On St. Patrick’s Day the four best club teams across both codes over the past year, battle it out for All-Ireland honours.
It is fitting that all the inter-county action is being played on Saturday, as this highlights the fact that these All-Ireland Club Finals are the main events of the GAA weekend.
In the big ball, reigning champions Corofin renew their rivalry with 2017 champions Dr. Crokes.
In the small ball, Kilkenny kingpins Ballyhale Shamrocks clash with Galway’s St. Thomas’.
All Ireland Senior Club Football Final – Corofin v Dr. Crokes (Throw-in @ 3:45pm, live on TG4, on 17/03):
This one could be a classic.
Over the past number of years these two teams have proven that they are the best in the country.
Corofin have captured two All-Ireland titles in this period and Dr. Crokes have won one. The Galway side have had some very fruitful outings in Croke Park. They annihilated Nemo Rangers last year and had ten points to spare against Slaughtneil in 2015. Significantly though, the last time these two met, was in the 2017 All-Ireland semi-final and Dr. Crokes won impressively by 9 points.
I have extremely high hopes for this game because both teams play a very entertaining free-flowing style of football. They both have exceptional forwards.
In the Killarney outfit, Kieran O’Leary, Tony Brosnan and Brian Looney amongst others have been in fantastic form. For the All-Ireland Champions, they will be looking to the likes of 2018 All-Star Ian Burke, Micheal Lundy and Gary Sice to inspire them to more All-Ireland success.
For me though, the winning of this game can come from both teams attacking half back lines. Kieran Molloy for Corofin and Gavin White for Dr. Crokes have been brilliant throughout the club Championship at rampaging forward and causing havoc in the opposition’s defence. It may be a case where you could see these two attacking defenders being man-marked in order to curb their influence on the game. Both of these men have massive engines and will be up and down down the field for the 60 plus minutes.
Johnny Buckley was sent off in the Semi-Final against Mullinalaghta. He went before the GAA’s Central Hearings Committee a fortnight ago, where he successfully argued his case to have a one-match ban overturned. This has cleared him for Sunday’s showdown, which is a massive boost for him and Dr. Crokes as he is a huge player for them.
Dr. Crokes midfielder Johnny Buckley is tonight appealing his red card from the All-Ireland club semi-final against Mullinalaghta.
TV cameras failed to catch the incident, but new footage has now emerged. pic.twitter.com/1xEpmrEOvG
— Off The Ball AM (@OffTheBallAM) February 28, 2019
These two teams are very evenly matched and the betting suggests this also. I think it will be very close but I am going to side with Dr. Crokes. Their off-the-cuff style can help them split open the Corofin defence enough to win this game.
The fact that the Colm “The Gooch” Cooper has had to make do with limited minutes from the bench shows the quality they have in their side. I expect the Gooch and Eoin Brosnan to come on in the closing stages of this contest and help their team get over the line.
Verdict: Dr. Crokes @ 11/10
All Ireland Senior Club Hurling Final – Ballyhale Shamrocks v St. Thomas (Throw-in @ 2:00pm, live on TG4, on 17/03):
Like the football we have a lot of household names on show in the Hurling showpiece.
Ballyhale Shamrocks have one of the deadliest attackers in the country in their ranks in T.J Reid. He will be ably assisted by Colin Fennelly at 14, Michael Fennelly in the middle of the field, while Joey Holden is the main anchor of their defence.
They are also under the stewardship of Kilkenny legend Henry Shefflin, which can be no bad thing. Shefflin has been there and done it all, and he seems to be taking to management quite well.
Their Galway counterparts also have some very impressive hurlers. Conor Cooney is an excellent full-forward, who in the last number of years has shown he can produce the goods on the big stage for Galway and his club.
Uniquely the five Burke Brothers make up a third of the starting line-up for St. Thomas’ including Galway captain David Burke. This must be a very special feeling for the Burkes to play in Croke Park together, but they have experienced this before, when they beat Kilcormac-Killoughey from Offaly in the 2013 decider. In fact, that time there were six Burke brothers involved. I would imagine that the Galway outfit are a very close-knit group when you consider the amount of them that are related.
Both of these teams have very dangerous forward lines but I feel the difference on the day will be that Ballyhale’s attack is slightly better. T.J Reid, Colin Fennelly and Eoin Cody who scored 1-4 from the play in the semi-final, will take some stopping.
I also think that Ballyhale had the more difficult semi-final, and their five point victory over Waterford and Munster Champions Ballygunner was quite impressive.
I fancy the Shamrocks to do the business on St. Patrick’s Day, but this talented and spirited St. Thomas’ side may run them close.
Verdict: Ballyhale Shamrocks @ 2/5