Huge crowd expected in Kenny Park for Sunday’s senior semi-finals
The two county senior hurling semi-finals are down for decision this Sunday in Kenny Park.
Beaten county finalists last year Loughrea take on Beagh at 2.30pm, and Portumna will try to dethrone the current county champions St Thomas at 4pm.
Loughrea defeated Padraig Pearses in their quarter-final by 0-14 to 1-10 and they are an incredibly experienced team at this stage.
They are hot favourites to beat Beagh, who are in their first senior semi-final. Mulhollands have Loughrea at 4/11 to reach the county final, with Beagh big 5/2 outsiders.
The Loughrea team sheet is littered with well-known names and they will look to Johnny Coen, Johnny O' Loughlin, Neil Keary and Johnny Maher up front to get the match-winning scores. Defensively, they are led by men such as Tom Regan, Vinny Maher, Damien McClearn and Seán Sweeney.
Beagh is a bit of a surprise package this year, and manager Brendan Gantley will be telling his players they are capable of springing another one this Sunday.
For that to happen, they will need big performances from goal-keeper Kevin O' Grady, full-back Jonathan Morris, and wing-back Rory Gantley.
Midfielders Jamie Diviney and Damien Landers will have to quell the influence of Loughrea's Gavin Keary and Emmet Mahony.
Up front Beagh will need Kevin Keehan, Joe Gantley, Padraig Landers and Adrian Tuohy firing on all cylinders.
Most pundits will be looking to an experienced Loughrea side to advance in this one. Referee for the game is John Keane.
Top two clash
A lot of neutrals will rock into Athenry on Sunday to see the second semi-final which brings two of the top clubs in the country together (4pm).
St Thomas left it late to beat Castlegar in their semi-final and they eventually advanced by 2-19 to 0-21. Late scores from Eanna Burke and Shane Cooney finally put some day light between the sides.
The All-Ireland champions will know Portumna will be gunning for them after last year and they will be on red-alert for the challenge they face. David Burke, Robert Murray, Conor Cooney, Enda Tannion, Darragh Burke and young Eanna Burke will all have to be in good form if they are to advance to a second consecutive county final.
Portumna have been out of the limelight for the past few seasons and they have not been in a county semi-final since 2010. They will want to make the most of the opportunity to get back to their first final since 2009 and will be looking to the experience of the Cannings, the Hayeses, the Smiths and young Ronan O' Meara. Match referee for the game is Alan Kelly.
The bookies find it hard to separate the sides too and Portumna are 5/6, with John Burke's men at 11/10. The draw is priced up at 15/2.