Previewing any game involving NUIG is difficult because you don’t how many of their marquee players will or won’t be available. However, and this is a prediction of which I am confident, if they have all their top players this Sunday, they will be too strong for Cortoon Shamrocks.
Any panel playing at club level for the Frank Fox Cup that can at their absolute strongest make a call on forwards such as Fiachra Breathnach, Mark Ronaldson, Mark Gottsche, John Connellan, David Conway, Brendan Guckian, and if he were recovered from an on-going back injury, Matt Clancy, would take some beating. And it is unlikely that Cortoon have the strength in depth or balance in their side to do so this weekend.
Indeed the further Eoin O’Donnellan’s side can progress in the competition the more formidable they will become. Once full-time student life gets back into full swing, the panel can start doing some collective training together and that will bring the team on in leaps and bounds. If they jump this fence on Sunday, they will be a tough nut to crack for either Caherlistrane or Corofin in the final.
That said, Cortoon will be hell-bent on reaching the county final, and from talking to some students in St Jarlath’s College during the week, they are extremely hopeful their senior players will be capable of producing a winning performance on Sunday.
Cortoon were fortunate last weekend that Salthill could not capitalise on all their possession, and if the likes of Seán Armstrong or Conor Healy had been available and injury-free, it is likely that they would have advanced.
Cortoon manager Barry Downey won’t care about that though, and he will have his charges well up for the task they face at 3.30pm this Sunday.
He has a solid looking full-back line with Donal O’Neill and Brian Roache flanking David Finnegan. That trio will have to be on their game as Shrule’s Mark Ronaldson is a very elusive player and is well capable of getting in for a goal or two if left unmarked.
Both Fergal Heverin and Pat Gilmore will have to have a more productive hour at midfield this weekend and the breaks in that area will be vital. Their centre-forward Mickey Costello did not score against Salthill, but he worked hard and his battle with Gort’s Gary O’Donnell will play a big part in which team advances.
David Warde and Derek Savage hit seven points between them against PJ Kelly’s side, but five of them were from frees, and the NUIG players will have been warned not to concede easy frees.
It is imperative they are highly disciplined at the back as any indiscretions will be punished. The impartiality and fairness of the referring too will be closely observed and it will be interesting to see if the NUIG lads feel they get a fair crack of the whip from all involved.
There is plenty of fascination about this fixture and the vast quantity of quality footballers on display make it a must-see game.
Ray Silke’s verdict: That Salthill dominated the possession stakes to such an extent last weekend would make me inclined to go for an NUIG victory. If the Shamrocks concede as much breaking ball around the middle third, and allow Eddie Hoare and David Duffy (if fit ) to dominate midfield, then the college have the forwards to punish Cortoon.
It should be a tight game, and one or two decisions either way could be decisive. However looking at both line-ups, my feeling is that it will be a victory for NUIG and a place in their first county final since 1973.