AIB GAA Club Championship Previews and Fixtures
BY SHANE STAPLETON
The Munster hurling semi-finals look a delightful prospect this weekend. Tony Kelly of Ballyea against Pauric Mahony of Ballygunner — two of the prime shooters in the game. Both the Clare and Waterford champions have won the province once apiece — in 2016 and 2001 respectively — and the Deise side will be fancied. Fergal Hartley has a powerful, athletic team that play smart ball into the forward line. JJ Hutchinson, Philip Mahony, Shane O’Sullivan and Pauric Mahony should just give them the edge.
Meanwhile, Na Piarsaigh of Limerick won their fifth county title ever in what is their 50th year in existence. They beat Doon by nine points at the Gaelic Grounds, continuing on what has been a hectic couple of seasons. The likes of Peter and Mike Casey, Shane Dowling, and William O’Donoghue have been juggling county duties with the All-Ireland champions along with club duties which ran all the way to March 24 this past season — highlighting both their consistency and hunger levels. A haul of 1-2 from Adrian Breen — brother of former county captain, David, who is unavailable this season — helped the Caherdavin side to the win. They’ll be expected to beat a Clonoulty-Rossmore side led by Timmy Hammersley and John O’Keeffe — two former Tipperary panelists. All the experience and more of the county-level class is with the Limerick side. Incredibly, just one Tipp side (Thurles Sarsfields in 2012) have won Munster since 2007.
They say that just 10% of the population are left-handed, meaning Bennettsbridge are bucking the trend in that department. Seven of their 15 starters against Ballyhale Shamrocks in the Kilkenny county final on Sunday could be described as such: they wore shirts numbered five, eight, nine, ten, 12, 14 and 15, and yet their combined efforts couldn’t match those of the citóg king, TJ Reid.
The 2015 Hurler of the Year hit 1-10 (0-8f) but, surprisingly, had come into the game carrying erratic form. Reid scored just a point from three penalties against Dicksboro in the quarter-final, before being taken off the placed balls in the semi-final win over Erin’s Own. Yet on the big day when the pipe band was rolled out, the centre-forward was again in imperious form. He had a free scored within 40 seconds, and a goal netted just a couple of minutes later.
It was a first senior final in 44 years for the Bridge, which is quite incredible considering they were a junior side just four seasons ago. Three and a half years ago, Henry Shefflin was part of a team winning an AIB club All-Ireland with Ballyhale, and as manager he will now lead them back into Leinster for the first time since.
They’ll have to wait until November 18 to see whether they’ll play against Camross of Laois or Wexford’s Naomh Eanna — though you’d suspect the class of Cathal Dunbar and Conor McDonald will help the Model County side prevail this weekend.
Speaking of Kilkenny legends, two erstwhile stars collided in the intermediate final at Nowlan Park on Sunday. Eddie Brennan’s Graigue-Ballycallan — who were pipped after extra-time by Athenry in the 2001 All-Ireland club final — came up against Tommy Walsh’s Tullaroan, with Fast Eddie’s side coming out on top. Graigue-Ballycallan have Declan Browne, the Tipperary footballing legend, as part of their coaching set-up, and the two-time All-Star had a manic day. He rushed from Kilkenny to Thurles to see his native club Moyle Rovers beat Ardfinnan to win the Tipperary SFC for the first time in nine years — when Browne himself scored two goals against Aherlow in 2009. One of the players he watched run amok at Semple Stadium was Peter Acheson, the 2016 All-Star nominee from the Premier County. He hasn’t been since in the blue and gold for a couple of seasons, not since moving to Dubai — and yet his commitment to his club means he used up all his working holidays in the past month going home three times to wear the blue shirt.
Dingle have now gone 70 years without a senior Kingdom championship after Dr Croke’s edged their contest by 1-15 to 0-12. The latter, who won the AIB All-Ireland title in 2017, are now top of the Kerry honours list with 13 titles. There had been rumours that Geelong star Mark O’Connor would feature in the game, having lined out in Dingle’s quarter-final win over Austin Stacks. The AFL club informed the 2015 All-Ireland minor winning captain that he was not permitted to do so, and so O’Connor could no play any part against Fionn Fitzgerald, Daithi Casey, Colm Cooper and Co.
