7:30 p.m.: SF Leitrim vs. Down
The final game of the day is akin to the best to last, and on any other Saturday that would be true.
Both sides are coming off big wins, Leitrim over Kerry, Down over Cavan. Both are in contention for second place in the group which allows teams the luxury of a bye into the semifinal.
Leitrim rebounded from a loss to Tyrone with a brilliant win. Jamie Doolin and Scott Conroy returned to their former form after a couple of lackluster performances and showed their skills.
Pat Madden continues to impress in the middle. A huge target man when he runs with the ball, he is very difficult to dispossess.
John O’Neill is also due a breakout day, while the defense is back on track with Alan Foley and Owen O’Neill the cream of the crop. O’Neill is an excellent footballer, strong in possession, a good ball carrier and hard-hitting marker.
Down will not be intimidated by any tough man tactics, and former Leitrim players James Mitchell and Robbie Moran are far too experienced to get dragged into anything this close to playoff time.
Declan Traynor, Richard Dalton and Sean Munnelly, who does a lot of work in the back line form a formidable defensive quadrant, while Pakie Downey, Mark Dobbin, Michael O’Rourke and Mickey Sloan are all able to score or set up.
The bank is at 200 tickets after Four P’s let me down last week against Cork, or was it Cork that rubbed my nose in it! Back to the grindstone however.
Going creative again as the trip home gets closer. Need to be awful foolish to clean out the bank now. All the same, you have to speculate to accumulate. Twenty-five on Down to get the win in this contest by three.
A day for the attacks also. A further 15 on the game going over 25 total points.
3:00 p.m.: Tipp Meets Offaly in Flannery C’Ship
While the senior hurling championship was rocked this year with the amount of teams depleted to three after the beginning of the season, it was an exciting and entertaining series of games to get to the final Sunday afternoon between Tipp and Offaly at 3 p.m.
Galway battled to the best of their ability but were outshone by the two big guns, Tipperary and Offaly over the course of the season The top two now repeat their battle of a year ago when Offaly were the victors for the second year in a row.
They are now looking to emulate the Galway side of ‘82-‘84 which was the last hurling side in New York to achieve a three in a row.
Donal Broderick looks to follow Philip Wickham (Matt Mitchell actually received the cup and Wickham was injured) and Richie Gaule as the captain of the winning side. Offaly’s streak of wins is unheralded for the recent past, as before 2007 they had to look back to the forties for their last win. Tipperary of course have had success across the New York history, and they stand at the top of the ladder with 25 overall titles. Wins in 2000, 2002 and ‘03 leave them needed one more to allow them to say that they are the team of the decade. A club steeped in the GAA annals they would like nothing more than to break the Offaly dominance.
This year’s season began with the sides meeting in the semifinal of the Brendan Keane seven-a-side competition back in May. After two periods of extra time Offaly were the winners, but the exertion left them winded and they were runners up to Tipperary Boston in the final.
Offaly also took home the spoils in the first group game, but Tipp reversed that with a dominating display in the second half of the reverse fixture.
Both sides are capable of putting up huge scores with brilliant scoring forwards on both panels. Defense will be key, however, and the amount of scoreable frees that are given up as Shane Sweeney (Offaly) and Paudie Ryan (Tipp) will punish any indiscretions.
For the reigning champs, Aiden Ryan has played for Galway seniors in Ireland and is a keeper who is rock solid. Darren Reilly from Loughrea is a sticky and hard-hitting defender and has quietly put together an all-star season.
Gary Hill, Richie Gaule and Brian Watkins are a terrific half back line, but Gaule has been hindered by injury this season. He may be replaced at six by Rory Stafford if not available; suffice to say that you must change your game plan if either one is under the dropping ball.
Liam Butler, and John Broderick may be in the middle and they will need to win the breaks to keep the side in with a chance, but they will get a lot of help from captain Donie Broderick who loves to circle out and pick up the breaks.
The scorers in chief are Shane Sweeney and Richie Dollard. Sweeney played for Tipp in Ireland and needs to be double teamed when he hits form, otherwise he can chalk up 10 points in a half. Brendan McGrourty does a lot of bull work by using his strength to make space and also knows where the posts are. Colin White, while not on the field for a full game at any time this year, is very capable of snatching a goal at the end if he is sprang from the bench.