The two county senior football semi-finals are down for decision this Sunday at Tuam Stadium.
Both are highly anticipated games for different reasons, and there should be a good crowd in attendance to see the double header.
First up are current county champions Corofin and Milltown at 2pm, and that game is followed by the local derby of Barna and St Michael’s (3.45pm )
Milltown v Corofin (2pm Tuam Stadium )
Corofin are the current county football champions and they are most people’s favourites to regain the Frank Fox Cup again in 2014.
No doubt Milltown’s management team and the panel of players will have a different view before they arrive onto the field of play and they will have a definite plan to knock Corofin off their champion’s pedestal.
Milltown had a solid win over Salthill/Knocknacarra in their quarter-final and they have some inspirational leaders in Darren Mullahy and Diarmuid Blake, who will feel it is high time they collected a senior county medal after a decade or more in the senior ranks.
They have some talented scoring forwards in Mark Hehir, Michael Martin, Damien Brennan, Fergal Nicholson and James Kavanagh (if available after injury ).
Kavanagh was a togged substitute in the win over Salthill and it will be interesting to see if he makes an appearance if needed in three days’ time, despite being unable to train over the past few weeks.
Milltown will look to Ciarán Blake, James and John Martin, who had a fine game the last day, to try to nullify the highly-rated Corofin attack.
Corofin, managed again this season by Stephen Rochford, will expect big attacking performances from Gary Sice, Michael Lundy, Justin Burke and the Farragher brothers.
Daithí Burke will have a busy weekend as he is in action on Saturday with the Turloughmore hurlers in their quarter-final clash, and it will be interesting to see if he is picked to start alongside Ronan Steede in the engine room for Corofin.
Greg Higgins is also an option in that area.
Based on form and experience, it is difficult to look past a Corofin win and they are roasting hot favourites with the bookies, with Milltown available at 4/1 to reach the final, and Corofin 1/5.
That said, Donegal were 7/1 to beat Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-final too and we know how that game ended.
There is nothing certain in sport and Milltown will believe this will be their day.
Barna v St Michael’s (3.45pm Tuam Stadium )
This semi-final has the prospect of being a really exciting game. Both teams know each other very well and neither will fear their opposition.
Barna, under the guidance of Pat Fallon and Sean Conlon, qualified for the county semi-final for only the second time in the club’s history after beating Caherlistrane by five points three weeks ago.
Young Jason Lyons was the star scorer at wing-forward with 10 points, with two goals coming from Tom Curran and Eoin McDonagh.
Fallon, who has been senior manager for the past few seasons, will not announce his team until Sunday. He is expecting a very tight game.
“St Michael’s are a very experienced side and they are slight favourites to win on Sunday. However we have some very good young players and eight or nine of the team are u-21, which is a good sign for the future for the club.
“Sunday will be a test of how we have progressed over the past few months and we are looking forward to the challenge.
“We have been going reasonably well in the league too and we are hoping to come up a division for next year which is important. It is a real local derby and we are expecting a very competitive game. We know we will have to produce a really good performance if we are to get to the county final.”
Fallon will be looking for big displays and leadership from full-back James Kennedy, Paddy Naughton, Tom Curran, Paddy Kennedy, Kieran Hanley, and powerful full-forward Rory Donnellan, who impressed against Caherlistrane. Barna will also need freetaker Jason Lyons to continue his excellent form from the dead ball.
In the other dressing-room the St Michael’s manager is John Ruane and his team comprises John Kenny, Pat Madden, Barry Cummins and Joe Corcoran.
Ruane is an experienced campaigner and he was pleased with his side’s victory over Annaghdown in the quarter-final.
“That was a big win for us and we had good performances all over the field. We played well on the day and that will hopefully stand us in good stead this weekend. There will probably not be a lot between the two teams on Sunday and I don’t expect either side to win by a big margin. It will come down to which ever side produces the goods on the day and we are hopeful that will be our lads."
St Michael’s are an experienced outfit and a good few of their players were on the team that won the county intermediate title in 2008.
The spine of the team is strong, with Alan Glynn and Jamie Downes being the pillars of their defence. Their normal midfielder Barry Grogan is away on holidays in the USA and he is a big loss, although former u-21 star David Cunnane has returned after the summer.
Up front they will look to county player and team captain Eddie Hoare at full-forward and Greg Rogan for leadership and scores.
Neither St Michael’s nor Barna have reached a senior championship final so whichever teams wins this Sunday will appear in the first county showpiece. That is something worth scrapping for, and one of the reasons so many people will want to be in Tuam on Sunday to see the clash.