Letterkenny and Keady schools must oust Rathkeale and Scariff to claim All-Ireland final places
Masita Br Edmund Ignatius Rice Cup All-Ireland football semi-final: Wednesday 3pm in Abbottstown, Dublin
Coláiste Ailigh, Letterkenny v Coláiste na Trócaire, Rathkeale
WHILE many other managers and teams were frustrated by the postponements at the weekend, the footballers of Coláiste Ailigh, Letterkenny were delighted to get a break.
Inside the space of eight days from 20th to 27th February they beat Aquinas Grammar in the quarter-final, St Catherine's, Killybegs in the semi-final and then Ballybay CC in the final to collect a first ever Danske Bank O'Doherty Cup title.
Their compact schedule was to include this semi-final in Abbottstown last Saturday, but Storm Emma sorted that problem for them and instead it is now a midweek afternoon game.
The Donegal Gaelcholáiste have impressed in those three knock-out games, comfortable enough in the first two, but then shooting 2-1 into the stiff breeze over the last five minutes against Ballybay, who came back from 0-10 to 0-2 down at the break.
That “dozing off” in the 25 minutes after half-time worried the Letterkenny management after they had calmed down a little following the dramatic ending to the final.
They have managed a couple of training sessions in the interim and no doubt the necessity to stay focussed was high on the agenda.
The further a team progresses in a competition, the more obvious the leaders become and Letterkenny have leaders in the Mac Gaoithin brothers up front, Mícheál Mac Suibhne and attacking half-backs Dónal Ó Uiginn and Iarlaith Mac Fhionnghaile.
Rathkeele were seven points down against Castlegregory, a Kerry school, in a Munster final played in Kerry, but came back magnificently to win 4-7 to 1-12. Most of the same panel collected a Munster title in hurling just before Christmas as well.
So they might well be a Limerick school competing in football, but they are a panel of winners and they will certainly put it up to the new Ulster champions.
Masita GAA All Ireland Post Primary Schools' Michael Cusack Cup semi-final:
Wednesday, 5.30pm in UCD Belfield: St Patrick's, Keady v Scariff Community College
IT IS a long time since the Danske Bank Casement Cup final when St Patrick's, Keady got their fill of it from a hard-working St Mary's, Magherafelt before they emerged 4-6 to 2-9 winners.
That November showdown delivered Keady's second successive title – and they were quite strong favourites going into the game with a strong representation from last year's team present plus a contingent moving up after collecting the Danske Bank Kirk Cup in April.
However, despite a great start through a goal from the prolific Paul Green, Keady struggled with their opponents and trailed 1-6 to 1-2 at the break, only killing them off at the death with a goal from sub Shea McNaughton.
And Oliver Fegan in goals pulled off a late save to keep them ahead.
That game would have done Keady the world of good – if this All-Ireland semi-final had been coming up the tracks. But four months on, the lesson may have lost its impact.
This is a busy week for these boys as they have a Markey Cup semi-final on Friday against St Columba's, Stranorlar. If they win that, the final is at the start of the week and All-Ireland semi-final the following weekend.
They showed some rustiness in going down last March to St Fintan's, Sutton in the All-Ireland series and that will probably be addressed in preparation for this game.
There are some excellent hurlers in the panel; Jim Shortt, Stephen McKearney and Paul Green all picked up Schools' All-stars just before Christmas. That was Green's second, while Daire Hartnett, Daire Murphy, Oisin Keenan, Tiernan O'Neill, Conor Reneghan and Sean óg McGuiness are all fairly experienced.
If they can spread the scoring around and not burden Paul Green too much, keady can cause bother for Scariff who were convincing enough in winning the Munster title three weeks ago, beating St Aidan's Dungarvan by 3-15 to 3-7.