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Sunday 29 January 2023 Dublin: 6°C
INPHO A big club weekend for Comer, O'Shea and O'Donnell.
# Grassroots
High stakes in Kerry, a new hurling look in Clare and football final four in Galway
A look at some of the key GAA club storylines around the country this weekend.
  • Compiled by Kevin O’Brien, Maurice Brosnan and Fintan O’Toole

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1. High stakes in Kerry

The county senior championship final is not pencilled in to the Kerry schedule until 30 October, but this Sunday is a day of huge football consequences in Fitzgerald Stadium. First up is the senior relegation decider. Either last year’s county champions Austin Stacks or a Kenmare team containing blue-chip attackers Sean O’Shea and Stephen O’Brien, will fall through the trapdoor to intermediate.

Then after that is the senior club final, a game that will determine who will represent Kerry in the Munster arena in November. Kerins O’Rahillys will be determined to make their mark after contesting last year’s senior final. For Templenoe, six years after their All-Ireland junior club win, it would be a fairytale rise if they were to triumph.

2. Dublin hurling showdown

For the second weekend in-a-row, Kilmacud Crokes and Na Fianna will battle it out for Dublin senior honours. This time around hurling is the focus, as Crokes look to back up last year’s success in the latest chapter of this growing rivalry.

Last year’s decider remains a painful one for the Glasnevin outfit. They controlled much of the game before Kilmacud, led by Ronan Hayes, staged a dramatic fightback to force extra-time, where they prevailed 4-16 to 2-25.

This season Na Fianna started poorly and after losing to Cuala and Ballyboden St Enda’s, they beat St Oliver Plunkett’s/Eoghan to advance into the last eight. They’ve improved immeasurably since then, with Donal Burke, Liam Rushe and the two Curries in expectational form, but can they take down this powerful Kilmacud outfit?

Fergal Whitely, Alex Considine, Oisin O’Rorke and Caolan Conway backbone the southside giants, who are hoping to complete the Dublin hurling and football double for the second successive year.

3. A new look in Clare

There’s a new look to this Clare hurling decider, after Cratloe and Sixmilebridge made their exits in the semi-final. The neighbours have contested 12 finals since 2009, so their last four defeats have freshened up this competition.

For the first time in 22 years, Éire Óg are contesting the final. Defending champions Ballyea stand in their way of claiming the Canon Hamilton Cup for the first time since 1990.

Mattie Shannon’s Ennis team are unbeaten since losing their opening round tie against Kilmaley. With David Reidy and Shane O’Donnell in their ranks, they’ve got undoubted quality at their disposal.

Since winning their first county title in 2016, Ballyea have added further crowns in 2018 and 2021. Completing back-to-back titles for the first time in their history would be a major achievement for the club led by hurling superstar Tony Kelly.

4. Final four in Galway

There is a double-header in Salthill on Sunday. First up in the Galway football semi-finals, Annaghdown take on Salthill-Knocknacarra. That game is followed by the meeting of 2020 winners Moycullen against reigning champions Mountbellew/Moylough.

John O’Mahony’s Salthill-Knocknacarra overcame a dogged Tuam Stars in their quarter-final clash by a single point. Star Robert Finnerty departed early in the game, but fellow inter-county squad member Tomo Culhane took over in his absence, kicking 0-6.

Heading into their final group game, Annaghdown needed a 12-point win over Barna to progress and secured it with a late long-range free from goalkeeper James Healy. They went on to beat St Michaels in the quarter-final. Damien Comer’s club are coached by Alan Flynn, who also managed St Marys to a 0-11 to 1-7 victory over Mohill in the Leitrim senior final last Sunday.

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For the third year in a row, Mountbellew/Moylough take on Moycullen in the championship. The hugely athletic west Galway outfit will hope the absence of Michael Daly and Shane Moran tips the tie in their favour.

5. Northern battle in Tipperary

A novel final pairing in Tipperary between northern neighbours Kiladangan and Kilruane MacDonaghs. The big names like Thurles Sars, Loughmore, Clonoulty and Borris-Ileigh are absent from county final day. The Dan Breen Cup will be lifted by either a team that won their maiden title two years ago or one that last succeeded in 1986.

After losing finals in 2016 and 2019, Kiladangan will be desperate to back up their 2020 breakthrough and advance to Munster. The Flynns, Paul and Alan, Willie Connors and James Quigley are some of their stars. Craig Morgan is a major injury absentee for Kilruane but they have leading lights in Niall O’Meara, Jerome Cahill and Cian Darcy.

6. Derry’s rematch

Celtic Park hosts a repeat of the 2021 decider on Sunday. Slaughtneil are back in their seventh final since 2014 and hungry for revenge after last year’s 1-13 to 0-7 loss.
They cruised to the final with an eight-point victory over Lavey and are back to full fitness with Brendan Rodgers alongside Christopher and Karl McKaigue in a mean defence. Shane McGuigan spearheads the attack.

Glen manager Malachy O’Rourke is without star Ciaran McFaul this year. Famously, he helped the club end a long wait last year as they collected their first-ever senior football title. Their club campaign came to an end after an extra-time defeat against eventual All-Ireland champions Kilcoo. The midfield partnership of Conor Glass and Emmett Bradley is as good as you are likely to find in any club across the county.

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