Semi-final time on both sides of the Shannon

Experienced players like John Smyth will have a big roll to play this Sunday. Photo: John O'Brien

Experienced players like John Smyth will have a big roll to play this Sunday. Photo: John O'Brien

This weekend is a big one for eight teamsfrom both sides of the Shannon as the semi-finals of the Westmeath and Roscommon SFC are down for decision. On the Leinster side Garrycastle and Mullingar Shamrocks will be many people’s idea of the most likely candidates to progress to the county final at the expense of Killucan and The Downs respectively. Across the bridge St Faithleach’s and Elphin will be hoping to upset the odds against their fancied opponents St Brigid’s and Castlerea.

Garrycastle v Killucan (Cusack Park, Sunday 3.30pm )

Reigning champions will need to be at their best to overcome a determined challenge from a much improved Killucan outfit. Killucan have come a long way since losing to Tubberclair in the group stages and have been notching up good scores on route to the semi-final. Frank Boyle and Paul Greville are pivotal players in defence and attack respectively but they are far from a two man team. While Greville is the leading scorer in the championship he has been getting good assistance from the rest of the Killucan attack.

Garrycastle have had their share of injuries this year with Gary Dolan, Aidan Browne, and Shane Mulvihill all affected. On the plus side they have Rory McGowan and Justin McAteer back on board this year. Enda Mulvihill who missed the Athlone game is also expected to be available for this clash.

Anthony Cunningham, who takes charge of Galway’s u21 hurlers against Tipperary in the All-Ireland final on Saturday evening in Thurles, is sure to have warned the reigning champions against complacency. His side got the better of Athlone in the quarter-final without hitting fifth gearand a repeat performance would not be enough to see them through to a place in the county final.

With that said the benefit of the extra game and their greater experience should stand to the men from Garrycastle. Killucan won’t make it easy but Garrycastle look the more likely to score goals and that should be enough to see them still in the hunt for silverware come Sunday evening.

Mullingar Shamrocks v The Downs (Cusack Park, Sunday 2pm )

Shamrocks will be warm favourites to claim the spoils in this clash but The Downs won’t be lacking in motivation. Firstly they will be out to avenge their hefty defeat in the group stages and then there is the Ray Smyth factor. Smyth of course led The Downs to county titles in 2003 and 2005 and now he takes charge of Shamrocks.

The Downs have been putting up high tallies which will give them confidence. They are not lacking in experience with the likes of Tommy Cleary, the Conroys, Brendan Murtagh, and John Smith all seasoned campaigners.

The Downs will enjoy wearing the underdogs tag and while it wouldn’t be a major shock if they come out on top I expect Mullingar to be Garrycastle’s opposition in the county final.

Roscommon semi-finals

In Roscommon St Brigid’s will be hoping to overcome the challenge of St Faithleach’s when the sides meet in Dr Hyde Park at 2pm on Sunday. Noel O’Brien’s men got the better of neighbours Clann na nGael in their quarter final and look to have the firepower to at least make the decider. While Faithleach’s did come out on top when the sides met in the league I expect Senan Kilbride and co to be still in the championship come Sunday evening.

In the second semi-final reigning champions Castlerea should be too strong for Elphin. Elphin have been dealt a massive blow with the news that Brian Higgins will be gone to Australia. He will be a big loss to the underdogs.

Castlerea let a seven point second half lead slip against Padraig Pearses in the league last week but I don’t see them slipping up in this one.

 

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