previews the weekend's GAA fixtures.
It’s Tommy Walsh’s brother Pádraig and second cousin and namesake who have been guiding Tullaroan steadily thus far but don’t be surprised if the wily Kilkenny legend makes a sizeable contribution here. Seir Kieran are doughty but Tullaroan to enjoy home comforts.
These competitions have been the playground of Kilkenny teams and they should be again here as the club of former GAA president Nickey Brennan continue their winning ways.
It’s heartening to see a great footballer like Tommy Freeman continuing to lead the line for his club but he will need to be so good on Saturday to help Magheracloone shock the Tyrone men.
So acute, so exacting was Michael Quinlivan’s goal in the history of Nemo Rangers, and obviously Clonmel Commercials, that Nemo can’t let this go down to the wire. Not because they wouldn’t be able to see Clonmel off at the second time of asking but the dreaded sense of déjà vu could prove debilitating.
Other than doing to Clonmel what they did to them four years ago, there would be nothing sweeter for Nemo than to have this game won long before the final whistle. But are Nemo as strong as they were when Quinlivan did what he did?
The Austin Stacks game aside, the second half of the county final and the difficulties they had against Newcastlewest suggest they aren’t. Okay, they could have had a second goal in the closing stages but the Limerick men were dismissed before throw-in largely on how assured Nemo were for the majority of the Cork championship.
There are several including this writer who wonder if the swagger the Trabeg men have traditionally brought to games was knocked out of them in March last year when Corofin obliterated them. In the months that followed, they were pale versions of themselves and while it is a testament to them that they returned to winning ways in the county they still have to do plenty of convincing that they have recovered from that St Patrick’s Day massacre.
Clonmel will ask much of them not just in the football stakes but the physical ones too and if there is any let-up in Nemo’s attitude the chances are it will be reflected on the scoreboard. The electricity of Kevin O’Donovan and others might not be so visible on the first day of December as it would have been earlier in the campaign.
Quinlivan may not be coming off a great season but there are few better big game players and the thought of being match-winner will excite him. If Luke Connolly is close to the sport’s most mercurial talent Quinlivan is nigh on the classiest.
Connolly has the ability to dismantle Commercials as he did Dr Crokes two years ago and there have been fewer more personal games for Nemo than this one. Pride, so usually unreliable, can be their shining light on this occasion.
St Mullins needn’t turn up if you are believe some people but at least they have been through a few battles along the way. Things have come easier than expected for Ballyhale Shamrocks this last while and they haven’t been pushed.
If St Mullins make things difficult from the outset some doubt might creep into the Ballyhale game. However, throughout the Ballyhale team there are men of composure and even if TJ Reid is targetted, he will either soak up enough pressure to free up team-mates or still be able to act as playmaker. St Mullins have some fine shooters but it’s in defence where they will ultimately be found wanting.
Do the proverbial or get off the pot day for Kilcoo who feature in their third final since 2012 and are still seeking a first provincial title. Naomh Conaill’s only Ulster decider appearance came and went in 2010 when Crossmaglen were five points too good for them.
A lack of experience shouldn’t hurt either team as there is plenty of it in both camps but it’s the Donegal men who have been tested more in getting to this showdown. For it all to fall apart on them now would be scarring.
Kilcoo will be desperate to finally translate their county dominance into an Ulster honour but may find they don’t have the steeliness required in the closing stages.
St Breckans themselves have been nothing less than convincing in their Munster campaign thus far but you couldn’t blame them for gulping at the size of the victories Templenoe have notched since coming out of Kerry. They toyed with St Saviours and Éire Óg could hardly lay a glove on them so St Breckans will need something monumental to deny Templenoe.