By Mike Fitzpatrick
Senior Football Challenge
Donegal (Ireland) vs. New York
This is the first of two games between Donegal and New York. The second clash is on Sunday afternoon. See preview below.
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Junior Football B Division
Armagh vs. St Raymond’s
With Collie Fearon at the helm of the junior Armagh side, much seems to be expected from them. Armagh have a little more firepower within their ranks to overcome the men from Raymonds, and despite a huge effort on behalf of Dave and Pat Ryan’s boys, Armagh may have the superiority in this encounter.
Raymonds have proven themselves as battlers before though, and at Gaelic Park, it’s never a bad idea to back the underdog. I feel an Armagh victory may be on the cards, though Raymonds could well prove me wrong.
Senior Hurling Knockout
Clare vs Kilkenny
Having already performed at Gaelic Park this season, the Clare men will perhaps be favorites going into this tie. They have already disposed of Waterford in the first round, in a tie where they came up against a heavily depleted, yet very combatant, side battling against the odds to clinch an early season victory.
Kilkenny come into this tie having endured a disastrous season by their standards, and there’s no doubt that the Cats will be all out to overcome last year’s problems. With the likes of Darren Doherty up front, I feel Clare may just have the necessary firepower to overcome their rivals.
Senior Challenge Match
Donegal (Ireland) versus New York
This is the one we’ve been waiting for.
Frank Brady’s charges come up against an Ulster side at practically full strength, in an effort to prove to the critics that the side from the Big Apple have what it takes to send the Celtic Tiger home with a whimper.
New York, under the expert tutelage of Brady and Kerry supremo Paddy Kearney are out to prove a point against the Ulster giants. With a somewhat depleted side compared to last year’s squad, New York have it all to do in this challenge game, in what is effectively a preparation for their big game versus Galway in a few months.
Brady’s Bunch, in training since January, will go all out to win this two game series, and as with last year’s efforts versus the Irish Army, and the Roscommon side, they will be stepping down for none.
Brady and Kearney had yet to name their starting fifteen before we went to press, but the full squad is as follows: Eunan Doherty, Brian McCabe, Kieran Walsh, Kieran Ryan, Enda Lohan, John Meehan, Mike Murphy, Enda Henry, Keith Murray, Gary Dowd, Kieran Keaveney, Owen Cummins, Donal Breslin, Barry Hynes, Thomas Blake, James McSweeney, Paul O’Connor, Johnny Driscoll, Bingo Driscoll, Paul Gallivan, Paddy O’Connor, Pearse Reilly, Colm Shannon, Aidan Traynor, John Walsh, Sean Nolan, Kieran Traynor, Darren Doherty and Dave McSweeney.
There are quite a few of last year’s names omitted, due to injury, lack of form, and unavailability.
Senior Football Division 2
Mayo vs Roscommon
This all-Connaught clash sees two sides which finished in disappointing positions last year in a head to head clash.
As is the norm, Div. II football is a tough division of which to predict the outcome. There are several sides with realistic chances of moving on and out of this division into Div. I. There’s Cork, who beat the up and comers, Celtics last weekend, Longford who lost out in the playoffs in last season’s end of season contest, not to mention the likes of Offaly. Therefore, both sides know exactly what they are up against in this difficult division.
Although neither side figured much in last year’s contention, they will be out to set that right this term.
I feel that Roscommon will enter the tie as favorites, but don’t write off Mayo. As we’ve seen countless times at Gaelic Park, being favorite in no way guarantees victory.