FOR FOUR SMALL Irish communities, the results of yesterday’s general election will be little more than a trifling concern in comparison to the weekend’s major business.
With no disrespect the democratic election of our country’s next leaders, this weekend’s All-Ireland Club semi-finals are all that matter to the people of Kiltoom, Crossmaglen, Kilmacud and South Cork.
Later on this afternoon, the most successful club in the history of the competition will square off against a relative unknown in Limerick’s Gaelic Grounds.
Chasing their first appearance in an All-Ireland Club Final, St. Brigid’s of Roscommon are adamant that they will show no deference to the decorated green-and-black of Nemo Rangers as the two do battle for a place in Croke Park.
The Roscommon side have been no slouches to date. Powered by the sharp shooting of Senan Kilbride and former inter-county star Frankie Dolan, Brigid’s had just about enough in the tank to take the Connaught crown, although they did need extra-time to see off Killererin of Galway in the final.
That type of performance – lacklustre in places – has been fairly typical of the club’s season, according to manager Noel O’Brien.
We probably stole it in the end, but, having said that, we had a few chances in the first half and didn’t take them. In extra-time, we pulled away.
We’ve been doing that all year — putting pressure on ourselves, then always able to up it a bit and get over the finishing line.
O’Brien does not need to remind his players that any repeat of that sort of inconsistency could cost them dearly come full-time this afternoon. Speaking to the Irish Times yesterday, Karol Mannion explained that if his side take their foot off the pedal even for a few minutes, Nemo will be quick to punish them and take a step closer to their eighth club title.
What we know is if you let them play they are going to beat you well. We can’t stand off them. We know that.
If Nemo’s record makes them hot favourites for the game in Limerick this afternoon, then Crossmaglen Rangers must also be given slight preference in their own semi-final against Kilmacud Crokes on Sunday.
Second only to Nemo in terms of All-Ireland titles, the Armagh champions set off in search of their sixth final appearance this weekend, a journey which they hope will culminate in a fourth national crown.
If there is one man who has stood out from the crowd this year, it is forward Oisin McConville. The former inter-county hero has continued to display his class throughout the early stages of Crossmaglen’s campaign, contributing a not insignificant 2-18 over the club’s first four games.
However, McConville and his team-mates will be all too aware that this weekend’s opponents are one of the few sides to have their measure in recent years. The two sides last met in the 2009 final at Croke Park, with the Stillorgan side claiming a memorable 1-09 to 0-07 victory.
Kilmacud have been given a significant boost over the past 48 hours as the number of names on their once-lengthy injury list reduced dramatically. Although neither Darren Magee nor Mark Davoren have recovered from injury yet, Craig Dias and Pat Duggan appear to have proved their fitness in the nick of time and the duo will start in midfield.
Inter-county regulars Paul Griffin and Rory O’Carroll have both been named among the Crokes substitutes, the latter flying home for the game from France where he is currently studying.
The last word goes to Kilmacud defender Cian O’Sullivan whose comments featured in Thursday’s Irish Times. If anyone doubts the importance of this weekend to these four clubs, let O’Sullivan set them straight.
It’s just such a great feeling to win with the lads you’ve grown up with. I was in junior infants with some of them. To go on and win another All-Ireland is something you’d never imagine. It’s special, and would be great to replicate.