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After the highs of European rugby, Connacht are back in the Galway Sportsground on Saturday evening (5pm) fighting to lift themselves off the bottom of the Pro 12 table.
A repeat of last year's county senior football final between Salthill-Knocknacarra and Tuam Stars, which the city side won by 0-12 to 0-7, is the stand-out tie in this weekend's senior football championship games.
Buccaneers square up to Bandon in the semi-final of the u19 All-Ireland Cup at Galway Sportsground on Saturday, kick-off 2.30pm. Buccs captured this cup just two seasons ago and the current crop of rising stars will be keen to advance to the final in Naas. However, they will surely face a searching test from this year’s Munster kingpins from the home town of Graham Norton.
Kilkenny head to Croker on Sunday for a semi-final showdown with our neighbours Waterford.
A Saturday just after midday may not have the feel of championship football, but that’s what it will be for the Mayo minors tomorrow. After overcoming Roscommon, Leitrim, and Galway to claim their third Connacht title in a row, the next stop on the train is Hyde Park and meeting with Offaly. The midlanders were surprised in the Leinster final, where Longford put in a match winning display against a team who had beaten them by 22 points earlier in the championship in Leinster (which has a backdoor, unlike the Connacht championship). Mayo manager Tony Duffy has been working hard to ensure his side do not go into the game complacent after winning the Connacht title. “We’ve had three tough championship games so far, we beat Roscommon, Leitrim, and Galway by only a handful of scores each time. We may have been the better sides in those games, but it was always close enough that the lads knew it was championship football and had to concentrate all the time. They [Offaly] are a big physical side, I think they were caught on the hop in the Leinster final by Longford after beating them by 22 points back in April. I’m sure their pride has been really hurt by that defeat and that they’ll have one big kick in them to prove themselves and we could be the side on the end of that kick on Saturday. It’s about us being able to handle it and play our own game.”
This Sunday afternoon sees the Mayo League take to the field in the semi final of the Oscar Traynor Cup in the lion’s den of the AUL complex in Clonshaugh, Dublin. Their opposition, the much fancied Athletic Union League, are the favourites to lift the cup this year. Mayo manager Declan Kilkelly was confident going in to the game when he spoke to the Mayo Advertiser earlier this week. “We have a great squad here and if we play to the maximum of our potential, we have a great chance of making the final.” The Mayo side had a warm up game last week with a charity match against Iorras Aontaithe in Carne, which Mayo won 3-2, which Kilkelly believed to be a “great bonding session for the lads and preparation for this weekends challenge.”
The rapid fire nature of the u21 championship means it’s all over from start to finish in little under two months. So there is no rest for Mayo this weekend, who seven days on from their nail biting win over Galway last Saturday in Charlestown will host Roscommon in the same venue tomorrow. The 2-6 to 0-11 win over Galway last weekend was a lot closer on the scoreboard than in it was in general play on the field, an issue Mayo manager Pat Holmes hopes will be rectified this weekend. “We were delighted to get over last weekend, it was a tough battle at the end, which we knew it would be but we came out on top. We are going to have to be even better this Saturday as this Roscommon side won the All Ireland minor title three years ago and will be a tough task on the field.” Mayo’s lack of proficiency in front of the posts against Galway is something that needs to be rectified before Roscommon cross over the border, and Holmes has faith that his side will be able to do it. “We have to take our chances against Roscommon, because we won’t get as many against them as we did against Galway. The frees didn’t go as well as we would have liked last weekend, and we have to up our accuracy on that if we are going to make the Connacht final.”