We have reached the penultimate weekend of GAA Club Championship action. October is normally a month stacked with county finals. However, 2020 has not followed the norm. A schedule change has seen the majority of club deciders take place in September. There might be less in quantity this weekend but the quality remains every bit as high. Here are the standout fixtures from both codes.
Blackrock vs Glen Rovers
Cork Most Successful Clubs to Battle It Out
This will be viewed by many neutrals as the dream final. Blackrock (32 titles) and Glen Rovers (27 titles) are top of the Cork Hurling roll of honour. Both have endured heartbreak at the last hurdle to Imokilly in recent years. Glen Rovers came up short twelve months ago while Blackrock were second best in 2017. One of these sides will have vanished those memories to the history books by Sunday evening.
After the perfect round robin series, Glen Rovers progressed straight to the semi-finals. Their only concern would have been four weeks of a break and facing a team with momentum from the quarter-finals. At half-time last Saturday vs Erin’s Own, it looked like the long layoff was going to haunt them. Trailing by five points, Glen Rovers turned the game completely around in the remaining thirty minutes. Six unanswered points at the start of the second half laid the platform for victory. Patrick Horgan struck fourteen points as the north city club won out 0-22 to 3-10. Horgan is the household name in the forwards. In the backline, Stephen McDonnell and Brian Moylan bring a wealth of experience.
Blackrock may have the most titles in Cork Hurling but will feel they are a long-overdue success. Not since 2002 have they got their hands on The Seán Óg Murphy Cup. The 2020 crop of players has barely put a foot wrong in the Cork GAA Club Championship. A hundred percent record in the group stages set up a last-eight meeting with Douglas. Alan Connolly and Mark O’Halloran did the damage as Blackrock won 1-22 to 0-22. The east city club semi-final win over UCC was regarded by many as the game of the year. It is easy to see why when you look at the scoreline – 3-26 to 0-34. Shane O’Keefe (two) and Alan Connolly were the goal-scoring heroes as “The Rockies” progressed after extra time.
Despite the high strike rate of both clubs, this will be their first final between the pair in forty-two years. That statistic isn’t as alarming when you consider that only eight titles have been shared by the respective clubs since. Overall, the standard of hurling in the Cork GAA Club Championship this year hasn’t disappointed. The TG4 cameras will be in Pairc Ui Chaoimh at 4 pm on Sunday. Hopefully, there will be one more high scoring, dramatic contest between these age-old rivals.
Turloughmore vs St. Thomas’
History Beckons in Kenny Park
One way or another history will be made in Kenny Park, Athenry on Sunday at 2 pm. Turloughmore are going in search of their first Galway GAA Club Championship hurling title in thirty-five years. St. Thomas’ are chasing a maiden hat-trick of Galway Hurling’s main prize. Everything is assembled for a mouth-watering county final.
Turloughmore has been a dominant force at the underage ranks over the past decade. After a semi-final appearance last year, the north Galway club have continued their rise up the ladder. Two wins in the league format were enough to secure top spot. Goals from Conor Walsh and Sean Loftus saw off the challenge of Sarsfields by six points in the quarter-finals. Loughrea provided a stern test a fortnight ago. Level five times in the first half, a strong scoring burst after half-time was decisive. Despite Fergal Moore sending off, “Turlough” held out to win 2-17 to 1-17. It was two yellow cards Moore received, so the ex-Galway captain will be available on Sunday.
It is hard to believe St. Thomas’ only landed their inaugural Galway GAA Club Championship hurling title in 2012. Since then, the Tom Callinan Cup has spent three winters in Peterswell, including the past two years. The back-back champions have been far from convincing this year. Castlegar fired three goals past them in the group stages. Killimordaly raised two goals in the quarter-finals. Twice they have won the narrowest of margins against Sarsfields and Cappataggle in their last outing. The South Galway men are showing signs of vulnerability. On the positive side, the form of Conor Cooney and Eanna Burke is encouraging. Both players are registering big individual tallies.
Along with the exciting young players Turloughmore contains, there is a still a luxury of wise heads. Daithi Burke, Ronan Burke and Fergal Moore have all worn the maroon and white at Senior level. In the St. Thomas’ corner, David Burke captained Galway to All-Ireland glory three years ago. Two hundred spectators are all that permitted to attend on Sundays. For those lucky enough to gain entrance, they are in store for a high-quality final.
