Titles On The LIne

All-Ireland champs St Vincent's and Portumna in action - 6 weekend club GAA talking points

It’s a big weekend for the footballers of St Vincent’s and Rhode, and the hurlers of Gort and Portumna.

Updated at 8.50am

St Vincent's players celebrate with the cup St Vincent's players celebrate last year's Leinster final win. Cathal Noonan / INPHO Cathal Noonan / INPHO / INPHO

1. Can St Vincent’s retain the Leinster title for the first time?

St Vincent’s have proved their staying power by getting back to the Leinster final stage twelve months after winning this trophy in a six-goal thriller against Portlaoise. When they met those same Laois opponents last month, they powered to victory and then saw off 2011 champions Garrycastle last time out in a match where their control fluctuated sharply throughout.

Despite claiming the All-Ireland title last St Patrick’s Day, St Vincent’s competitive appetites don’t appear to have been sated. Ger Brennan and Diarmuid Connolly are still going strong while Gavin Burke, Michael Concarr and Hugh Gill are enjoying excellent seasons. St Vincent’s have never won back-to-back provincial crowns. Sunday is a chance to alter that.

Pascal Kellaghan and Anton Sullivan dejected in the closing stages Rhode players Pascal Kelleghan and Anton Sullivan dejected after their loss to Kilmacud in 2011. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

2. Rhode aim to finally get over the provincial line

You have to go all the way back to 1986 for the last time an Offaly club won the Leinster senior club football championship. Ferbane pipped Portlaoise by a point on that occasion. Since then Offaly clubs have lost five finals and it is Sunday’s finalists Rhode who have been defeated in three of those deciders.

Those reversals have all come in the last eight years – Kildare’s Moorefield winning in 2006  and Kilmacud Crokes overturning them twice since then. Those setbacks have generated plenty heartache for Rhode but they have sparkled on the provincial trail this year. Their semi-final dismissal of Moorefield had plenty to admire with the lethal attacking duo of Anton Sullivan and Niall McNamee sure to test St Vincent’s rearguard on Sunday.

Portumna players celebrate after the game Cathal Noonan / INPHO Cathal Noonan / INPHO / INPHO

3. Portumna return to action after nine-week break

Playing in county finals is nothing new for Portumna. Sunday will be the ninth time in 12 years that they have contested the Galway hurling decider but they enter this year’s match in a curious position. Enduring a long bout of inactivity is a new challenge as it’s been nine weeks since they saw off Craughwell at the semi-final stage.

The Galway championship had progressed nicely since the county’s inter-county exit but then struck a roadblock which placed it in hiatus. Matthew Keating’s ineligibility saw Turloughmore ejected and set in motion a series of appeals which held up the club action. It’s finally back on track and down to the last two but Portumna have been idle for some time now. Challenge games have been difficult to procure and how they settle to the tempo of Sunday’s match will be key.

Joe Canning and Tadhg Linnane in action in the 2008 Galway county final. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

4. Gort’s task to topple the All-Ireland kingpins

The sizeable task facing Gort on Sunday is to dethrone the team who currently enjoy the status of being ranked the best in Ireland. When the clubs met in the 2008 final, Portumna ran out victors by 1-18 to 2-7. Gort fought back to win the 2011 title but must now try to conquer an established force.

Their form was good in their semi-final win over neighbours Beagh and their team is sprinkled with players of inter-county standard. Aidan Harte is a recognised Galway senior and but for injury problems over years Richie Cummins would likely be operating at a similar level. Sylvie Óg Linnane, Michael Mullins, Gerry Quinn and Gerard O’Donoghue are others who will be important to their challenge.

The Corofin team celebrate after the game Corofin players celebrate their recent Connacht final win. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

5. Corofin’s cross-channel trip

Corofin were in an exuberant mood after winning the Connacht title last month but they can’t put their feet up for Christmas and bask in the glow of that provincial victory just yet. On Sunday the north Galway club head to Ruislip to take on Tír Chonaill Gaels.

They have a previous encounter with the London club to inform them after winning out at this stage in January 2009 by 2-7 to 0-6. These cross-channel trips can be tricky and Stephen Rochford’s side will be hoping to keep their focus to book an All-Ireland semi-final berth against the Leinster champions.

Noel McGrath Loughmore-Castleiney's Noel McGrath Cathal Noonan Cathal Noonan

6. Tipperary football scene enters last four stage

Club footballers in Tipperary can relate to their hurling counterparts in Galway. Their championship has endured severe delays but barring replays it will be completed four days short of Christmas. It’s a messy situation caused by the county contesting the All-Ireland hurling final replay, the dual clubs who were involved in hurling action and the volume of games that needs to be completed at divisional and county level each year.

Sunday sees the semi-finals down for decision. Reigning champions Loughmore-Castleiney take on Aherlow Gaels, who they defeated in last year’s final. Elsewhere it’s the 2011 kingpins – divisional outfit Thomas McDonagh’s – going up against a Cahir team that last won this title back in 2003.

Ciaran McDonald takes to the field Aherlow's Ciaran McDonald James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

Fixtures – SundayAll-Ireland SFC quarter-final
Tir Chonaill Gaels (London) v Corofin (Galway), Ruislip, 1pm – (Deferred coverage on Irish TV – Sky 191 – 6pm)Galway SHC final
Gort v Portumna, Athenry, 1.30pm – (Deferred coverage TG4)Leinster SFC club final
St Vincent’s (Dublin) v Rhode (Offaly), Páirc Tailteann, Navan, 2pm – (Live TG4)Tipperary SFC semi-finals
Loughmore-Castleiney v Aherlow Gaels, Boherlahan, 1.30pm
Thomas McDonagh’s v Cahir, Templetuohy, 2pm

Originally published at 11.50am on 13 December.

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