Portlaoise bid to make their fourth Leinster final this decade but it’s 10 years since they last won the provincial crown and time has ticked on for a number of players. Éire Óg won’t fear the short trip to Portlaoise but they mightn’t have the forward power to truly hurt the hosts.
Kate Kenny is the player to watch out for in this one. She kicked 1-10 for Naomh Ciarán in their extra-time semi-final victory over Inch Rovers. Kenny is a dual player who last weekend helped St Rynagh’s score a comfortable win over Camross in the Leinster club intermediate camogie final. Kirsty McGuinness is the forward on the St Paul’s side who’ll require closest marshaling.
What a clash this should prove, two club teams absolutely spoilt for talent. On the Mourneabbey side, there are a multitude of All-Ireland senior medalists, an All-Ireland winning captain (Ciara O’Sullivan), three All-Star winners (Noelle Healy, and Ciara and Doireann O’Sullivan), and the 2017 ladies football player of the year (Healy). Kilkerrin-Clonberne have an All-Ireland winning captain of their own in Annette Clarke.
She, along with the Ward sisters, Louise and Nicola, are All-Star recipients, while Galway senior Olivia Divilly turned down the opportunity to kick ball in Australia for the next few months so to concentrate on club matters.
Mourneabbey came out on top when these teams met in the 2015 and 2018 All-Ireland semi-finals. Third time lucky for the Galway women?
There shouldn’t be much between this pair but Carrick Davins will be battle-hardened having seen off Arravale Rovers in a classic recently.
As expected, Na Gaeil had far too much for Kilshannig last weekend and Michael Cusacks aren’t likely to do much better against the Tralee men.
Croom had to slug it out to see off Ballyduff Lower last weekend. Extra-time may be required but the visitors have the momentum.
If fancied Ballygunner do go down on Sunday it won’t be because of complacency, insists Shane O’Sullivan. No matter how much they are expected to win, they are approaching the game differently.
“When you think of that, that’s from the bookmakers’ point of view,” he says of their 2/9 status. “If you are to take the educated hurler’s point of view or to look at both teams, you wouldn’t think that.
So you can break it down to facts and ask, ‘right, what about Borris Ileigh, what are they bringing?’ Well they are bringing All-Ireland senior winners, they have an All-Ireland senior winner in every line on the field.
“Go through it, full back Paddy Stapleton, centre back Brendan Maher, midfield Dan McCormack, half forward line Conor Kenny, full forward line young Devaney. They are absolutely fantastic hurlers. We know this.”
O’Sullivan may move to wing-back again on Sunday to try and curb Borris-Ileigh’s aerial threat on their puck-outs. Kenny is a master in that realm and both O’Sullivan, Barry Coughlan and Philip Mahony could have the most important roles negating in-form pair Kenny and Jerry Kelly.
With Dan McCormack possibly helping out Kenny and Kelly, how that line fares will go a long way to deciding whether Ballygunner pull away with ease or are made fight for a second successive provincial title. In attack, they have executioners but then Borris-Ileigh have shrewd men in Paddy Stapleton and Brendan Maher.
Stapleton could be given the job of trying to handle Dessie Hutchinson although the likes of Peter Hogan will have to be monitored closely too. Maher and Pauric Mahony look set to lock horns but it will be key for Borris-Ileigh that Maher isn’t too occupied with marking so that he is able to spray quality ball forward into the likes of exciting prospect James Devaney.
The chances are though that the Borris-Ileigh defence, so good up to now, will be presented with too much to do to be creative. Ballygunner to march on with four or five points to spare.
As Niall Daly said during the week, Pádraig Pearses have to make Corofin doubt themselves and Pat Flanagan will have his charges convinced they can pull off a shock providing they keep their football high energy from the outset. The fear for them, though, is that Corofin have already had their almost obligatory shock and survived it in Galway before seeing off a dogged Ballintubber. Hard to see the champions slipping up.
There is still plenty of life in some of the old dogs in Garrycastle yet Ballyboden have men too who are long in the tooth and still delivering. If it turns out to be low scoring then Ballyboden have the men for it but in a shoot-out the Basquels will thrive. Garrycastle must deliver an incredible performance to win.
Ballyboden St Enda’s.
So much talent on the Ballysaggart side with the Bennett brothers but Stephen’s fitness is questionable and the feelgood factor from Imokilly’s senior title and two good wins for the club against Blackrock and Broadford have Fr O’Neill’s in good fettle. Declan Dalton is playing some beautiful stuff and he will be difficult to handle.
Mayo outfit McHale Rovers are an amalgamation of Crossmolina, Lahardane, and Ardagh. Their main threat is recent All-Star winner Rachel Kearns, the Mayo full-forward kicking 1-9 during their All-Ireland semi-final victory over Edendork. Kearns will be picked up by the highly capable Aisling Barrett, a veteran of numerous campaigns with Cork.
Donoughmore tallied 3-13 in their semi-final. That total was supplied by just three players - Rena Buckley, Aileen Buckley, and Claudia Keane - and only one of whom was operating as a forward. They will need others to step up to the scoring plate on Sunday.