New faces in Leinster, a novel Cork-Kerry final, football bravery in Ulster

*** Compiled by Declan Bogue and Fintan O’Toole ***

1. New faces in Leinster

When you fail to emerge from your own county championship, it can cause you to cast envious glances at those that do and subsequently prosper when sampling lands further afield. The last six Leinster senior hurling club titles have been carved up between Ballyhale Shamrocks and Cuala, but while there is a Kilkenny-Dublin final in store next Saturday, neither of those powerhouses will be vying for silverware.

Instead this is the chance for O’Loughlin Gaels and Na Fianna to shine. The Kilkenny city representatives have etched their name on this roll of honour twice, but Stephen Murphy and Mark Bergin are the only two main players still starting from their last success, played in January 2011. For Na Fianna this is a whole new world, they have bounded impressively onto the Leinster stage after their maiden win in Dublin.

Spirits are high in both camps, hopes nourished by the grit they showed in Saturday’s semi-final. O’Loughlin Gaels saw their lead whittled down to two by Kilcormac-Killoughey in the second half before the came with another surge to win by five in Tullamore. Na Fianna’s nerves grew in Portlaoise as Naas cut their advantage to a single point in injury-time, but the Mobhi Road outfit conjured up the points to win by three.

Croke Park is now calling in early December for these new faces.


2. A novel Cork-Kerry final

Generating enthusiasm for neutrals in a Cork-Kerry related Munster football final can be a trying exercise given the repetition factor. The counties have seen their club champions win 11 of the last 12 senior finals in the province, but in the Cork sense it has been the preserve of southside neighbours Nemo Rangers and St Finbarr’s, and from Kerry’s viewpoint, the trophy has gone to the major urban clubs in Killarney and Tralee.

That is why the advancement of Dingle and Castlehaven from yesterday’s semi-finals means the final fixture has a ring of novelty to it. They made the long treks from West Kerry and West Cork respectively, getting their reward in the shape of successes in Semple Stadium and Fraher Field. Dingle’s win required the greater steel, Castlehaven’s achieved with the greater comfort, but booking a final place is a moment to cherish. Dingle have never been in this final, for this Castlehaven group it is the chance to match their illustrious predecessors of 1989, 1994 and 1997.

3. Football bravery in Ulster

On mature reflection, it might just be time to anoint Scotstown as the bravest side left in the All-Ireland club series.

Mine eyes have seen the saviours of Gaelic football. And they play in blue and white and, Hit Diggity! They look good.

Every time Trillick goalkeeper Joe Maguire tried to go for a short kickout in yesterday’s semi-final, all his team mates were marked up. He could either try to go short, but that inevitably was to a player sprinting hard back towards his own goal.

Or go long. Mainly, to Richie Donnelly, who was being marked by Darren Hughes in front and Rory Beggan coming from behind. It made for a game of contests and aerial skills. A truly enjoyable game of Gaelic football. Remember those?

new faces in leinster, a novel cork-kerry final, football bravery in ulster

Scotstown manager David McCague celebrates with supporter Ann Murray.

If Gaelic football can be saved from itself by Scotstown, that’s not to say that they have the beating of Derry and Ulster champions Glen in the Ulster final.

Their game against Naomh Conaill on Saturday night might have appeared exciting, but the closeness of the contest could not hide the fact that the Glenties team are still playing the kind of prescripted football that relies on a limited number of players on a team producing a significant number of plays. Back in 2005 they won their first Donegal championship with Jim McGuinness coaching a prototype of his ‘system.’

There might be a sense now that teams who stick rigidly to that form of football are being rinsed out by those favouring a braver approach.

Here’s hoping.

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