AIB Connacht Club SFC Quarter-Final
Clann na nGael v Tir Chonaill Gaels (London) at Dr. Hyde Park at 1 pm
Having won the Roscommon title in such swaggering style, Clann na nGael return to the bread and butter of the Connacht championship at Hyde Park on Sunday and while they will be expecting to advance to the semi-finals, it might not be as easy as they might expect against a Tir Chonaill Gaels side who come into the game following a hard-fought county final replay win against Fulham Irish last Sunday.
Championship football at this time of the year is a hard grind. Clann will have to keep it tight at the back, perform at midfield, and score about 1-12 or something of that nature to ensure their passage through and they are well capable of doing that.
The Clann defence has been impressive this year. With Stephen Flynn commanding at full-back, Graham Pettit, Dara Pettit, Ronan Gavin and Shane Pettit have been doing their defensive duties well. Add in the human dynamo that is Jack Connaughton who gets about the field so well and it’s an impressive mix.
Ultan Harney has had a super year for his club and his midfield partnership with a revitalised Cathal Shine looks well capable of providing enough possession for the Clann attack on the day.
To have a free-taker of the ability of Donie Shine is always a huge asset, but especially at this time of the year to have a player who can score anywhere from up to 60 metres out from the placed ball is a massive advantage. Ciarán Lennon is a top class target man and with the likes of Cian McManus, Jamie Fahy, Cathal Callinan and Emmet Kenny also playing well, Clann look to have a good mix overall.
Their London opponents are managed by former London county manager and Michael Glavey’s man Paul Coggins and they will be well organised and well-motivated. In common with most London clubs, they rely on Irish players for their playing strength but it is notable that in this Tir Chonaill Gaels side there are a number of London born players who have been very prominent in their recent displays. Liam Gavigan, Killian Butler and Ryan Elliot are all native Londoners, and between the three of them they scored 0-14 of their side’s 0-15 in the county final replay last Sunday.
The Tir Chonaill Gaels team are back-boned by a number of Donegal players and feature another familiar face at centre half-back in Kilbride man Anthony McDermott. Mark Gottsche, who played a number of times for Galway in the Connacht championship, also features in attack.
Playing two county finals in the space of two weeks might lead to tired legs among the exiles but I am expecting them to put up a solid display. But it would be a shock if Clann were not to advance to the semi-final. If they can show even some of the attacking prowess that we saw in the county final it should be good enough on the day.
Prediction: Clann na nGael