Quarter-final club action in Down and Fermanagh
Morgan Fuels Down SFC quarter-final: Burren v Mayobridge (Friday, Pairc Esler, 8.15pm)
THE Down SFC bursts into life tonight when neighbours and old rivals Burren and Mayobridge clash for the second time in as many weeks.
This time, there'll be no shadow boxing as it is winner-takes-all, with a semi-final at stake and it should be an explosive contest.
Less than a fortnight ago Paddy O'Rourke's Burren blitzed the 'Bridge with a convincing 15-point victory.
That night, Mayobridge had been providing all the ingenuity and, with player-manager Benny Coulter having a wonderful battle with Down's Gerard McGovern, they were in control.
But their dominance unravelled by conceding four freakish, if not farcical goals, which gifted the St Mary's men a comfortable 4-12 to 0-9 victory.
Missing that night was former Armagh player and U21 Ulster winner Kevin O'Rourke, but he will start tonight following his impressive display in Mayobridge's win over neighbours Clonduff.
O'Rourke gives the 'Bridge added potency up front. It is 10 years since he was dazzling defences to help the Orchard county win the provincial U21 title and, while he may have lost a yard or two of pace, he still possesses the ability to find space and take scores.
At the other end, Burren's Donal O'Hare was relatively quiet in their last match, and will be expected to raise his game, like he did in the opening round against Glenn. His athleticism and composure is an asset to the St Mary's men and something they missed while he was in the USA last season.
A place in history matters to both sides, so tonight's game will be a battle of wills as well as a typical neighbourly grudge match.
Burren won All-Ireland titles in 1986 and 1989 and clinched five Ulster crowns between 1983 and 1988. With 13 Down titles they are the historic kingpins of Down football but have fallen short since the days of the back-to-back wins in 2010 and 2011.
Mayobridge are yet to achieve their dream of an Ulster or All-Ireland title, despite winning five consecutive Down titles between 2003 and 2008. They proudly regard themselves as the oldest club in Down and with Coulter managing the team the Sky Blues have found their spiritual leader.
The management team of Coulter and Francie Poland are building for the long-term but, with Corey Quinn returning from injury, Cathal Magee and Kevin O'Rourke in excellent form and Coulter at the edge of the square, they will cause their opponents problems.
The Burren management team of Paddy O'Rourke and Steven McDonnell took over the position with the immediate plan of winning titles and they look the front-runners to challenge Kilcoo thus far.
Mark McKay is a towering and powerful midfielder and has grown from a young promising player to an established midfielder.
Ryan Treanor is another player that has grown in stature under O'Rourke and McDonnell. Shay McArdle's long-range kicking has been exceptional this season, while the Down quartet of Kevin McKernan, Donal O'Hare and cousins Gerard and Conaill McGovern will give everything to the cause.
Quinn Building Products Fermanagh SFC quarter-final replay:
Kinawley v Tempo (Friday, Brookeborough, 7pm)
KINAWLEY and Tempo meet again tonight in Brookeborough after their Fermanagh SFC quarter-final finished level last Saturday.
In that encounter, Tempo held a four-point lead with 10 minutes remaining but needed a Charlie Kelly point to secure a draw deep into injury-time after a stirring Kinawley comeback.
The drawn game was of the decidedly cagey variety and the same is to be expected this evening. Kinawley's James Allen missed the first encounter with a broken thumb and his loss was certainly felt in their defence.
County man Ruairi Corrigan was the main attacking threat for Kinawley and he notched 1-4. He is still regaining fitness from a long-term injury and he will once again be the main focus of a Tempo defence, where Conor Foy remains the organiser-in-chief.
In the middle of the field there will be a real battle between county colleagues Aidan Breen of Tempo and Kinawley's Paddy McGovern. Both are natural ball-winners and strong runners and are expected to be the driving forces for their respective sides.
Minor Lorcan McStravick is a dangerous operator in Tempo's attack, with Daryl Keenan adding some
real experience and guile and Kinawley will be focused on curbing their influence, with veteran Niall Bogue an important
cog in their defensive system.
It promises to be another close encounter between two evenly-matched sides and it would be no surprise if extra-time was needed to separate the teams.