Ahead of last month’s All-Ireland Club semi’s the majority of Gaelic football fans were anticipating a final between Dublin’s St Vincent’s and Galway’s Corofin, but nobody seemed to tell Slaughtneil and Dr Crokes that as they tore up the script.
What we now have in store is a fascinating battle between the strongest defensive unit in club football and a star-packed forward line that’s been running up cricket scores against some quality opposition.
The stand out stat of the GAA season is that the Derrymen are yet to concede a goal in championship football during their run to the St Patrick’s Day showpiece.
They might possess the less household names that their opponents can call on, but there’s no doubting their ability to execute a game plan and neutralise an effective forward line as they did against 2014 All Ireland champions Vincent’s in their semi.
In Chrissy McKaigue they have the stand out club footballer in the country right now and if Patsy Bradley can win the battle in midfield with Johnny Buckley they could well cause an upset at 15/8.
Crokes have been knocking on the door for a number of years now, but they now seem to have added a bit of steel to their undoubted class.
The likes of Kieran O’Leary, Daithí Casey and Colm Cooper would easily make it into most county sides and they tore previous outright favourites Corofin to ribbons in their final four clash.
The wide open spaces of Croker should suit their fast-paced game and movement. If they can get off to a similar start as they did against Corofin it could be a long day for the Derrymen.
For this one I’m going to back the underdog and stump for Slaughtneil, their defence has look impenetrable at times and I fancy them to concoct and execute a game plan that will shackle Gooch and Co.
The Derry side don’t beat teams well, however they always seem to get there in the end. So for the bit of extra value I’m going to go for Slaughtneil to win by 1-3, which is 10/3 shot.
— AIB_GAA (@AIB_GAA) March 15, 2017
It’s a unique pairing in the hurling this year with Clare and Dublin being represented in the final.
In recent years the club hurling final has been outshone by its football counterpart following a number of one-sided games, but I’ve a real feeling that we’re going to see a buck in that trend today.
Ballyea will definitely feel that they have overcome the tougher tests on their route to the final and won’t fear the underdogs tag having faced the same fate against Thurles Sarsfields and St Thomas’s of Galway.
In Tony Kelly they have the best hurler in the country right now and if the Banner county man can get some room in headquarters it’ll be a long day for the capital’s men. As for Cuala, they may not be from the hurling heartland, but there’s no doubting their class and they’ve been a joy to watch all year.
Their side is rammed full of county quality and in Con O’Callaghan they have one of the most exciting prospects in the sport despite the fact that it’s unlikely that we’ll see him line out at county level due to his commitment to the footballers.
The success of their gameplan will hinge on how they deal with Tony Kelly and it’ll be interesting to see if they’ll look to double up on the Clare superstar.
I have a feeling that the Dublin’s side better depth will be the telling factor come Saturday and think their worth a punt at 4/6. However, it’s also worth having a sneaky bite at Con O’Callaghan to score the first goal at 5/1 given that the boy wonder seems to rattle the onion sack in every one of his games.
* All price correct at time of posting