All-Ireland camogie final places up for grabs
Tesco All-Ireland schools' Junior A semi-final: Saturday February 15
12pm in Clonakilty: Sacred Heart, Clonakilty v Presentation, Athenry
1pm in Dicksboro: Loreto, Kilkenny v Cross and Passion, Ballycastle
LORETO, Kilkenny are double Leinster champions – again.
Last month they added the Junior (Under 16) title to the senior crown they won a week earlier and a fortnight ago they tore St Patrick's, Maghera apart in the Senior semi-final in Lavey.
Four of this younger team helped the seniors into another final with three of those occupying the same positions in the Junior team as they do in the seniors.
So Cross and Passion will have to deal with the same goalie Ali Kennedy who was barely tested against Maghera because her full-back Hannah Larkin and the rest of the defence dealt expertly with anything the Ulster champions had to offer.
Then at corner-forward is Emma Manogue who scored 1-1, but also set up a number of the other goals in Lavey. The fourth player is Asha McHardy who started the senior game in the other corner up front, but who has a more central role to play with the juniors at midfield.
Cross-city rivals Presentation pushed Loreto hard in the Leinster final and were just a poc of the sliotar away coming to the long whistle. However in the push for an equaliser they left themselves vulnerable to a break and Manogue grabbed a last minute goal.
CPC will have their work cut out for them – although they were pretty impressive in taking Corn Eimhear back in November. No one team got close to them in Ulster and they stacked up six goals in 21 points in the final against Knock in Bellaghy.
That was their fifth successive title at this level and they are well used to the All-Ireland stage.
This team's strength lies in the forward line with players such as Cassie McArthur and Ellen McIntosh hitting 4-9 between them in the Ulster final.
Ellen is one of three sisters in the team and there are also three Magill sister including midfielder Áine who collected a schools' All-star back in October. Bríd Magill and Fay McIntosh are key members of a defence that really hasn't been fully tested in Ulster.
Loreto will certainly provide a stiff test, particularly since the game is in Kilkenny and because it is all of three months since Ballycastle won the Ulster final.
There are also reported to be a few injury worries in the CPC camp. If there is a clean bill of health for this game, Ballycastle have a great chance of upsetting the odds, but it will take a greater concentration of effort than they have had to use up north.
In the other side of the draw, Presentation, Athenry knocked out reigning All-Ireland champions St Brigid's, Loughrea in the Connacht final.
They have to travel to Clonakilty, but they are still seen as favourites to progress at the expense of the local Sacred Heart school who won the All-Ireland B title last year.
Tesco All-Ireland Junior C semi-finals: Saturday February 15
1.30pm in Trim GAA club: Scoil Mhuire, Trim v St Colm's, Draperstown.
2pm in UL Astro: Presentation, Thurles v St Cuan's, Castleblakeney
BOTH Scoil Mhuire Trim and St Colm's, Draperstown were well tested in their provincial finals and both survived by similar score-lines, Trim beating De La Salle, Bagnalstwon by 3-6 to 2-7 and St Colm's hitting through with late points for a 2-6 to 1-7 win.
Draperstown's star has risen significantly in the last 15 months.
Just before Christmas 2018 they came through to win the Ulster Junior Medallion Shield and then went on to beat Ballyhaunis Community School in the All-Ireland semi-final by 1-1 to 3-4.
They were not too far off Scoil Pól, Kilfinane from Limerick in the final but couldn't clinch the national title.
However that momentum and the presence of almost half of last year's team has seen the small Derry school burn off the opposition in the Liatroim Fontenoys' Cup competition and reach the All-Ireland stage for a second successive season, albeit at a high grade now.
Cliodhna Hickson at centre-half back is an exceptional player and Aoife Doyle a fine target player in attack, well supported by Sinéad McGuigan – and the rest of the team work really hard to get the best out of their key attackers.
Some of the Trim players will have had a busy weekend with several involved in yesterday's senior semi-final replay with Dungannon Academy at the same venue.
Their main player through Leinster was midfielder Olivia O'Halloran while captain Leighann Massey and Claudia Durkan impressed in defence.
A decent all round team with home advantage, Trim will certainly fancy their chances although St Colm's have momentum and strong players in key positions.
I wouldn't bet against St Colm's causing another shock.
Meanwhile home venue should count in the other semi-final where Presentation, Thurles are favourites to beat Connacht champions St Cuan's, Castleblakney.
Tesco All-Ireland Post-Primary Schools Junior D Championship semi-finals: Saturday February 15
1.30pm in Navan O'Mahoney's: St Michael's Loreto, Navan v Sacred Heart, Newry
2pm in Cahir: Colaiste Dún Iascaigh, Cahir v Mercy, Woodford
IT SEEMS a long time ago since Sacred Heart won the Newry derby in Killeavy on a dunny November Sunday to collect Junior Medallion Shield.
With all derbies the game never really opened up and the team that got the first goal always looked the likelier team to go on and win it.
And that was how it worked out with goals from Orlaith McCusker, Catherine Gorman and Cara Crimmins good enough to see them over the line by 3-3 to 0-4.
However it will take a much improved performance if Sacred Heart are to achieve what Draperstown did at this grade last year and reach an All-Ireland final.
There would appear to be plenty of potential in this Newry squad and the Mayobridge half-back line looked fairly solid and protected well the full-back line in the Ulster final.
Both midfielders have huge potential and are key players for this team as both were starters in the senior half-forward line while Orlaith McCusker also worked her way into the Clonduff senior team for an All-Ireland semi-final last month.
And the other two goal-scorers from the Ulster final success are strong forceful players who can created problems for any defender.
St Michael's, Navan are a new team through in Leinster, beating St Finian's, Mulligar in the final by 3-6 to 2-5 a couple of weeks ago. Games in January will of course stand to them.
That and home venue makes them slight favourites, but if the Newry girls making the short journey south throw off the shackles and play to their potential, they can follow Draperstown into a final.
Meanwhile Mercy Woodford had a huge win in the quarter-finals a fortnight ago and their clash with Coláiste Dhún Iascaigh from Cahir could produce the overall winner of the competition.