ALL-IRELAND CLUB final day is here.
Four sides from three provinces converge on Croke Park this afternoon to battle it out for the Tommy Moore and Andy Merrigan Cups.
Ballyhale Shamrocks manager Henry Shefflin is looking to lead his side to glory today.
Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO
First up is St Thomas’ (Galway) against Ballyhale Shamrocks (Kilkenny) at 2pm, before Dr Crokes of Kerry and Galway’s Corofin meet at 3.45pm.
It’s an experienced quartet – all four clubs have been crowned All-Ireland champions at least once before.
There are plenty of interesting talking points to discuss ahead of the mouth-watering ties.
1. Attack vs attack
Dylan Canney and Michael Farragher celebrate after their 2018 All-Ireland win.
Source: Gary Carr/INPHO
The football final pairs two clubs who shared five All-Irelands between them. Both can trace their success back to the 1990s when they claimed their maiden crowns – Dr Crokes in 1992 and Corofin six years later.
It will also bring together the two most formidable attacks in the club game. Corofin’s freewheeling forward unit put 2-19 past Nemo Rangers in a breathtaking display in last year’s final.
All-Star Ian Burke is joined by Martin Farragher, who shot 0-6 that day against Nemo, former Galway players Gary Sice and Micheál Lundy, in addition to Jason Leonard and Michael Farragher.
Defenders Liam Silke, Dylan Wall and Kieran Molloy all love to drive out of defence and join the attack.
The Dr Crokes forward line is so strong, meanwhile, that legendary figure Colm Cooper is used as an impact sub. Micheál Burns, Gavin O’Shea and Brian Looney occupy the half-forward line with Tony Brosnan, Kieran O’Leary and David Shaw employed on the inside line.
Then they’ve Cooper and Jordan Kiely to spring from the bench. It promises to be a tough afternoon for the defenders.
2. Family ties in hurling decider
Conor Cooney lifts the Galway hurling title.
Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO
The Ballyhale Shamrocks side are backboned by household hurling names Reids, Fennellys and Shefflins. Just like they’ve always done.
King Henry is in charge alongside his brother Tommy, while his nephew Evan Shefflin will take the field later today. Brothers TJ, Richie and Eoin Reid fill up one-fifth of the team, while the Fennelly brothers Michael – if he’s fit to start – and Colin fly the flag for their illustrious family.
And Joey Holden has a connection on the St Thomas’ team where his first cousin Cian Kelly is part of the panel.
The Galway side are dominated by two families – the Burkes and Cooneys. Seven Burkes and three Cooneys started the semi-final, which two sets of brothers and two cousins.
That includes county stars David Burke and Conor Cooney, who helped spearhead the Tribe’s All-Ireland victory in 2017.
3. Ballyhale look for record seventh crown
Ballyhale Shamrocks have the chance to move three titles clear of Birr and Portumna in the All-Ireland club hurling roll of honour with a record seventh victory.
The Kilkenny champions lifted the crown for the first time in 1981 and they added further titles in ’84, ’90, ’07, ’10 and ’15.
Galway clubs have enjoyed a good deal of success in the competition over the years.
Portumna (’06, ’08, ’09 and ’14), Athenry (’97, ’00 and ’01) and Sarsfields (’93 and ’94) all won multiple crowns, while St Thomas’ are bidding to add to their sole win six years ago.
4. Serial winners Gooch and Fitzgerald
Colm Cooper celebrates with Pat O’Shea after their 2017 victory in Croke Park.
Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO
Not too many footballers in the country have as many medals jangling in their pockets as Kieran Fitzgerald and Cooper.
Fitzgerald is still going strong at 40-years-old and searching for his third All-Ireland club medal. A senior All-Ireland winner with Galway in 2001, Fitzgerald also won two All-Ireland U21 titles and four provincial medals during his inter-county career.
On the club scene, he’s also won 12 Galway county titles and four Connacht club medals.
Cooper, 35, annexed five Celtic Crosses with the Kingdom, in addition to eight All-Stars and nine Munster championships. On the club scene, he’s won seven Kerry county finals, four Munster deciders and the Andy Merrigan Cup in 2017.
The pair of serial winners will be seeking to add to their extraordinary collections later today.
5. Corofin hoping for rare feat
Corofin have the opportunity to become the first side to retain the All-Ireland football title since Crossmaglen Rangers in 2000.
It’s a feat that’s only been managed twice before. Cork’s St Finbarr’s did the double in 1980 and ’81, while UCD won back-to-back crowns in ’74 and ’75.
They could be going for three-in-a-row had Crokes not dumped Corofin out in the 2017 semi-final.
It’s a remarkable achievement to make it back to St Patrick’s Day on successive years given the drawn-out nature of the club competition. If they do repeat, this Corofin team will go down among the very best club teams we’ve ever seen.
Bernard Jackman joins Murray Kinsella and Ryan Bailey on The42 Rugby Weekly as Ireland bid to spoil Wales’ Grand Slam party in Cardiff, and the U20s target their own piece of history.
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