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Preview: Four must become two but the question is who?

Kevin Regan
September 20, 2023

We’re down to the final 4 in the Football Championships and after last weeks absolute horror show in terms of predictions, we’ve dusted ourselves down and we’re ready to put the neck on the chopping block once more!

We begin with Friday night and the Junior A Football Semi Finals at NCP.

And what a way to kick off the weekends action.

Fighting Cocks Vs Ballon is as tasty a local derby as you will get.

It’s not suggesting anything untoward, but merely that a tough, hard, fair and physical contest is to be expected, but one thing that shouldn’t go unmentioned is the quantity of top quality players both sides have.

In many respects you’d feel that whoever gets more of a handle on Alan Quigley/Liam Brennan may go a long way towards winning this one.

Both players are in great form, both have excellent left boots on them and both will punish any indiscretions.

Ballon really impressed this writer last week. Fighting Cocks likewise a few weeks back.

Not an easy one by any means to call, but the astute Pat Nolan will have his homework done on Tony Bolger/Maurice Browne’s charges and might just outfox them here. 

Verdict: Ballon

Directly afterwards at 8:30pm St Mullins take on Palatine.

Pal are a bit of an unknown quantity to this writer, but topped the group and hammered St Mullins in that group.

St Mullins had an impressive win over pre championship favourites Leighlinbridge last time out and surely will be boosted massively by that. Possibly enough to see them through also.

Verdict: St Mullins

We will have full commentary of both these semi finals on Twitter and Facebook Friday Night.

On Saturday attention turns to the Intermediate Semi Finals.

3:45pm is the start time for Eire Og v St Patrick’s.

Eire Og went straight through to the semi finals and seem to have a nice balance to their side.

Dean Hayden offers experience to the side, while young guns like Ronan Quinlan have been key to  their journey to the semis.

St Patrick’s have shown championship winning form on more than one occasion this year so far.

Even when they were off colour versus Clonmore they still showed elements of class.

I think the Tullow side will have enough here.

Verdict: St Patrick’s 

At 5:30pm then Clonmore and Grange meet for the second time in the Championship this year.

The previous meeting saw Clonmore hold on for a win in a mad contest which at times looked like it could go either way, especially late on.

Grange have been competitive in every game so far and that battle with Ballinabranna last weekend has to give them a massive confidence boost going into this.

Clonmore have had the benefit of a week off having seen off St Patrick’s and really looked good in that tie.

This contest will offer thrills and spills, there’s no question about that. 

John Murphy has been Grange’s main man for years but they’re by no means a one man band. 

Alan Fleming, Shane Cormican and Paddy Hickey all offer scoring capabilities and they have leaders all over the field. 

Similarly while Shane McGrath is a name that regularly pops up, Clonmore have lots of guys that can step up. Oisin Doyle particularly imprsssed last time out.

Grange will be gunning for Clonmore here, but the side from the Wicklow border might have enough to see it through.

Verdict: Clonmore 

On we go to Sunday and the two Senior Semis.

At 2:15pm it’s Tinryland v Bagenalstown Gaels for the sides second championship meeting this year. 

That group game saw Tinryland emerge as 3 point winners and on the night both sides picked off high quality scores. 

It’s difficult to envisage anything other than a low scoring first half at a minimum but will it open up in the second half?

If one team has to go chasing then inevitably it will lead to scores, but whether that’s more beneficial to the hare or the hound is often quite subjective.

The Town have only conceded one goal in the championship so far. They’ve scored six. So that threat is there. Other guys have stepped up for them this year also and they’ve got quality all over the field. 

Tinryland are coached to within an inch of their lives. Their players know their roles and their limits and for the most part they don’t tend to deviate from instruction it seems.

This has led to them topping the group, and although they weren’t entirely convincing against Fenagh, they did score an impressive goal from their own kick out and picked off some lovely points.

Expect this to be an arm wrestle for long periods and while it may not be classed as edge of the seat stuff, you will see top class scores and real quality produced on occasion even if it’s not the open and free flowing game that so many crave.

Bagenalstown apparantly feel they’re been written off by certain quarters of the media. It certainly isn’t the case from our point of view. 

Tinryland are fancied to get back to the final. It will be hard to stop them. But Bagenalstown might upset the Apple cart here.

Verdict: Bagenalstown Gaels

At 4pm we have another episode of Rathvilly v Eire Og.

Many of these contests have been attritional over the years, but the group game between the sides this year was anything but.

The sides produced 30 scores, 16 of them to Rathvilly and 14 for Eire Og. There was genuine quality and you could see how both were ranked 1&2 for the championship, although Rathvilly have now taken numero uno according to the bookmakers.

That’s understandable, but will it matter on Sunday? Not a chance!

I don’t believe in this apparent Indian sight that Rathvilly supposedly have over Eire Og.

Many forget that Eire Og won the 2020 SFC Final just over 2 years ago (played later because of Covid) and Rathvilly then won the 2021 final a few months later.

Yes, Rathvilly have won the last 3 championship contests between the sides, but it’s not the sort of hoodoo that has been largely exaggerated lately.

Both sides fancy this and both fully believe at all times that they can turn each other over. There are no doubts in either camp about this and that’s another aspect that makes this such an interesting instalment.

Rathvilly are in top form and have something now that they may have struggled for once upon a time. Strength in depth. 

They’re not afraid to make changes and that’s evident in recent games where multiple changes have been made at half time and as a result they’ve won games.

Eire Og have shown moments of sheer brilliance at times, but have mixed it with wild mediocrity also.

They have six forwards who are all good shooters and a few more capable off the bench. That’s not including Jordan Morrissey who picked off a hatful last time out from midfield.

The thoughts of losing to Rathvilly for a 4th consecutive time in championship football should be enough motivation for the YI’s.

Rathvilly would love nothing better than to keep their rivals down.

Rathvilly might be the new championship favourites but they could struggle to jump this particular hurdle.

Verdict: Eire Og

Note: Junior B Semi Finals -  Both 12pm Sunday in Tinryland

Rathvilly v Eire Og

Clonmore v Asca