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Dublin: 10 °C Monday 31 August, 2015

Race to Croker: The four clubs chasing an All-Ireland SFC final place on St Patrick’s Day

Dr Crokes take on Castlebar Mitchels in Portlaoise tomorrow while St Vincent’s clash with Ballinderry in Newry.


Who are their inter-county stars… Ballinderry have plenty players who have donned the Oak Leaf county jersey. Ryan Scott, Kevin McGuckin, Aaron Devlin, Gareth McKinless, Coilín Devlin and Ryan Bell have all played for Derry in recent years. There is also the vastly experienced Enda Muldoon and Conleth Gilligan who banked plenty inter-county days over the last decade.

The youngster to keep an eye on… Ryan Bell caught the eye during their county and provincial winning campaigns in 2013 and looks to have a bright future ahead of him.

Their route to this stage… Victory over Ballinascreen saw Ballinderry collect their third successive Derry county title last October. In Ulster they had to sweat before a narrow win over Scotstown and then a powerful start paved the way for a triumph over Kilcoo. Silverware arrived after they took care of Donegal’s Glenswilly.

What’s their All-Ireland club history… Back in 1982 Ballinderry lost out in their first All-Ireland semi-final tie against Mayo’s Garrymore. But two decades later they made amends against Wicklow’s Rathnew and went on to win the All-Ireland title with a final win against Nemo Rangers by 2-10 to 0-9 in Thurles. Tomorrow is their third All-Ireland assault.

What are the bookies saying… Ballinderry are 6/4 to win tomorrow and rated at odds of 7/2 to win the championship outright.

Verdict… They’ve battled over the last decade to try to win Ulster and looked in good shape when finally landing the provincial title. Interesting to see how they fare tomorrow against a polished St Vincent’s outfit.


Coilin and Aaron Devlin celebrate with the trophy Ballinderry's Colin and Aaron Devlin celebrate their Ulster final win. Source: ©INPHO/Presseye/Russell Pritchard

Castlebar Mitchels

Who are their inter-county stars… Tom Cunniffe enjoyed a renaissance in the Mayo senior ranks last summer while Barry Moran and Richie Feeney are established members of James Horan’s squad. Neil Douglas, Ger McDonagh and Danny Kirby have recent Mayo underage experience while Tom King and Eoghan O’Reilly got recruited for the FBD League in January.

The youngster to keep an eye on… Kirby is a strong, emerging player who is adapt at midfield or full-forward. Only just out of the U21 ranks, Kirby netted a fine goal in the Connacht final and has good potential.

Their route to this stage… In late October last year, Castlebar Mitchels bridged a 20-year gap since their last Mayo senior crown. They kicked on from there to defeat Corofin in the heart of north Galway and toppled the reigning champions St Brigid’s after extra-time in a pulsating Connacht final.

What’s their All-Ireland club history… Castlebar’s only prior All-Ireland journey was back in 1994 when they defeated Éire Óg of Carlow in the semi-final but were then convincingly beaten in the decider by Nemo Rangers.

What are the bookies saying… The outsiders of the quartet as they are 5/2 to win tomorrow and 6/1 to be celebrating on St Patrick’s Day.

Verdict… Certainly showed their mettle in their victories in Connacht. The Pat Holmes-managed side are entering unchartered territory but all the pressure is on their opponents Dr Crokes tomorrow though.

Donal Newcombe, Kevin Filan and Gerard McDonagh celebrate winning Castlebar Mitchels Donal Newcombe, Kevin Filan and Ger McDonagh celebrate their Connacht final win. Source: ©INPHO/Mike Shaughnessy


Dr Crokes

Who are their inter-county stars… The Killarney club backbone the county senior side with Fionn Fitzgerald, Eoin Brosnan, Johnny Buckley, Colm Cooper and Kieran O’Leary all involved last season. Mike Moloney, Daithi Casey, Brian Looney and Alan O’Sullivan have all had brief cameos with the Kerry seniors in recent years as well.

The youngster to keep an eye on… Micheal Burns was a Kerry minor last year and is still in school – he’ll be involved with the St Brendan’s team in their Corn Ui Mhuiri semi-final next week. But despite his youth, he caught the eye with a vibrant display when brought on late in the Munster final against Cratloe.

Their route to this stage… Dr Crokes remained Munster kingpins for the third successive year but only after a serious fright against Cratloe last December. Daithi Casey and Johnny Buckley dug them out of a hole with the points that sealed a 0-13 to 0-12 win. They had previously accounted for Castlehaven and Loughmore-Castleiney in Munster after claiming a fourth successive Kerry title.

What’s their All-Ireland club history… Dr Crokes first All-Ireland experience was back in 1991 when they lost out to Derry’s Lavey at the semi-final stage before they won the title a year later with a 1-11 to 0-13 success over Dublin’s Thomas Davis. In recent times Dr Crokes lost the 2007 final after a replay to Crossmaglen Rangers, the 2012 semi-final to the Armagh club giants and last February’s semi-final to Ballymun Kickhams.

What are the bookies saying… They’re strongly tipped as they are 2/5 to win tomorrow and 11/10 to land the coveted title.

Verdict… Should not lack motivation after the near misses of recent years. Surviving that Munster final scare could be of immense benefit and their squad is arguably in a stronger state.

The Crokes team celebrate with supporters after the game Dr Crokes celebrate their Munster final win. Source: ©INPHO/Donall Farmer

St Vincent’s

Who are their inter-county stars… Ger Brennan and Diarmuid Connolly were to the fore as Dublin swept to the All-Ireland title last September while Tomás Quinn, Michael Savage, Hugh Gill and Eamon Fennell have all featured in recent Dublin squads as well.

The youngster to keep an eye on… Full-back Jarlath Curley has anchored the side in impressive style and helped curb the threat of a series of vaunted attackers in Dublin and Leinster.

Their route to this stage… St Vincent’s showed their resilience in downing kingpins Ballymun Kickhams after a replay to win the Dublin title. Then they got the better of St Loman’s and Summerhill in Leinster before winning a six-goal thriller in the decider against Portlaoise.

What’s their All-Ireland club history… St Vincent’s have a rich history in this competition. They won the title in 1976 against Roscommon Gaels and in 2008 against Nemo Rangers. Back in 1973 they lost the decider after a replay against Nemo Rangers and in 1985 were defeated in the final by Castleisland Desmonds.

What are the bookies saying… They are favoured at 8/11 to win tomorrow’s semi-final and are the 5/2 second favourites to lift the title.

Verdict… Looked very impressive and strong in all sectors of the pitch. Impressive youngsters complement some of their 2008 title winners but they should get a stern examination against Ballinderry tomorrow.


St Vincent's players celebrate with the cup St Vincent's players toast their Leinster success. Source: ©INPHO/Cathal Noonan

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