It’s those stellar names that the Tipp champions will hope to shackle this weekend, though few will fancy them to do so. Moyle Rovers have made two provincial finals (1995, ‘98) but have never lifted the cup. Clonmel Commercials are the only Premier side to ever do so in 2015 and, if a few balls had broken differently, perhaps Clonmel might have won that All-Ireland.
Instead, the team do so in 2015/16 came from the capital: Ballyboden St Enda’s. Colm Basquel played a huge role in scoring 1-1 for his side in that AIB All-Ireland club final against Castlebar in 2016 — and he came on to score an insurance point as ‘Boden beat Kilmacud Crokes in the Dublin hurling final replay this past weekend.
It was their first SHC title in five years, though the Stillorgan side weren't helped by losing to injury three players they adopted in recent years: Marc Howard, Niall Corcoran and Ryan O'Dwyer. Conal Keaney and Gary Maguire are among those to have now collected seven county hurling medals for ‘Boden, and they will hope for maiden Leinster glory this year, beginning against Clonkill of Westmeath. Stopping former Lake County star Brendan Murtagh will be a central focus of manager Joe Fortune.
Corofin were looking to complete a Galway SFC six-in-a-row but came up against a Mountbellew-Moylough side playing a tidy drop-deep-and-break gameplan designed by manager Michael Donnellan. His side won a free in the 63rd minute to go a point ahead — 0-7 to 0-6 — but Michael Lundy levelled soon after. The challengers will now get a second shot at winning a first Galway title since 1986.
You have to go back in time even further for St. Finbarr’s most recent county title, which was in 1985. They had lost eight successive finals since — 1986, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1993, 2009, 2010 and 2017 — but finally got there on Sunday by beating Duhallow by 3-14 to 2-14 at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. They are managed by Ray Keane, brother of new Kerry boss Peter, and will next face the winners of Dr Croke’s and Moyle Rovers on November 11.
Tourlestrane, who are jointly managed by Eamonn O’Hara and Gerry McGowan, will get their Connacht championship underway against Ballintubber this weekend. The Mayo champions will be favourites due to the O’Connor brothers: Cillian and Diarmuid.
Meanwhile, Roscommon side Clann na Gael — for whom Donal Shine and Ciarán Lennon are in great form — will expect to beat Tir Chonaill Gaels of London.
Thomas O’Gorman might have been named man of the match but Waterford hurlers of past and present — Jamie Barron, Conor Gleeson and Shane Walsh — helped The Nire to a ninth county football title after beating Kilrossanty. The latter's wait for a Deise crown will now go into a 30th year. Adare of Limerick will host The Nire this Sunday, after recently retaining the Limerick football title with a very hard-earned win over Ballylanders in Newcastle West.
There will be new Ulster SHC championship after Slaughtneil were dumped out of the province by Ballycran. The Down side will go in as heavy underdogs against Antrim champions Cushendall, who will be led by county star Neil McManus.
Kilkenny star Shelly Farrell scored the only goal as Thomastown beat Dublin champions St Jude’s by 1-14 to 0-5 in the Leinster camogie club championship at the weekend. The Marble County side were beaten in the AIB All-Ireland club final last season, and clearly have designs on going one better. Next up for them are Wexford champions St Martin’s.
There was a shock in Munster as Tipperary representatives Burgess/Duharra, winners of the past two provincial crowns, fell to Inagh/Kilnamona of Clare by 1-12 to 0-12. Aoibhin Ryan scored the crucial goal before half-time to set up the win, and an appearance in a second successive final. There they will meet Inniscarra of Cork who beat Limerick champions Ahane 1-15 to 1-8 in their semi-final.
