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.
Tipp will certainly respect their opponents, but they have a very good side themselves. Title number 26 would certainly look very good on the mantle and they will be battling very hard to get it.
The side this season has gelled very well since their defeat by Offaly in the opening game. They start their side with arguably their most flamboyant player. Thomas O’Meara is a brilliant shot stopper and does all the little things well. His penchant for storming out the field and getting involved in the defensive advances are a very enjoyable aspect of his game.
If the opposition forwards allow him he will keep advancing with ball on stick. Mark my words he will score from play at some point from the keeper position!
Jayson O’Callaghan and Joey Lane are very dependable in the full back line. Lane is an aggressive player.
The half back line is set in stone with Steve Lillis and Gearoid Magner flanking the Captain Kieran Bergin. Regardless that Bergin is an outstanding forward; The Kid has shown that his best position is number six.
In the middle of the field the pair of Daves, Crimmins and Loughnane, are the two worker bees of the side. They are constantly roaming picking up ball and firing in to the forward line. Look for Broderick and Loughnane to have clashes over the day in open play.
Niall Curtain and Liam Costelloe are the scorers in chief from play in the forward line, with Coss an explosive weapon. He is well capable of getting a hat-trick in 10 if allowed any space. Darren Reilly will probably get that assignment.
Paudie Ryan is the free taker Tadgh Slevin is the assist maker. Constantly looking for the ball and spraying it about the center forward for the side is John Madden. Looking for his sixth New York county medal to add to All-Ireland medals at senior and under-21, he has been a tremendous servant to New York as well as Tipp.
With the New York sides of 1958 and 1969 getting honored on the day of the county final, this Sunday promises to be a brilliant advertisement for the GAA and hurling.
Predications are a two-pronged monster, you can hit it or look like a fool. While Tipp had the last win in this year’s series it will count for naught this week.
Offaly to complete what three years ago would have been an impossible dream.
4:30 p.m.: Sean Faherty Cup, Na Fianna vs. Kerry/Donegal
The fourth game of the year in the championship between these sides. The season series of two games were split before Na Fianna had a crushing win in a playoff game two weeks ago. Everything clicked on that occasion with the final result 5-15 to 0-7 in their favor.
It will not mean a lot, however, on Sunday as the slate is clean with 60 minutes separating the teams from a championship.
The first side since Mayo five years ago to replace Cavan as champions, it will not be for the faint of heart on Sunday. Na Fianna has a new management team in place this year, with Mark Comerford and Fergal O’Neill taking over. They have instilled a good work ethic in the side, and their large panel helps the side as the game goes into the second half.
Alison Leydon is the top keeper in town, and her back up Nora McGrail is a very capable starter also. Joanne Monaghan, Michelle Brennan, Katrina Lynch and the excellent Stephanie Tierney are brilliant in the back line.
Karen Henry and Grainne Johnston love to storm forward to keep teams on the back foot. The Dwyer girls, Aine and Fiona, are strong in the middle with Aine a good ball carrier. Yvonne McMonigle, Joanne McKenna, who is coming back to form, and Katrina Richards are all match winners in their own rights. Richards is a good shot to be player of the game such is her work rate.
The star of the side, however, is a player that a lot of men’s teams would love to have at full forward. Molly O’Rourke is a bona fide star and would walk on to a slew of county teams in Ireland.
She’s brilliant as an assister and outstanding as a scorer. She will need double-teaming to try and shut down her effect on game.
Kerry/Donegal are no slouches either. They also have a serious management team in John Madden, who will play in the hurling final and change quickly. Tom Hardwick, and Aiden Downes also pitch in.
Good to see new faces in town jump right in and be part of the clubs. The defense will look to have Benny Touhy back in goal if the arm is healed form a break she received some weeks ago. Una Burke and Siobhan Neville will be given the marking jobs on O’Rourke and Richards.
Aoife Gibson is flying at the minute, with Michelle McVann at number six a solid center half. Aoife O’Sullivan should have a very interesting battle with Dwyer and it may well change the course of the game.
Loretta Cunningham, Sue Bennett and the brilliant Denise Dunnion are the scorers in chief. Dunnion is another that needs intense watching. A diamond in the rough may well be Allie Kelly; she can pounce for an important score while also making herself available in open play.
It promises to be a continuation of what is the best card on view at the Mecca this season. Who will take home the Sean Flaherty Cup?
On the heels of the huge win last time out, Na Fianna will know that they can beat their opponents, something not so certain a few weeks ago. Sunday they should be able to prove it again.
A high scoring encounter on the cards with six to spare in the end.
1:00 p.m.: Donegal, Rangers in Junior Football Final
The first final of the year promises to be a doozey on Sunday, as Donegal and Rangers square off in the junior finale at 1 p.m. at Gaelic Park.
Rangers have been in top form all year long with very good performers in the Caffreys, Ronan and Killian, Eoin Delaney, Gavin Beadie and Sean O’Neill. It is not all about their summer imports with the squad.
Caffrey was on the New York panel against Mayo and he is continuing his good form. Thomas Maher is a tenacious tackler in the defensive line, with Roy Henley an accomplished footballer to go along with his hurling skills.
Derek Courtney is playing very well, with John Williams, Stephen Cassels and Lorcan Malone others who are home grown. A very good squad under the instruction of Denis Twomey.
Donegal are not having the greatest of seasons at senior level, but their junior side is certainly making up for it. With James McFadden shouting instructions from the sideline they are having a breakthrough season, and they are in the junior final for the second year running.
The defense is their strongest line, with Jack Donnelly, Anton Toner, Martin Dugan and Tommy Moran all capable footballers at senior level as well as junior. Liam McGinley and Ronan Molloy will lead the forward line, with Paddy Moran possible on the forty. They will put the Rangers defense under pressure.
A very hard title to get your hands on in years gone by, this year’s competition was again very competitive. The top two teams rose to the top and the final should be a very close contest.
Rangers are an explosive side, however, and they will be favored coming in to the game and should be able to justify the tag on Sunday.