ULSTER champion Conor McGuigan will be favoured to regain the All-Ireland Intermediate title when he takes on Paddy O’Donoghue on the Markethill Road, Armagh on Sunday.
McGuigan, who beat Anthony Gould in the 2001 final, looked back to his best in his win over Martin Toal last weekend.
He did everything right in that score, easily defeating last year’s Ulster champion, who had not lost a previous score in the 2010 campaign. He also has the benefit of a searching test over Sunday’s course.
O’Donoghue comes into the score with little hype, as his Munster win was more workmanlike than spectacular.
Not having the normal burden of expectation that accompanies Munster champions may work in his favour. However he has been at, or near, the top in the intermediate grade for a long period.
Five other All-Ireland titles will be decided over the weekend. The Junior A final will be the main event tomorrow, with the women’s senior final playing under-card to the intermediate final on Sunday.
In the Junior A final, Fergal Donnelly will be hoping to repeat his gutsy Ulster final win over Thomas Mackle, and beat another exciting young talent Killian Kingston. He won an extraordinary provincial decider, surviving two call on his first tip and another on his last. That experience should strengthen his resolve this weekend.
Kingston is a burgeoning talent. He contested both the Munster U18 and Junior A finals this year, becoming the first player to achieve that feat. He is bowling at senior standard and showed a lot of character in his Munster final win over Brian Wilmot. He will have to be at his best to beat Donnelly, who has the experience and talent to swoop if Kingston gives him an opening.
The senior women’s final is a clash between two former champions Carmel Ryan and Kelly Mallon. Ryan’s form dipped after her 2006 win in Armagh, due to injuries. She is back to her best this year, and is focused on taking her second senior title. She gave a powerful performance in her Munster final win over Juliet Murphy, so her confidence will be high for Sunday’s clash.
Mallon won the senior title in 2007, the same year she also won the U18 All-Ireland and the Queen of the Roads. She has been locked in a massive rivalry with Dervla Toal-Mallon in the Ulster championship since then, so she will be anxious to make this All-Ireland appearance count.
The boys U14 final between Colm Rafferty and Damien O’Gorman opens the series on Saturday and should be a cracker. Rafferty was a very impressive winner over Ryan Kinchin in the Ulster final and has home advantage. He also has the experience of contesting two previous All-Irelands.
He won the 2008 U12 final against Sean O’Leary, having lost the previous year to John O’Sullivan. O’Gorman has good credentials too as he proved by comprehensively beating last year’s All-Ireland U12 champion Shane Shannon in the Munster final.
The Girls U18 final between Eibhlís Murray and Carly Grimley is a repeat of the 2008 U16 final, which Murray won comprehensively at Skibbereen. Grimley contested both the U16 and U18 All-Ireland finals last year losing to Aileen Murphy in the U18 final, but easily beating Laura Creedon over Saturday’s course in the U16 showdown.
Meanwhile, David Devlin and Evan Murphy play in the U12 final.
All-Ireland finals, (Markethill Road, Armagh): Boys U14: Colm Rafferty v Damien O’Gorman. Back Girls U18: Carly Grimley v Eibhlís Murray; Junior A Men: Fergal Donnelly v Killian Kingston; Sunday, August 1, (from 11am) Senior Women: Kelly Mallon v Carmel Ryan; Boys U12: David Devlin v Evan Murphy; Intermediate Men: Conor McGuigan v Paddy O’Donoghue.
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