The O’Driscoll brothers, Colm, Kevin and Brian, can help to make it two in-a-row for Tadhg Mac Cárthaigh. Colum’s will have to regroup after losing the hurling final to Dohenys last week, and will look to Cork’s Alan O’Connor as well as Gene McCarthy and Seán O’Shea.
Tadhg Mac Cárthaigh
John Horgan and Cillian and Darragh Brosnan will the men Dillon’s will look to for a first divisional title since 1999, while Aidan O’Shea and Chris Daly are names to note in the Barrs’ second team.
St Gall’s are aiming for a record-equalling seventh consecutive title, with CJ McGourty, Karl Stewart and Seán Kelly central to the cause. Erin’s Own were the last club apart from Gall’s to win the championship. Tony Scullion, Justin Crozier and Tomás and Michael McCann are big players for them.
Crosserlough are the surprise packet of this year’s championship, with Barry McKiernan and Paul McEvoy regularly among the scorers for them. They may find Ballinagh, with Niall McDermott in excellent form, a bridge too far, however.
Last year was the first time since 1999 that Cavan Gaels didn’t reach the final, with eight of their 12 final appearances from 2000-11 being won. The return of Seánie Johnston makes them stronger and Martin Dunne and Eamon Reilly are fine players too. Cian Mackey and Oisín O’Connell give Castlerahan impetus in attack.
Shay McCartan, Donal O’Hare and Eoin O’Hare are the main men for strong favourites Burren, but Danny Hughes and Niall Madine could help Saval to cause another shock.
Crokes – seeking a fourth county in-a-row – had nine points to spare against Rathmore in the club championship semi-final two weeks ago and they will again be strong favourites.
They are particularly eye-catching in an attack containing Colm Cooper, Daithí Casey, Kieran O’Leary, Jamie Doolan and Brian Looney. Aidan O’Mahony at midfield can help Rathmore, allowing George O’Keeffe, Eoin Lawlor and Michael O’Riordan to impose on the scoreboard.
Feale Rangers have performed exceptionally well this year in their march to the quarter-final, defeating last year’s beaten finalists Dingle along the way, despite being without their Finuge contingent. The champions of six years ago will be without the services of Brian Maguire who was red-carded in the third round win over Dingle, while Brendan Whelan is an injury concern. Conor Cox will lead the attack. St Brendan’s, who beat Legion last time out, are sweating over the fitness of David Culloty, but have welcomed Killian Fitzgerald and Kieran Hurley into their squad for the first time this year.
St Kieran’s will hope to continue to build on last year’s excellent championship run which saw them reach the semi-finals. The divisional side, who must do without the services of Cordal’s Philip O’Connor, will look to veterans Seamus Scanlon, Pádraig Reidy, and Eamonn John O’Donoghue. While the performances of Kieran Donaghy, Darragh Long, William Kirby, Daniel Bohan and Mikey Collins will be crucial for Crokes, up-and-coming stars such as Shane Carroll and Barry Shanahan must also be heavily involved.
Reigning champions Sarsfields are favourites to progress, with Alan Smith, Sean Dempsey and Declan McKenna in their ranks. Nass will rely on Conor Mellett, Eamonn Callaghan and Ross Bergin.
David Hyland and Darroch Mulhall can drive Athy to victory, but Moorefield, with Adam Tyrrell an essential component, will make things difficult for them.
Record winners Newtown go for a 20th title, Hugh McGinn and Andy McDonnell the dangermen in attack. Brian Donnelly and Conor Rafferty fulfil similar roles for Kickhams.
St Mary’s lost the 2010 and ’11 finals but Robbie Lowe, Brian O’Donnell and Alan Doherty can help them to claim a fifth title. Pádraig Tighe and Alan McLoughlin are important figures for Mohill.
Ger Collins, Graham O’Connell and Jason O’Brien can keep Monaleen on track for a third title in four years. Dermot Phelan, Gearóid Hegarty and John Mullane will lead the way for St Pat’s in their first semi in a quarter-century.
Despite Rathkenny winning when the sides met earlier this year, Summerhill have improved since then. Conor Gillespie, Barry Dardis and Adrian Kenny are running the show for them, but Eoin Elliott and Donal Curtis will ensure that Rathkenny are not outclassed.
