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Thursday 27 April 2017

Vincent's have the firepower to end Slaughtneil's double dream

Enda Varley has added to Vinnies’ attack. Pic: Sportsfile
Enda Varley has added to Vinnies’ attack. Pic: Sportsfile

And so St Vincent's find themselves back in that familiar watershed month of February, facing their third All-Ireland semi-final in four tumultuous seasons.

But will it be onward and upward, a la 2014, or the bitter-sweet symphony of their 2015 sequel?

There's always an air of uncertainty when trying to second-guess how a club will negotiate the long, difficult, non-competitive terrain between a provincial club final in November/December and the All-Ireland series, at least two months later.

The same applies even to a club that has been here before. St Vincent's are under the same astute management of Tommy Conroy and comprise mostly the same players.

Ten of the team that started the Leinster final against Rhode last December were All-Ireland final starters against Castlebar, in March of 2014.

That figure grows to 12 when you compare the line-up against Rhode to the team that lost the 2015 semi-final to Corofin. And it could have been 13, when you consider that Brendan Egan was an 11th-hour withdrawal against the Offaly champions.

The most notable addition is Enda Varley, the former Mayo forward who has offered another scoring threat to a team not shy in that department. All six starting forwards against Rhode, plus midfielder Shane Carthy, scored from play.

It was the most compelling St Vincent's performance of their provincial campaign, diluting some earlier speculation that they aren't quite the force of old.

We'll know more by this evening. Slaughtneil should be a stronger team for the chastening experience of their 2015 All-Ireland final no-show against Corofin. They'll need to be.

If Derry's dual club extraordinaires can suppress the pivotal influence of Diarmuid Connolly and Tomás Quinn, they will go very close. But knowing who to stop against Vincent's is one thing; knowing how to stop them another.

ODDS: Vincent's 4/7, Draw 15/2, Slaughtneil 7/4

VERDICT: St Vincent's

COROFIN v DR CROKES

(Gaelic Grounds, Today, 4.0, live TG4)

ONE more chance for Colm Cooper to fill the one glaring gap on his illustrious CV - that of All-Ireland club winner.

But it's a huge ask for the Gooch and Co, who face two giant hurdles, starting with Corofin, such dazzling All-Ireland champions in 2015.

ODDS: Corofin 4/7, Draw 15/2 Dr Crokes 7/4

VERDICT: Corofin

AIB All-ireland CLub SFC semi-finals: St Vincent's v Slaughtneil (Newry, Today, 2.0, live TG4)

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