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Dublin: 9°C Monday 8 March 2021

A big chance in Galway football, the Ferguson factor in Meath and Cork hurling in spotlight

It’s a big weekend of GAA county final action with plenty talking points.

Mountbellew, Blackrock and Slaughtneil are some of the teams chasing club glory.
Mountbellew, Blackrock and Slaughtneil are some of the teams chasing club glory.
Image: INPHO

1. Now comes the hard part for Mountbellew

When the final whistle blasted last Sunday, Mountbellew-Moylough could have been forgiven for a fleeting moment to consider their work was done. Corofin have been a towering hurdle to surmount for all in Galway club circles and no one is more aware of that than their neighbours from the north of the county. The stats reflect that with eight attempts since 2014 alone produciing seven losses and a draw. They have had plenty hard days against Corofin down through the years as well which makes their eventual seven-point success all the more impressive as they altered that historical trend.

But here’s the kicker, it was only a semi-final. After losing four finals, two after replays, since 2009, this is a club that knows the pain of defeat on the biggest day. The wait since their last win back in 1986 has been exhausting and the bulk of the current team have been involved in the the reversals in ’15, ’17 and ’18.

Val Daly collected the Frank Fox Cup 34 years ago as a player, he is now manager with one son Michael a key component of the team and another John unfortunately out long-term with a knee injury. Getting his team back down from the high of last Sunday to focus on Maigh Cuilinn in this Sunday’s final will be the key aim with such a big chance of success.

corofins-micheal-lundy Corofin defeated Mountbellew in the 2018 final replay. Source: Lorraine O’Sullivan/INPHO

2. The Ferguson factor in Meath

It’s a landmark day for the Gaeil Colmcille club in contesting Sunday’s Meath senior final, a first appearance in 29 years. For the Ferguson family a success for the Kells club would be particularly cherished. Des ‘Snitchy’ Ferguson is an illustrious figure in Dublin GAA circles with his exploits for the county team, landing All-Irelands in ’58 and ’63, and St Vincent’s.

Life took him to Meath where he settled on and went on to win county medals for the Kells side. His son Terry progressed in Meath senior colours, tasting All-Ireland success under Sean Boylan and bagging an All-Star award. Now Liam Ferguson, grandson of Des and nephew of Terry, is captain of the Gaeil Colmcille team hoping to triumph. He’ll aim to lift the Keegan Cup when they take on champions Ratoath just like Terry did back in 1991.

3. A keen sense of insight in Cork football

Sunday night’s senior semi-final in Cork pits Castlehaven against St Finbarr’s, a meeting of two traditional forces. A current layer of intrigues lies in the role of one of Castlehaven’s most famous families. All three Cahalane brothers – Damien, Conor and Jack – lined out at senior hurling level for St Finbarr’s in late August as they eradicated their relegation fears with a thumping win over Carrigtwohill. But in football they are firmly in the Castlehaven camp and will be facing some of their hurling team-mates on Sunday.

It’s not a new scenario for Jack, an All-Ireland minor football medalist from last September. He has already this week has faced a comparable fixture. Last night he shot 0-5 as Castlehaven won a county minor semi-final against a St Finbarr’s team, populated by most of the players that he celebrated hurling glory with at that grade a couple of weeks ago. It will be an interesting dynamic at play.

jack-cahalane-celebrates-with-damien-cahalane Castlehaven duo Jack and Damien Cahalane. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

4. St Thomas continue to endure

The rise of St Thomas to prominence in Galway back in 2012 reads like a classic GAA club tale, a team from a small area with a strong family ethos harnessing a talented bunch to win their first senior title. The striking aspect is they have not retreated to the periphery since and instead built on that success.

Further titles have arrived in ’16, ’18 and ’19 in Galway. St Thomas have never lost a senior final. On Sunday against Turloughmore they will attempt to complete three-in-a-row for the first time in the county since the great Portumna side in ’09. It’s impressive consistency particularly in how they have responded to the dejection of All-Ireland club lossess to Ballyhale in March ’19 and Borris-Ileigh last January.

5. Slaughtneil return to the final two

And they’re back. It’s only two years since Slaughtneil’s last Derry final appearance but it did feel like a change over the last couple of seasons in the Oak Leaf county to have different champions. Slaughtneil had such a grip on the Derry senior scene with their four-in-a-row between ’14 and ’17 while they broadened their horizons with some marvellous performances in Ulster and the All-Ireland series.

Perhaps it was inevitable those punishing and long seasons would inevitably have an impact. Slaughtneil’s semi-final form certainly indicated they are in strong form, sweeping Ballinderry aside by 16 points and the full-forward line of Christopher Bradley, Shane McGuigan and Brian Cassidy supplied a combined 1-12. Now they’ll take on holders Magherafelt in Sunday’s showdown.

shane-mcguigan-celebrates-at-the-final-whistle Slaughtneil's Shane McGuigan. Source: Lorcan Doherty/INPHO

6.  The Glen, the Rockies and TV coverage in Cork

For the third week in succession there is a major county hurling final chosen by TG4 as part of their GAA BEO schedule on Sunday. Tipperary’s final was instantly bestowed with praise, a cracker that concluded in staggeringly dramatic fashion. Kilkenny’s decider last Sunday did not produce similar levels of tension but there was still so much to admire in the hurling class that Ballyhale displayed.

What heights will the Cork decider reach in front of the cameras? It ticks the traditional box anyway with city powerhouses Glen Rovers and Blackrock meeting for the first time at this stage since 1978. The lack of a crowd is a pity for a pairing that appeals to neutrals locally yet it remains a tie with no shortage of potential with Blackrock’s well-drilled team hoping to capitalise on their underage promise and the formidable Glen Rovers defence anchoring a team that contains the fixture’s best player in Patrick Horgan.

7. Kildare focus returns to football after semi-final fallout

The semi-finals in Kildare generated a storm last weekend. Celbridge were left quite aggrieved at the officiating in their two-point semi-final loss with the prospect raised of players opting out of the county scene. That would have been a major blow for Jack O’Connor given the quality of players involved but it was reported last night that everything has been smoothed over.

So that puts the spotlight firmly back on tomorrow’s final with Moorefield taking on Athy. This is almost customary for Moorefield now, they’ve reached 13 finals over the last two decades and have won nine of them. This is their fifth final in a row as they hope to bounce back from last year’s loss to Newbridge rivals Sarsfields. For Athy this is a bid to add to their last title win in 2011 and atone for the reversal at the hands of these opponents two years ago. Plenty county talent involved as well in Kevin Feely, Mark Dempsey, Niall Kelly, Adam Tyrrell and David Hyland.

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Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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