By Mike Fitzpatrick
Rangers vs. Fermanagh
The first A semifinal of the championship pits Denis Tuomey’s Rangers lads versus their Ulster rivals from Fermanagh in what promises to be a tough game for both sides. As we’ve seen already this season, there are a number of quality sides in this division, with teams such as Rockland, Donegal, Westput and Down all having contested the title.
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Rangers, having finished first in the table, will certainly be favorites for the tie, and having seen them a number of times at Gaelic Park, I feel they certainly deserve to go far this season. Fermanagh, however, will not just stand back, and will no doubt put up a fighting display to earn the honor of a division a final placing.
Clare vs. Tipperary
Table topping Tipp face another challenge from a side desperate to make the qualifiers. Many felt that on Tipp’s last occasion at Gaelic Park, versus the young Waterford side, that having already qualified, their hearts would not have been entirely in it. But they showed their true colors and went out and won the tie.
Tipp have quite a number of hugely talented hurlers within their ranks, and should beat this Clare side. Circumstances change, however, when one is seeking to make the playoffs.
Clare badly need the win, and may bring over a name or two from Ireland for this one.
I feel Tipp may take it a little easier, still going for the win, but without much of the urgency they’ve displayed this season. Clare’s appetite for the tie will be that much stronger, and the fact that their rivals for a third or fourth place in the table (Waterford) play later in the day, only makes the game that much more enticing.
If Clare refuse to back down to Tipp early on in the game, they could clinch a hugely important victory.
Senior Football Playoff
Tyrone vs. Westmeath
This is the one we’ve been waiting for. Both sides finished on equal points, letting Leitrim move ahead of them into third place. Stamford and Donegal had already qualified, and the two sides on display here failed to grab the all important late-season points.
It’s difficult to predict a winner from this one, as both sides excel in different areas of the game. Emmet Haughian, Westmeath’s goalkeeper, will face off against Tyrone’s Mickey Slowey, the leagues top marksman in what promises to be a duel worth waiting for.
Both sides may have players over from Ireland for the game, so it could really swing either way. Tyrone were disappointed to have lost in the Catskills in a slugfest with their tense rivals Donegal, and I feel if tempers fray in this one, Westmeath could grab victory.
Kilkenny vs. Waterford
Kilkenny have been arguably the most disappointing side in either code at Gaelic Park this year. Much was expected of them, but at the end of the day, they lost each game they played. Though participating in some exciting finishes, you don’t get points for playing well. If you don’t win, you don’t get the points.
Waterford will no doubt be out to clinch their final four placing, Kilkenny will really be their as potential party poopers, as their season is all but over. Waterford hold the advantage of knowing exactly what they will have to do, having witnessed Tipperary face off with Clare earlier in the day.
I feel Waterford will clinch victory, leaving Kilkenny to wonder exactly what went wrong with their season.