2 p.m.: IF Final, Armagh vs. Mayo
One versus two. It’s all anyone could hope for. This is akin to a prize fight as the last time these top seeds faced it was a superb draw under the lights on a Saturday night in August. Armagh won the first half, 0-5 to 0-3, while Mayo won the second half by the same score. They both proved in their semi finals that they are the cream of the division with convincing wins.
The center line of Mayo to the full forward line with Alan Looney, Conor O’Halloran, Rory O’Neill and Sean Galvin is very impressive.
Looney, from Firies, Co. Kerry, is a premier full back while O’Halloran from Salthill loves to have the ball in his hands. Their firepower comes in the full forward line. Ger O’Boyle was unbelievable versus Astoria, and he will take serious watching. Perhaps Aiden Morton gets the job.
Armagh are old hands at getting to the playoffs; it is winning the title that is difficult. Eddie Greenan, Sean Kelly and Morton anchor the defense. The middle of the park will belong to the McGeeneys. Johnny is a superb performer while Kevin is the captain this year. The scoring ability of James Moynagh, Seamus Toner and Peter Hatzer will take watching.
A close game to call. Mayo to return to senior football with a 2-12 to 1-13 win.
3:30 p.m.: SF semi, Down vs. Leitrim
A rematch of the semifinal of last season sees a return to the field for Down for their first game since August 28. Far too long. Will the layoff hurt them?
Their home base is the best in New York. Brian Murray, Sean Kelly and a player of the year candidate, Brendan McGourty, are excellent at the back. Big John McCarthy is an excellent number three. Robbie Moran and Alan O’Hara have been staples in the middle all year, with O’Hara’s fifties a specialty.
Up front they have some dynamic forwards. Pakie Downey is a thrill a minute and needs to be double teamed. Eddie O’Reilly has been outstanding as an influence and a performer, while Kevin O’Rourke is another dangerous forward. If the ball is played into these men early and often they are almost impossible to hold. Captain Mark Dobbins looks to annex the two in a row.
They will face in Leitrim, a depleted outfit. Adrian O’Connor is out with an injury, while Paul O’Hara was also absent last time out. They were also missing a pair of Kerry natives last time out due to club commitments.
What Leitrim does have are some excellent players at the back in Eoin O’Neill, Stephen Brown, who seems to have recovered completely from injury, and Lonon Maguire. Pat Madden and Gary Driscoll are two huge men in the middle, while up front Dan Doona, Cian Tobin and John O’Neill are their main threats. Kenny O’Connor will start on the 40, but look for him in the full forward line where they will use the long ball in his direction.
Down to repeat the victory of a year ago in a close encounter, perhaps with three to spare.
5 p.m.: SF semi, Cork vs. Cavan
In the league encounter between these sides Cavan lost three players to red cards and the game was a bit of a farce. That being said, it will have little bearing on this one.
Cavan had a tremendous win over Tyrone in the quarterfinal. Alan Hearty will play in his second game of the day, this time in goal. The back line has some tenacious markers in Paul Lamb, Ciaran Shields and Brendan Reilly. Lamb should be getting a call into the New York panel for the upcoming FBD encounter.
Kevin Cardin and Kevin Smith will have a royal battle with Brendan Quigley and Sean Lordon. Up front James Moynagh and Kevin McGeeney will also face their second game of the day, while Eugene Keating and Paddy Smith, who is facing a late fitness test, are the scorers in chief.
Cork is on a wave of emotion. All-Ireland champions, regular season champions -- can they be stopped?
Alan Raftery, Denis McCarthy and Conor Doherty are three of the best defenders you will find in New York. Quigley has adapted to New York very well and is a huge influence.
Up front they rely on six players! Jason Kelly when in form is a running gunning menace; just brilliant. Ger McCullough, Benny Reilly, Padraig McMahon and Francie Cleary are the ball carriers, although McMahon is making a very good living as a goal poacher.
It adds up to a slew of weapons. Cork is strong six point favorites with the bookies. Hard to bet against them.