Action from Saturday's clash between Dr Crokes and Ballymun Kickhams. INPHO/James Crombie

Weekend Club GAA Talking Points

Here are some of the areas of debate that emerged from Saturday’s All-Ireland semi-final ties.

1. St Brigid’s persevere

It was natural for thoughts to turn to the life cycle of the St Brigid’s team after their All-Ireland semi-final loss to Garrycastle last year. Coupled with the disappointment of their final defeat to Crossmaglen in 2011, how difficult would it be to recover to compete at those heights?

Yet their response has been immediate. A management team with a Mayo flavour was installed and Kevin McStay was at the helm when they finally scratched their Crossmaglen itch on Saturday. It was a gritty success and they have been rewarded for persevering with another chance to land the Holy Grail.

Still a glance at Roscommon neighbours Clann na nGael will provide them with a cautionary tale as for all their brilliance in Connacht, they never managed to win that All-Ireland title and suffered the heartbreak of five final defeats in the 80′s.

2. Colourful Curran bound for Croker

Speaking of persevarance, St Brigid’s goalkeeper Shane Curran encapsulates the practice of sticking with it. At 42 years of age, he has eschewed the option of shuffling into retirement.

Last November when winning a Connacht medal on the field of play, he became a member of a small family club as he followed in the footsteps of his father, who triumphed with Castlerea St Kevin’s, with that achievement.

Now he is getting set for Croke Park and bidding for a football highlight in the twilight of his career. The passion and charisma he brings to the table were richly illustrated on Saturday and his presence on St Patrick’s Day will be a remarkable story.

3. Ballymun’s rise a feel good tale

For a community that has previously commanded headlines for wrong reasons, the rise of Ballymun’s football team to the forefront of the club game is a heartwarming tale. Rather than being sated last season by a first Dublin title in 27 years or their first ever Leinster crown, they have seized the opportunity to make an impact in the All-Ireland series.

They belied their outsiders tag on Saturday in Thurles to fashion a victory over Dr Crokes. Now they can look forward to the prospect of making the short trip of just over six miles from their club grounds down the M1 to Croke Park on March 17th.

4. Is Alan Hubbard worth another go for Dublin?

Plenty has been spoken about the deep pool of talent currently available to Dublin boss Jim Gavin. He’s had to operate without his Ballymun Kickhams contingent in recent weeks due to club commitments but will have kept an eye on the progress of Philly McMahon, James McCarthy and Dean Rock.

That trio featured at various stages last year yet it was a player not involved in 2012 that gave the standout performance for Ballymun on Saturday. Alan Hubbard gave a terrific, all-action display from wing-back and helped quell the Dr Crokes attacking threat. Hubbard was released from the Dublin panel during the 2011 campaign but he may have developed to warrant another opportunity in an extremely competitive panel.

5. St Thomas youth shows no inhibitions

There was a school of thought before Saturday’s hurling semi-final replay in Clones that Loughgiel would seize the second chance granted to them by Liam Watson’s last-gasp goal in the drawn match. The Antrim side’s experience would hold sway, they would benefit from an improved pitch and Watson would wreak havoc up front on this occasion.

Yet those notions were shredded. Loughgiel only amassed seven points and Eddie McCloskey raised their solitary white flag from play. St Thomas band of youngsters shone despite their inexperience on this stage. Now the stars of that club U12 team from 2002, which manager John Burke describes as the genesis of the current side, can prepare for a tilt at an All-Ireland title.

6. The novelty of this year’s All-Ireland hurling decider is striking

It’s around 50 miles from the club pitch of St Thomas. a small Galway community located on the road between the towns of Gort and Loughrea, and that of Kilcormac-Killoughey, a small Offaly community located on the road between the towns of Birr and Tullamore.

These All-Ireland finalists share similarities. Both were first-time county champions last year. Both competed on the national stage for the first time this month. And both will grace Croke Park for the first time on St Patrick’s Day.

It’s a pairing that churns out good stories and there is a notable subplot in the fact that St Thomas coach Dinny Cahill managed the St Rynagh’s team that lost last autumn’s Offaly county final to Kilcormac-Killoughey.

7. Anthony Cunningham’s St Patrick’s Day double

On March 18th, Anthony Cunningham’s Galway side will be in league action against Tipperary but forgive him if he has an eye on other games that weekend. The club hurling final the day before sees Cunningham’s native club St Thomas, whom he lined out for during his playing days, in action.

And then the football game which forms part of that Croke Park double-header sees St Brigid’s involved. Cunningham now lives in Kiltoom with St Brigid’s being his local club and he guided them to the 2006 Connacht title along with three successive Roscommon titles between 2005 and 2007. The Tribesmen boss will be an interested observer for both ties.

8. What now for Crossmaglen?

Before Saturday’s tie in Mullingar, Crossmaglen last lost a senior championship game in September 2009. Since then they stitched together titles in Armagh (3) and Ulster (3) along with two All-Ireland crowns. It was a remarkable run of success but all winning runs have to draw to a halt at some juncture.

Writing obituaries for the south Armagh giants is foolish given their proven staying power but it will be interesting to see if the personnel is altered as they go forward. Will Tony McEntee and Gareth O’Neill stay guiding the tiller on the sideline? And will Paul Hearty and Oisin McConville stay guiding fortunes at opposite ends of the pitch?

9. And what now for Dr Crokes?

This Dr Crokes team have grown accustomed to absorbing lessons. They took several hard knocks against South Kerry before making the breakthrough on the county stage in 2009. They had to suffer defeat against Nemo Rangers in the 2010 Munster final before coming back to win two provincial crowns. And now they have suffered two successive All-Ireland club semi-final losses as their quest to claim a national triumph goes on.

Their hope was that a panel with more seasoning and depth would have helped them improve for Saturday’s game against Ballymun. But they paid for a lethargic opening as their slick attacking interplay only surfaced in the second-half and it may have been telling that Ballymun endured more wars of attrition in Dublin and Leinster. Manager Noel O’Leary has vowed they will fight back as this latest experience must be filed in learning folder.

10. Loughgiel lose game but not pride

Loughgiel Shamrocks may have seen their All-Ireland crown relinquished on Saturday against St Thomas as they produced a flat display in Clones. An eight-point loss in a game where they only managed to post a single point from play was galling.

But their achievement in claiming the club’s second All-Ireland crown last March was a fine one and they showed their consistency in returning to the All-Ireland series this year. The task now for their players should be to help raise the Antrim hurling standards at inter-county level like they have done at club level.

Leinster and Ulster footballers set for Croker clash

In Pics: All-Ireland club semi-finals