Alan Rafferty will be in action for Cork this weekend.

Saturday, July 18

6:30 p.m.: SF Donegal vs. Four Provinces

A battle between the Donegals. The Philly Boys have been on a hiatus since they lost to Down. They are on a three game losing streak, but look for them to have a full quota of players at this stage.

Thomas Hughes and Michael Boyle are on board from Killererin in Galway, while Caolan Daly and Shane Mulgrew arrived from Tyrone to bolster a squad that contains Mike Higgins, Justin O’Halloran, Steve Robinson and Paul Walsh. Not to shabby, and now they will be on a mission.

Donegal are on a four game losing streak after a loss to Down last Saturday and they will also be looking to get on the winning trail. Keep an eye on Aiden Downes; he quietly puts in man of the match displays week in, week out. James Huvane is another who has been performing very well, while John McNicholas is a very good forward who loves the park.

Someone will have a win at the end of this. Can’t see a draw happening. It will be Four Provinces.

7:45 p.m. SF Cork vs. Leitrim

The second best game of the weekend (Tyrone and Down gets top billing) pits the only undefeated team this year, Leitrim, against a Cork side that received a wake up call last Sunday.

Leitrim are successful because they have the best forward in New York at the moment in Scott Conroy. He’s nearly impossible to defend. He had four points against Cavan last weekend when he was it seemingly held in check -- very impressive.

Dan Doona responds to Paddy Kearney. His two best years in New York have both been while he plays for his fellow Kerryman. He is back on song. The tactic of continuous high kick outs to Adrian O’Connor and Pat Madden is working in that they win 70% of them.

How will Cork react? Well, the battle between Alan Rafferty, Rory Stafford and the aforementioned players will be key. If that doesn’t work, put Sean Lordon out there for pure aggression. David Crimmins had a decent game against John Murtagh last week and he may get Conroy. Paddy Harrington will probably draw Jamie Doolin.

Cork needs to be direct up front and run at the defense, get their frees and let J.P. Boyle tap them over. Conor Hunter and John Goldrick will have a key battle as well. If Hunter shades it, and gets three points from play to keep the defense honest, that is key.

If you are thinking of “Transformers” over the weekend to see a battle, skip it for a week and head to the Mecca for this one.

Leitrim to keep winning with three to spare.

 

Sunday, July 19

2:30 p.m.: SH Offaly vs. Tipperary

The worst news to come out of the park this past week in relation to hurling was the announcement that New Jersey/Kilkenny were withdrawing their side from championship fare for the rest of the year. It leaves just three teams battling for the title. Disastrous.

What now then? Well, the normal process will more than likely be the top two teams into the final. If Offaly wins this they are practically assured as they will have just one game left against Galway.

The last fixture then between Galway and Tipp would decide the other finalist. If Tipp pull a result off then the tables get upset and it is wide open again.

The weekend sanctions are not known yet, but look for players of the caliber of James Young of Laois, Niall Gilligan or David Barrett from Clare to arrive to bolster both sides. The scoring battle between Liam Costello and Shane Sweeney at both ends may decide it.

Offaly should be able to get the win, but the boardroom needs to take a hard look at hurling now and not next March when it will be too late.

4 p.m.: SF Tyrone vs. Down

The game of the weekend. Two undefeated sides, with top of the table Tyrone with eight points taking on Down, the second place team with six. All of the names will be familiar but some of the faces will be new for this one.

The no name defense of Tyrone -- and that is said in the highest complimentary fashion, due to the fact that it is home based and not a mercenary bunch of 60-days -- is performing fantastically for Tyrone. The Derry boys, Joe Bell, Paul Mulherne and Steve Keating, have slotted in perfectly, with Gerard McCullough and Seamus Skeffington, who were on the Junior winning side of last season.

Aiden Power completes the starting six of tight marking players. Midfield is set also with Gary Reilly and Eamon Lyons, while John (The Hitman) Murtagh is on a feeding frenzy in front of goal. A new arrival is also on the cards, and while it is not Mike Frank Russell, who has still not been released to play in New York by his Irish club, it will be an even bigger star according to the rumor mill.

Any point in Down showing up at all, says you. Yes, undoubtedly yes. They have been a template to build by in the last three years and this year’s side is coming together nicely.

James Mitchell and Robbie Moran have been tremendous pickups for the side, with Mitchell very consistent. Beside him is Sean Kelly, who has his best position at wing back and is powerful running with the ball out of defense. Pakie Downey is due an explosive outing, amazing when you think he has been averaging four a day and we still haven’t seen his best.

McCullough may get this job early on. Mark Dobbins returns from suspension and will be delighted to be back on the field.

A draw looks like a possibility in this encounter. The bank is at +85 after Rangers went all the way last week. Some dangerous encounters this week to gamble on, but you need to speculate to accumulate.

A 25 ticket 2/1 shot on Leitrim and Tyrone to each win. Fifty if we win to put us back over the 100 mark and start booking tickets for Ireland, and 25 gone if we lose. To quote Eastwood, “Are you feeling lucky. Well, are you?”

5:30 p.m.: IF St. Raymond’s vs. Roscommon

The final game of the busy weekend brings Roscommon back to the weekend viewers after last week’s easy win over Brooklyn.

Roscommon have a very nice squad put together, with Liam O’Sullivan, Donnacha Dunne, veteran Kieran Keaveney, Shane Russell and Adrian Tate on board.

St. Ray’s will counter with Donal Broderick, Denis Kilkenny, Mike Creegan, and Phil Wickham as they look to regain the glory from last year when they went all the way to the county final.

It will not be easy, however, and Roscommon should have far too much fire power. The Rosses by six.

 

Best team in town

While a host of counties have players on this side of the pond for the summer with the best crop in ages arriving, what is the best team in town right now?

Are Leitrim the team to beat? How about Tyrone? Maybe Down? Dublin also has good representation.

If all the players arrived to the park this Sunday and put on their home county jerseys how would that game work out?

Here goes with the best team in town right now. All these players are from the Kingdom, with their New York club in parentheses.

Kerry: 1 Liam Sheehan (Roscommon), 2 Niall Corbett (Kerry), 3 Mike Maloney (Cavan), 4 John Payne (Cavan), 5 Eoghan O’Mahoney (Kerry), 6 Shane Doolin (Leitrim), 7 Eoin O’Neill (Leitrim), 8 Pat Madden (Leitrim), 9 Adrian O’Connor (Leitrim), 10 Bingo Driscoll captain (Kerry), 11 Dan Doona (Leitrim), 12 Jamie Doolin (Leitrim), 13 Liam O’Sullivan (Roscommon), 14 Kieran O’Leary (Cavan), 15 Dermie Foley (Kerry).