Saturday, 28 March 2015

Championship watch

Looking back

Game of the weekend: Easy to pick this one…again. Cork and Waterford hurlers can’t help themslves. The replay was another cracking game settled by two great Dan Shanahan goals. He is fast becoming of the legends of the game. Waterford stuck to their game plan and they wore down a great Cork team in the end. A mention too here for Meath/Tyrone in the football. Meath have turned back the clock with a catch and kick style that will be hard to defend against in the semi-final (or the final!)

Player(s) of the weekend: Again there are  players here who were featured here before. Dan Shanahan was again phenomenal as were Seamus Molumphy, the majestic Ken McGrath and Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh. Jerry and Ben O’Connor, Sean Og and Kieran Murphy were outstanding for Cork. Tommy Walsh and King Henry did it (again) for Kilkenny while in football Stephen Bray is fast becoming the frontrunner for the footballer of the year award. He was brilliant against Tyrone.

Talking point: Sligo were so very poor against Cork in Saturday’s first quarter-final. They never got in a real serious blow and it begs the question about the quality of the 2007 Connacht SFC. I am not taking away from Sligo’s win but they were well beaten by a Cork team playing only in second gear. It was also déjà vu for Wexford who huffed and puffed away but were hammered by classy Kilkenny again.

Something to note: After all the giving out about the Tommy Murphy Cup there was a very exciting if error-ridden final in Croke Park last weekend between Wicklow and Antrim. The delight of the Wicklow players was only matched by the devastation on the faces of the beaten Antrim players. It’s my humble opinion that the football  qualifiers have been much better this year and the Tommy Murphy Cup has been a success too.

Looking forward

Bank of Ireland All-Ireland SFC quarter-finals: Dublin v Derry (at Croke Park on Saturday at 3 pm)

This has the makings of a great game. Dublin are the hot favourites to win but they will take Derry lightly at their peril. Pady Bradley is the Dery star but they have other strings to their bow too. Enda Muldoon, Fergal Doherty and Sean ‘Marty’ Lockhart are as good a players as are around and they would get on any county team in the country. I dismissed Dublin’s chances of All-Ireland glory early in the year but I have revised my opinion as the year has gone on because I think that it will take a very, very strong team to beat them. On the basis that I think that Dublin will edge the battle in the physical stakes I pick  them to win narrowly. Surely they won’t be taking Derry for granted the way they did with Mayo last year, will they? Prediction: Dublin. 

Kerry v Monaghan (at Croke Park on Sunday at 2 pm)

Kerry have to be the hot favourites to win this game but I am still not convinced by them. I like what I have seen from this Monaghan team so far this summer. They are an exciting and excellently coached team. I firmly believe that Monaghan will give Kerry the fright of their lives in this game but I cannot bring myself to predict a shock, given Kerry’s record and tradition. I’m really looking forward to this game.It will be tight. 

Prediction: Kerry. 

Guinness All-Ireland SHC semi-final

Limerick v Waterford (in Croke Park on Sunday at 4 pm)

Boy is this a banana skin waiting for Waterford. Everyone’s favourite team (unless you are from Limerick or Kilkenny) will be expected to win this one easily after the epic battles against Cork, but that’s a great way for Limerick to be preparing for this game. They are waiting patiently in the long grass. Waterford have the ability to win it fairly comfortably but the big question is can they raise their game again? It would be a disaster after all that has happened were they to lose here but it could happen if they are not fully tuned in. I have nothing whatsoever against this emerging Limerick team but I sincerely hope that Waterford win it and set up a final against Kilkenny. I think they will. 

Prediction: Waterford. 

Nicky Rackard Cup final

Roscommon v Armagh (in Croke Park on Saturday at 1.15 pm)

Previewed extensively elsewhere in this paper. A big day for the hurlers of Roscommon and Armagh. Let’s hoe that Roscommon can cap a good year by winning the title. 

Prediction: Roscommon.