Hard-fought battles ahead expected in hurling race

Eight teams will be whittled down to four this weekend as the race for the Galway Senior Hurling Championship reaches the quarter-final stage, and, if the oddsmakers are to be believed, there are four convincing favourites to reach the penultimate stage of the competition.

Pearse Stadium is the venue for both double headers on Saturday and Sunday with Turloughmore getting the action underway against surprise packages Castlegar at 2.30pm. Despite topping group four, Castlegar come into this fixture as outsiders, and a positive scoring difference of just one shows how tight their group was. Hard-fought wins over Sarsfields and Craughwell ensured they made it over the line after an opening day loss to Ardrahan.

Turloughmore’s form has improved steadily after a worryingly comprehensive opening-day defeat to St Thomas’. They were pegged back in a draw against Gort before swatting aside Portumna, and a routine preliminary quarter-final win over Maigh Cuilinn has set them up nicely for this assignment, but it would be foolish to write off Castlegar’s chances.

Next up is the meeting of reigning champions St Thomas’ and Cappataggle (4.15pm ) which is a repeat of one of last year’s quarter finals, which St Thomas’ won by 1-19 to 0-16. Kenneth Burke’s side made light work of group two, but Cappataggle appear to be hitting a bit of form at just the right time after only picking up a single win in their group three campaign against Kilconieron.

On Sunday, the last two beaten county finalists go head-to-head when Loughrea take on Clarinbridge at 2pm, with an unbeaten Loughrea side heavy favourites to advance. Three straightforward wins over Cappataggle, Maigh Cuilinn, and Kilconieron have brought them to this stage, whereas Clarinbridge needed to beat Tommy Larkins to get out of their group before getting the better of Ardrahan.

The fourth quarter-final could well be the most intriguing as Oranmore-Maree take on Sarsfields (3.45pm ). Like Castlegar, Oranmore-Maree arrive into the game as underdogs despite topping group one. Sarsfields have steadily improved after losing to Castlegar and were mightily impressive in seeing off a decent Killimordaly side in the preliminary quarter-final.

The battle to jump from Senior B also hots up as its semi-finals take place in Loughrea on Saturday afternoon. Kilnadeema-Leitrim and Ahascragh-Fohenagh are first up (2pm ) before Mullagh and Liam Mellows (3.30pm ) face off in what could be a cracking encounter that could well need extra time to produce a winner.

The quarter-finals of the intermediate championship are also taking place on Saturday, with Tuam Stadium hosting a double header when Rahoon-Newcastle take on Ballinderreen before Sylane and Clarinbridge do battle. Kibeacanty is the venue for Tynagh/Abbey Duniry’s clash with Carnmore, while New Inn will see Meelick-Eyrecourt take on Kinvara.

Elsewhere, the return to inter-county action may still be three months away, but there was interesting news on the double from a Galway perspective when it was revealed the highly sought-after coach Eamonn O’Shea looks set to join Henry Shefflin’s backroom team, while former Connacht and Ireland rugby star Johnny O’Connor has taken over as the county's head of strength and conditioning.


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