Ratoath vs Gaeil Colmcille
Who Will Rule the Royal County?
The Meath GAA Club Championship Football Final sees a novel pairing. Reigning champions Ratoath are only appearing in their second Senior final. For Gaeil Colmcille this will only be their fifth time in the Meath Football showpiece event. This a golden opportunity for either club to have their name ingrained on the Keegan Cup again.
Ratoath’s have made rapid progress in recent times. Junior honours were only claimed in 2012. The south Meath club spell in Intermediate was brief but for all the right reasons. Only three years was spent in the second tier as a promotion to Senior was achieved in 2015. It took a few years to find their feet but the rise to the top of Meath Football was completed last October. Ratoath has continued from where they left off. The top spot from their group was assured with little difficulties. Summerhill did provide obstacles in the semi-final though. A point down at the interval, Cian Rodgers penalty midway through the second-half put Ratoath in the driving seat. By the final whistle, Brian Farrell charges were celebrating a five points victory.
Since Gaeil Colmcille return to the Senior ranks in 2014, they have wasted no time in establishing themselves as contenders. Semi-finalists four times in the past five years but that is where the journey has always ended. Victory over Na Fianna two weeks ago finally seen the Kells based club break down that barrier. Question marks surrounding their mental strength have been put to bed. Trailing 0-12 to 0-6 after forty minutes, history seemed to be repeating itself for Gaeil Colmcille. A superbly finale saw the west Meath club outscore Na Fianna 2-9 to 0-1 to run out comfortable winners. Now they will be aiming to replicate that twenty minutes in the full sixty minutes on Sunday.
The meanest defence will come up against the most dangerous attack. Ratoath has only leaked 4-30 to date while Gaeil Colmcille has posted 8-55 from their four games. Conor McGill, Bryan McMahon, and Conor Rooney are just some of the players Ratoath will be looking towards to retain their title. Seamus Mattimoe, Brian Hanlon, and Fionn Reilly are all going to need a big impact if Gaeil Colmcille are to dethrone the champions. Throw in is at 2:15 pm on Sunday in Pairc Tailteann and an intriguing match awaits us.
Slaughtneil vs Magherafelt
Slaughtneil Looking to Complete the Double
In recent weeks, we have seen Ballyboden (Dublin), Loughmore Castleiney (Tipperary), and Padraig Pearses (Roscommon) fighting strong in both codes. Slaughtneil also falls into this category. However, the Derry club will be hoping for a happier outcome. None of the clubs mentioned above had double celebrations. Three weeks after hurling success, Slaughtneil are halfway to finishing the job. The reigning Derry GAA Club Championship Football champions Magherafelt will have designs on spoiling the party.
Winning doubles is nothing new to Slaughtneil. From 2014-2017 “The Robbies” were the number one side in the Oak Leaf county in both codes. That supreme status also extended into Ulster for 2016 and 2017. Hurling triumphs have continued but the football accomplishments have dried up. No titles in the big ball over the last three years will only add to Slaughtneil hungry for Sunday. The east Derry side has not messed about in 2020. Only Glen in the quarter-final has provided a valid threat. An average winning margin of thirteen points underlines their ascendancy. Chrissy Bradley, Chrissy McKaigue, and Shane McGuigan are unstoppable on current form.
Magherafelt are the defending champions but will enter this match as the 3/1 outsiders. Five points from Shane Heavron helped the south Derry club end their forty-one years drought vs Glen last year. Unlike Slaugtneil, Adrian Cush’s side has been involved in a number of close encounters. Cool heads and composure were required to defeat Lavey (two points) and Loup (one point) in the semi-final. Shane Heavron had his scoring boots on again last week. The corner-forward finished with 0-6 to get Magherafelt over the line. Danny Heavron and Emmet McGuinan are two players that bring crucial leadership to this team.
Traditionally the Derry GAA Club Championship Football Final is played in Celtic Park. However, Bellaghy will be the host venue at 4:30 pm on Sunday. Expectations are high we won’t witness a repeat of these team’s last clash. Slaughtneil prevailed 0-10 to 0-5 in a game full of defensive tactics back in 2018. All the signs suggest there will be more attacking play and scores this time around.