Paul Finlay, Christopher McGuinness and Hugh Malone can ensure that reigning champions Ballybay make it back to the final. Shane Carey and Darren and Kieran Hughes carry the Scotstown fight.
Ballybay Pearse Brothers
Conor McManus and Vincent Corey make Clontibret a threatening proposition in attack. Neil McAdam and Conor Galligan will give the Harps a chance, though.
Thomas Deehan, Matthew Mitchell and Barry Cushen are likely to propel Clarea to victory. Record winners Tullamore have Paul McConway, hurler Shane Dooley and Michael Brazil.
Rhode will be fancied to repeat their league semi-final win of August, especially as Niall McNamee, Niall Darby and Glen O’Connell are playing so well. If Richie Dalton and Derek Kelly can maintain their good form, Edenderry will be in with a shout, however.
Nicky Mernagh and Tommy Gill are likely to be the difference for Rathnew, though Paddy Byrne could inspire St Mary’s to a surprise win.
Kevin Murphy and John McGrath have done well for Baltinglass throughout. Dean Siney, Jonathan Daniels and Curis Geraghty all featured as Blessington beat Hollywood in the quarter-finals.
All-Ireland intermediate champions Clara beat James Stephens in the league final two weeks ago and will look to continue their good season through the inspiration of Keith Hogan and Lester and Liam Ryan. Conor Fogarty is a key component in the Erin’s Own defence.
James Stephens were too reliant on Eoin Larkin in their league final loss, but Richie Hayes can also contribute and Jackie Tyrrell remains key at the back. Thomas Breen and James Dowling form an excellent midfield partnership for their Muckalee opponents.
Kilkenny players Richie Power and Michael Rice (if fit), as well as former county star JohnTennyson, give Carrickshock a strong look, and Brian Donovan has also been in good form. Shane Maher should provide a lot of Dicksboro’s scoring output.
Ballyhale regained the title after a two-year gap in 2013, but they must plan without Michael Fennelly here. As usual, Henry Shefflin and Colin Fennelly will figure heavily and Martin Bohan can also find the net. Brian Hogan, Mark Kelly and Martin Comerford lead the O’Loughlin Gaels charge.
A local derby as Camross, the record winners, look for a first win since 2007, Dwane Palmer and Zane Keenan firing their hopes. Kilcotton are without a title since 1929, and will hope for PJ Scully, Ciarán Comerford and Matthew Whelan can end that wait.
Outright favourites Loughmore-Castleiney finished strongly to see off Killenaule in the quarter-finals and Noel, Liam and John McGrath are likely to get on the scoresheet for the 2007 champions. Brendan Maher’s 12 points were vital as Borris-Ileigh saw off Éire Óg Annacarty. The likes of Paddy Stapleton and Dan McCormack will also be central if they are to spring a surprise.
A strong scoring spread helped Éire Óg past Drom & Inch in the quarter-finals and they will again need a collective effort from Mikey Heffernan, Paddy Murphy, Kevin Tucker and centre-back Hugh Moloney. Willie Connors and Ruairí Gleeson lead the Kildangan attack as they seek to reach the decider for the first time.
Éire Óg, Nenagh
Interestingly, all four semi-finalists competed in Group 2 of the round-robin stage. Passage’s only defeat was after qualification was assured, and they will rely on Eoin Kelly, Noel Connors and Owen Connors. Mount Sion laid the foundations for victory early on against Tallow, and Austin Gleeson and Stephen Roche will provide a lot of their scores.
Both of these teams had mixed fortunes in the group stages, with Abbeyside winning by 1-21 to 4-6 when the sides met in June. Patrick Hurney scored 2-2 in Abbeyside’s quarter-final win, and Mark Gorman’s free-taking is likely to be key.
Ballygunner beat champions De La Salle in the quarter-finals after extra-time, Pauric Mahony scoring 15 points out of 1-21. He is assisted by county team-mates in his brother Philip, Shane O’Sullivan, Wayne Hutchinson, Brian O’Sullivan and Stephen O’Keeffe.