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Dublin: 8 °C Monday 18 February, 2019

Na Piarsaigh suspensions, Cuala's bid for history, Corofin and Nemo offenses - Club finals talking points

Four massive clubs arrive in Croke Park today bidding for All-Ireland glory.

pjimage (1) Source: Inpho

1. 4 experienced teams on show in Croke Park

TO GIVE AN indication of the sort of experience on offer in today’s club finals, three of the four teams involved have been crowned champions since 2015.

The other, Nemo Rangers, are the most decorated football team of all-time and lifted the last of their seven as recently as 2003.

For the first time since Ballyhale Shamrocks v Portumna in 2010, the last two champions are involved in a hurling decider. The last time two previous winners of the Andy Merrigan Cup met in a final was when Kilmacud Crokes defeated Crossmaglen in 2009.

Three of the four finalists are city clubs, with Corofin the sole village team making the journey up to Croke Park.

Adrian Breen Na Piarsaigh's Adrian Breen Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

2. How will the suspensions affect Na Piarsaigh?

In a game that’s extremely difficult to call, the suspensions to Na Piarisaigh wing-back Tommy Grimes and wing-forward Conor Boylan might tip the balance in Cuala’s favour.

Both were sent off early in the second-half of their semi-final win over Slaughtneil and the loss of Grimes, in particular, will hurt the Limerick champions as they face a formidable Cuala attack.

Boylan came on as a 48th-minute substitute in the county final, before forcing his way into the team as right-half forward for the Munster campaign and he scored Na Piarsaigh’s opening goal against Slaughtneil.

Grimes will most likely be replaced by Kieran Kennedy on the half-back line, while Limerick star Shane Dowling only came off the bench the last day and will come in for Boylan in the attack.

Na Piarsaigh need to keep a close eye on Con O’Callaghan, while Mark Schutte and David Treacy are also prolific scorers in the Cuala attack.

Cuala players celebrate at the end of the game Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

3. Cuala aiming to retain the All-Ireland

A year ago, Cuala became the first Dublin club to lift the Tommy Moore Cup, now they’re bidding to defend their crown.

All-Ireland club hurling and football titles are notoriously difficult competitions to retain, although it’s been done four times in both hurling and football since the competitions began in 1970.

All-Ireland club two-in-a-row winning teams

Portumna, Galway (2007-08)
Birr, Offaly (2001-02)
Athenry, Galway (1999-2000)
Sarsfields, Galway (1993-94)

Crossmaglen Rangers, Armagh (2011-12 & 1999-2000)
St Finbarr’s, Cork (1980-81)
UCD, Dublin (1974-75)

Given it’s only been done eight times in history, putting together back-to-back titles would be an incredible achievement for the Dalkey outfit.

Colin Corkery Colin Corkery lifts Nemo's last All-Ireland club title in 2003 Source: INPHO

4. Corofin and Nemo knowhow

Corofin and Nemo Rangers are two clubs where winning is embedded into their culture. Corofin have 19 Galway SFC titles to their name, including the last five in succession.

No club in Connacht have won more provincial crowns than their eight, while they’ve twice lifted the All-Ireland title – in 1998 and 2015.

Nemo Rangers have those seven All-Irelands, plus an incredible 16 Munster titles and 20 Cork county final victories.

Nemo’s Tomás Ó Sé (five times) and Paul Kerrigan (once) have won Celtic Crosses with Kerry and Cork respectively at Croke Park, while Corofin’s Daithi Burke landed the All-Ireland hurling title on his previous visit to Croke Park last September.

Corofin full-back Kieran Fitzgerald is into his 21st year playing senior football with the Galway kingpins, while Nemo’s Cavan native Paddy Gumley is aiming to round-off his remarkable career with the biggest prize in the club game.

Kieran Fitzgerald and Martin Farragher celebrate at the end of the game Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

5. Croke Park to suit attacking talents of Corofin and Nemo

The wide expanses of Croke Park should suit Corofin’s attractive kicking game, with their entire forward division capable of inflicting damage up front.

When Corofin beat Slaughtneil in the 2015 final, Micheal Lundy, Ian Burke, Martin Farragher and Gary Sice accounted for 1-9 of the 1-15 tally.

Three years later and they’ve added Jason Leonard and Colin Brady to an already deadly attack.

The front six have been in good scoring form throughout the All-Ireland campaign:

Michael Lundy (1-0) – Gary Sice (0-8) – Jason Leonard (0-12)

Colin Brady (2-3) – Martin Farragher (0-1) – Ian Burke (2-3)

Nemo are no slouches going forward either and posted 4-52 over their last three games – an average of 21.3 points per game.

Full-forward Luke Connolly bagged 2-5 in the semi-final and will need serious watching by the Corofin rearguard, while the hard running Paul Kerrigan and Barry O’Driscoll provide a real scoring threat from the half-forward line.

Verdict: Corofin & Cuala

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Kevin O'Brien

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