All to play for as SHC gets to business end
DUBLIN SHC QUARTER-FINALS
Craobh Chiaráin v Lucan Sarsfields
(Parnell Park, Today, 3.00)
An intriguing start to the festival of hurling in Donnycarney this weekend with, on paper at least, very little to separate an improving Craobh team with a consistently competitive Lucan outfit.
Craobh have been a joy to watch this year with their heavy emphasis on pace and skill leaving their opponents in their wake with the performances of Conor Ryan, Gary Kelly and forward tyros Cian Derwin and Billy Ryan reflecting their commitment to attacking hurling.
They receive their stiffest examination yet however from a Lucan team that surprised many in the manner of their emphatic victory over Whitehall last Sunday week.
The likes of Chris Crummey (inset) and Johnny McCaffrey will offer the required leadership and should Donal Flannery and Ben Coffey sparkle like previously, that may be enough to see Sarsfields into the last four.
Verdict: Lucan Sarsfields
Ballyboden St Enda's v St Vincent's
(Parnell Park, Today, 4.45)
The champions put their title on the line against a Vinnies team that pushed them all the way in last year's memorable county semi-final.
Boden did just enough to secure top spot in their group, coming through by the narrowest of margins against Lucan and Whitehall, but they are a team that tend to improve with games and they don't lack for experience in the form of Conal Keaney, Simon Lambert, Gary Maguire, Paul Ryan, Shane Durkin et al.
If Vincent's play anything like they did earlier this year against Craobh, then a one-sided affair is anticipated but if John Hetherton, Rian McBride, Cian McBride, Tomas Connolly and Alan Moore hit their true form, it could be an uncomfortable but ultimately successful afternoon for the holders.
Verdict: Ballyboden St Enda's
Na Fianna v St Brigid's
(Parnell Park, Tomorrow, 3.00)
It's fair to say that neither Na Fianna or St Brigid's will be taking a step into the unknown when they meet tomorrow afternoon given the keen rivalry that has developed over the years from regular meetings at underage levels.
The respective managers, Declan Feeney and Johnny McGuirk are as shrewd and knowledgeable as any with the latter hoping that the likes of Eoghan Dunne, Mark Kavanagh and Cian O'Sullivan can replicate the excellence of their displays against St Jude's a fortnight ago.
Feeney possesses his own attacking gems in Colin Currie, Donal Burke, AJ Murphy and Seán Currie (inset) and that could just swing the tie narrowly in his team's favour.
Verdict: Na Fianna
Cuala v Kilmacud Crokes
(Parnell Park, Tomorrow, 4.45)
These southside rivals have produced three thrilling encounters over the past three years and something similar is expected tomorrow afternoon in what is unquestionably the tie of the round.
Cuala look determined to atone for last year's semi-final loss to Crokes and new manager Willie Maher has overseen a successful league campaign that saw key defenders Cian O'Callaghan and Paul Schutte rehabilitated back into the starting line-up.
Their attack hasn't suffered too much despite the absence of Mark Schutte and Con O'Callaghan with the latter a potential option up front while the Crokes defence should be bolstered by the possible return of Bill O'Carroll and Rory O'Carroll.
Marc Howard's hand injury has unquestionably weakened Kilmacud's options up front with the form of Oisin O'Rorke and Fergal Whitely pivotal should Crokes keep up their ambitions of a fourth successive final appearance.