­erproofo­fa­time’sre­lent­less marchthanthe­sightofHenry Sh­ef­flin, Kilkenny’s sun king, on the side­lin­easaman­ager.Pre­dictably, he hasn’t lost the win­ning touch. The 6-21his­team­posteda­gainst Wex­ford­cham­pi­onsNaomhÉanna seemed like an in­ter­nal re­sponse to Bal­ly­hale’s slack pe­riod in a county fi­nal­winoverBen­netts­bridge.Asa player,Sh­ef­flinwasthe­con­duitin chi­ef­forBri­anCody’sstyleof re­lent­less­ap­pli­ca­tion.It­makes sense­his­teamshould­abide­bythe same­trait.Bally­bo­den­have­taken up­the­ba­ton­forDublin­hurlin­gafter Cuala’sback-to-back­All-Ire­land ti­tles but this is just their se­cond Le­in­ster­fi­nalap­pear­ance­andthey haveyet­towinthecham­pi­onship. Bal­ly­hale­leadthe­honour­roll­with eight.TheKilken­ny­menare strongly tipped to add to that here. But­thi­sisatrick­ygame:Bally­bo­den’strippy5-28to5-25winover Coold­erry,thes­pec­tac­u­larprowess ofColmBasquelinthatgame­and thee­bul­lienthealthand­con­fi­dence within Dublin GAA means that the city team will fancy this. Limit Bal­ly­hale­toone­goa­landthey­have achance.But­the­more­likely out­come is Christ­mas train­ing ses­sions­downBal­ly­hale­way.

Ul­ster­clubSFC­fi­nal GhaothDob­hair(Done­gal) vS­cot­stown(Mon­aghan)

(HealyPark,Omagh,2pm)

A sig­na­ture day for both clubs. Scot­stown­have­been­thep­ickof Mon­aghan­forthe­last­three­sea­sons and­will­try­to­tap­in­totheir1980s’ pedi­greein­re­flect­ingth­eirsta­tusas favourites­for­this­game.Gwee­dore, mean­time,are­oldDone­gal­foot­ball roy­al­ty­buthaven­ev­er­wo­nanUl­ster clubti­tle:noex­ist­ingteam­fromthe county ever has. Few se­nior teams have­m­an­aged­to­getit­s­act­to­gether as­con­vinc­inglyasMervyn O’Don­nell’sside­hasthissea­son. They­have­huge­ex­pe­ri­en­ceinthe McGee­broth­er­sandKev­inCas­sidy, thriving­in­his­rein­ven­tionasaclas­sic full-for­ward­poacher,agemin OdhránMacNial­laisandafast, skil­ful­sup­port­cast­who­playan at­trac­tive­brand­of­foot­ball. Scot­stown also pre­fer an ex­pan­sive style.Soth­is­could­bea­nun­pre­dictable game. It took three frees – and an out­field­came­ofromAll-Star goal­keeper Rory Beg­gan – to guide theMon­aghan­cham­pi­onstothis stage.Keep­ingth­e­ball­awayfrom Mac­Nial­lais will be cen­tral to his kick-out­strat­egy.Themid­fielder­hit 0-8inthe­coun­ty­fi­na­land0-3from playa­gain­stCross­ma­glen­buthis fetchin­gand­in­flu­enceonopen­play were­onad­if­fer­ent­plane.Scot­stown’s will plan on lim­it­ing his in­flu­ence.Gwee­dore­may­lookto as­sign­man-mark­ingspe­cial­istNeil McGeeonConorMcCarthy.Nei­ther side have been par­tic­u­larly ef­fi­cient in­fin­ish­ing.TheDone­galcham­pi­ons have the look of a side on a mis­sion an­darea­good­bet­torec­ti­fythe county’s un­der­whelm­ing record in the­p­rovin­cial­com­pe­ti­tion.

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