Weekend Club talking points
BY SHANE STAPLETON
There's another huge weekend of club action on the way. Neighbours, family connections, and even brothers on opposing sides. Plenty of titles on the line too.
Leitrim SFC final
Glencar-Manorhamilton v Mohill, Pairc Sean MacDiarmada, Sunday, 3.30pm
A repeat of the 2015 decider which went to a replay where the Fág a’ Bealach Mohill men emerged victorious for their first title since 2006 on a scoreline of 1-4 to 0-6. This finished in the most dramatic of circumstances as in the last seconds of injury time Ronan Kennedy fired to the back of the net to land Mohill their first title since 2006. Glencar-Manorhamilton had been the standard bearers in Leitrim football in the mid-2000s with a four-in-a-row from 2008 to 2011 but this dominance has waned somewhat in recent years. However, they are still a force to be reckoned with and this one could go right to the wire. Managed by Longford legend Padraic Davis, it is felt that Mohill look best placed to claim their seventh title in their history.
Longford SFC final
Abbeylara v Mullinalaghta, Glennon Bros Pearse Park, Sunday, 4pm
There is an intense rivalry between these two clubs. This despite the fact that they are amalgamated together at minor level to form Northern Gaels, whose dominance at underage has led to Abbey and Mullinalaghta being to the forefront of Longford football. Mullinalaghta’s better balance all around the field should see them completing back-to-back titles for the first time in their history as Abbeylara may be overly dependent on county scoring machine Robbie Smyth. It’s a repeat of last year’s final where the St Columba’s men triumphed for their first title in 66 years. Mullinlaghta have been skating on thin ice lately though, needing replays to overcome Killoe in the quarter-final and Clonguish in the semis. A James McGivney wondergoal in injury time drew the match with Killoe when it looked like Mullinalaghta would relinquish their title — but they have not looked back since. Abbeylara are in their third final in a row, and are hoping to avoid a hat-trick of defeats. They have a set of four brothers on the team: Colm, Cormac, Barry and Brian Smyth — though they are no relation to sharpshooter Robbie. Mullinalaghta are in the same boat with the McElligotts: Donal, Ruairi, Conor and Aiden.
St Vincent’s v Craobh Chiarain, Dublin SHC quarter-final, Sunday, 4pm
A battle of two great clubs on the northside. What marks this game out from any other Dublin quarter-final this weekend is that two brothers will be on opposing sides: John for St Vincent’s and Kevin for Craobh. Both are sons of Ciaran ‘Hedgo’ Hetherton, a Craobh legend and former Dublin selector under Anthony Daly. In the ‘Dalo’ autobiography, this unique sibling situation is explained: “Before [Hedgo] and Patsy [his wife] got married, there was a prenuptial agreement. Hedgo is a diehard Craobh man but Patsy is an even more fanatical Vincents woman, if you can picture that level of fanaticism. So it was decided that their first-born — whether a boy or a girl — would play with Vincent's and the rest of the family could play with Craobh.” A memorable day for the family and the clubs to come.
Roscommon SHC final
Four Roads v Padraig Pearses, Sunday
Padraig Kelly is a notable dual player for 33-times champions Four Roads, he plays wing-forward for St Brigid’s and centre-back for his hurling club. Indeed, he has won county titles at both codes. Their most famous supporter is Matthew Macklin — the Birmingham-born Irish boxer — whose father Seamus hails from Four Roads. Padraig Pearses won the crown in 1984 and 1987 but have lost eight finals since, six of which were against their opposition this coming weekend. Pearses are managed by Mike Malone from Cappataggle in Co Galway, who has a strong link to the club as he married the sister of joint-captain, Mike Donoghue — Caroline. Four Roads won by four points when the sides met in the group stages but Pearses will be looking to Daniel Glynn — their talented teenager — to fire them to glory.
Tipperary SHC final
Borris-Ileigh v Thurles Sarsfields, Semple Stadium, Sunday, 3:30pm
The crossovers between two clubs separated by just eight miles are many. Eight All-Ireland-winning captains for Tipperary between them: from Jim Stapleton in 1887 being the first of eight for Sars, to Brendan Maher becoming the fourth Borris man to do so in 2016. Two Borris cousins — Paddy and Fr Vincent Stapleton — work either side of the Sarsfields clubhouse which is attached to Semple Stadium: Paddy as a teacher at Colaiste Mhuire, and Vinny as a priest at Bohernanave Church. Paudie and Ronan Maher are the rocks on which the Thurles defence is built upon, while Lar Corbett still has the magic to decide this final. Manager Johnny Kelly has won three club All-Irelands with Portumna, and his influence with Borris in year one has been remarkable — winning a north title, qualifying for a first county final in 29 years, and with a league final to come. Paddy McCormack is looking to secure a four-in-a-row with free-scoring Sars, who have county icon Eoin Kelly in their backroom team — the Mullinahone man, another All-Ireland winning captain in 2010, did his cruciate late last year. Ex-Tipp forward and current selector county under Michael Ryan, Conor Stakelum, scored a point for Borris when they won the All-Ireland club title in 1987 (the last Tipp side to do so) but his son Conor will line out for Sars. As a measure of the blurred lines and family ties, you can see the colours of both flags flying above the Stakelum Hardware store beside the railway station in Thurles. Huge figures from both clubs have passed away in the last year. It will be a day shy of a year since Mick ’Rattler’ Byrne left us, the morning when Sars completed a county three-in-a-row win victory over Kiladangan. In August, Borris-Ileigh legend Liam Devaney, who was named Caltex Hurler of the Year in 1961, died after a short illness. No doubt both parishes will be thinking of these two greats on the day.
Ulster club SHC semi-finals
Slaughtneil (Derry) v Dunloy (Antrim), Owenbeg, Sunday, 2.30pm
To many people’s minds, this is the de facto Ulster final. Derry are the reigning provincial champions after winning it for the first time in 2016, and have retained a group that has now four a four-in-a-row of football-hurling doubles in their county. A truly incredible haul. They are still managed by Micky McShane, a Ballycastle native who will be deeply familiar with Dunloy. The Saffron county side’s three young lads up front — Conal Cunning, Keelan Molloy and Eoghan O'Neill — are all just out of minor and have lightning pace. From the outside looking in, it feels as though we’re set for a clash between Chrissy McKaigue and Paul ‘Shorty’ Shiels around the middle but Dunloy may instead give a marking job to youngster Ciaran Elliot (son of legendary corner forward Alistair). The final will take place in Owenbeg, effectively granting home advantage to the Derry side — though the unseasonable state of the surface won’t suit the slick hurling of either team. A tough one to call.
Ballygalget (Down) v Lisbellaw (Fermanagh), TBC, Sunday, 2.30pm
Everything suggests that Ballygalget will beat Lisbellaw comfortably. John and Peter McManus are two excellent young players for the Down champions, while Danny Toner and Gareth ‘Magic’ Johnson are the prime score-getters. Armagh champions Middletown would likely be much stronger than any Fermanagh team but they have chosen to play intermediate to have a rattle at the All Ireland.