Niamh McGrath, one of four sisters on the team, scored the only goal as Sarsfields saw off Mullagh by a point in the Galway camogie semi-final on bank holiday Monday, and Ardrahan will meet them in the final after overcoming St Thomas’ by 1-8 to 0-8 — Brenda Kerins scoring the late, decisive goal.
Saturday 3 November
Ulster club SFC quarter-final: Crossmaglen (Armagh) v Coalisland (Tyrone), Athletic Grounds, 7pm
Sunday 4 November
Connacht club SFC quarter-final: Clann na Gael (Roscommon) v Tir Chonaill Gaels (London), Dr Hyde Park, 1pm
Connacht club SFC quarter-final: Tourlestrane (Sligo) v Ballintubber (Mayo), Enniscrone, 2pm
Munster club SFC quarter-final: Adare (Limerick) v The Nire (Waterford), Gaelic Grounds, 3.30pm
Munster club SFC quarter-final: Moyle Rovers (Tipperary) v Dr Crokes (Kerry), TBC
Ulster club SFC quarter-final: Cargin (Antrim) v Gweedore (Donegal), Corrigan Park, 2.30pm
Ulster club SFC quarter-final: Castlerahan (Cavan) v Coleraine (Derry), Kingscourt, 2.30pm
Ulster club SFC quarter-final: Burren (Down) v Scotstown (Monaghan), Pairc Esler, 2.30pm
Galway SFC final replay: Corofin v Mountbellew-Moylough, Pearse Stadium, TBC
Leinster club SHC quarter-final: Coolderry (Offaly) v Mount Leinster Rangers (Carlow), O'Connor Park, 1.30pm
Leinster club SHC quarter-final: Ballyboden St Endas (Dublin) v Clonkill (Westmeath), Parnell Park, 2pm
Leinster club SHC quarter-final: Camross (Laois) v Naomh Eanna (Wexford), O'Moore Park, 2pm
Munster club SHC semi-final: Na Piarsaigh (Limerick) v Clonoulty-Rossmore (Tipperary), Gaelic Grounds, 1pm
Munster club SHC semi-final: Ballygunner (Waterford) v Ballyea (Clare), Walsh Park, 1.30pm
Monday 29 October
Dublin SFC final: Kilmacud Crokes 2-12 St Judes 0-13
Sunday 28 October
Leinster club SFC first round: Dunboyne (Meath) 1-12 Shelmaliers (Wexford) 1-2
Leinster club SFC first round: Moorefield (Kildare) 2-9 Mullingar Shamrocks (Westmeath) 1-6
Leinster club SFC first round: Rhode (Offaly) 2-16 St Patrick’s (Wicklow) 1-9
Clare SFC final: Miltown-Malbay 0-14 Ennistymon 0-8
Cork SFC final: St Finbarr’s 3-14 Duhallow 2-14
Galway SFC final: Corofin 0-7 Mountbellew-Moylough 0-7
London SFC final replay: Tir Chonaill Gaels 0-15 Fulham Irish 0-13
Tipperary SFC final: Moyle Rovers 1-15 Ardfinnan 1-7
Waterford SFC final: The Nire 0-9 Kilrossanty 0-7
Munster club SHC quarter-final: Ballygunner (Waterford) 1-18 Midleton (Cork) 2-13
Ulster club SHC semi-final: Ballycran (Down) 4-15 Slaughtneil (Derry) 1-14
Antrim SHC final: Cushendall 2-12 Loughgiel 0-15
Dublin SHC final replay: Ballyboden St Enda’s 2-15 Kilmacud Croke’s 1-15
Kilkenny SHC final: Ballyhale Shamrocks 2-20 Bennettsbridge 2-17
Munster Camogie semi-final: Inniscarra 1-15 Ahane 1-8
Munster Camogie semi-final: Inagh/Kilnamona 1-12 Burgess/Duharra 0-12
Leinster Camogie semi-final: Thomastown 1-14 St Jude’s 0-5
Galway Camogie semi-final: Sarsfields 1-11 Mullagh 1-10
Galway Camogie semi-final: Ardrahan 1-8 St Thomas’ 0-8