06 Dec 2021

Kildare GAA: SFC semi finals can go to the wire

Don't rule out at least one replay

Kildare GAA: SFC semi finals can go to the wire

And so we are down to the semi finals of the Joe Mallon Renault Motors Senior Football Championship semi finals on a double header this Saturday afternoon at St Conleth's Park.

Before a ball was kicked in anger the four teams penciled in by most fans and pundits are the four teams that are through to the semi finals.

Holders, Moorefield, attempting to make it three senior championships on the trot; Athy, last season's beaten finalists; Sarsfields, winners in 2015 and 2016 and Celbridge beaten finalists in 2018 and winners back in 2008 are undoubtedly the top four teams in the county.

Moorefield, while going in as favourites, have shown somewhat mixed form in this season's championship, losing out to Sarsfields in the their first game in Group 1 (0-12 to 0-11) before getting back on track defeating Two Mile House and Eadestown to book a place in the Preliminary quarter final.

A win over Clane saw them into the last eight where victory over surprise packets, Maynooth, saw them advance to the last four.

Moorefield's opponents on Saturday, Athy have certainly been playing extremely well since the start of this campaign.

Defeating Round Towers, Clane and Johnstownbridge, all without too much bother it has to be said, they went straight to the quarters where they again met Johnstownbridge.

That quarter final was one of the best games of this year's championship, both sides played some top class football, the sides were level on seven occasions in the opening half before Athy really stepped on the gas in the second half, hitting six points in the opening eight minutes.

In the end Athy had five points to spare but in all fairness that certainly were not over-flattered by that winning margin.

Athy do look more than decent this year; more settled, strong at the back where Cathal McCarron the Hyland boys and Brian Kinahan are all playing well; strong in the middle but it is up front where they seem to have improved most from last season.

Niall Kelly is back to his best, Liam McGovern is as good a free taker as is around while Danny O'Keeffe had a fine game in the quarter final.

Moorefield, have, despite not reaching any dizzy heights, been slowly but surely improving as season developed.

Against Maynooth they stepped up a lot from earlier rounds although one has to wonder how strong exactly was that Maynooth side.

Nevertheless they (Moores) are playing well at the back, have options in midfield while up front a lot could depend on the fitness of Eanna O'Connor in particular and indeed Adam Tyrrell. Fully fit these boys are as good as any players in the county but if Moorefield are to win they will need others to step up to the mark as well.

A very, very difficult one to call; no doubt it could go either way; possibly, just possibly, the experience Moorefield have gained over the past number of years just might get them over the line but it could be a real tight one.

The second semi final sees Celbridge and Sarsfields taking to the field, in what also has the potential to be a cracking game between two very strong teams.

Celbridge have enjoyed a great championship under the direction of former Dublin great, Paul Curran, in this his first season at the helm at Hazelhatch Road.

In Group 3 of the SFC along with Confey, Carbury and Raheens it is fair to say that Celbridge were certainly not tested to the full by any manner of means in their group games and the same can be said of their quarter final against Confey.

So in many respects one can argue that Celbridge are somewhat of an unknown quantity.

Nevertheless there is no doubt they are playing well have some top class players in Hugh McGrillen, Mick O'Grady, Kevin Flynn at the back; Fergal Conway is again playing to the standards we expect of him; Mick Konstantin is a top class worker while up front Paddy Brophy is their main man, enjoying his best season for some time while Davy Hughes will punish any mistakes or miss demeanours. A fit Kevin O'Callaghan would be a real bonus also.

Sarsfields in the group with Moorefield, Two Mile House and Eadestown got off to a great start when defeating Moorefield; they went through their group after that without ever been pushed to any great extent.

In the semi final they were roaring hot favourties to dismiss Eadestown and while they did that somewhat comfortably, nevertheless there were at times put under a bit of pressure without, it has to be said, ever looking like losing.

A few new faces on The Sash starting XV this time around and they are all to a man playing well and with confidence.

Ben McCormack, if fully fit, would be a huge bonus; Ray Cahill is playing to his full strengths; the Ryan boys (Daragh and Shea) look comfortable while Matty Byrne and Caoimhin McDonnell have won a lot of their midfield battles.

Hard to say if the imminent departure of their first season manager Davy Burke (heading to take charge of Wicklow after this championship) will effect them; in reality it shouldn't but one never knows, but Davy Burke is a very astute manager; plays to a system that his players seem to have bought into.

A very difficult one to call; not sure if Celbridge have the bench that is required while Sarsfields have some experienced and more than decent lads to call on if required. Still it is not easy to dismiss Celbridge, manager Paul Curran seems to have had a major influence on this talented team, who have come so far in recent times but failing to get over the line

Will the three week gap help or hinder any of the four teams?

The weather could yet play a big part, we are suddenly moving into winter conditions and that can have a huge bearing on games from now on in.

Wouldn't be surprised if either of the games went to another game, especially Sarsfields and Celbridge.

Hopefully we get two cracking games between, undoubtedly, the four best teams in the county at present.

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