All-Ireland Club Quarter Final Football Preview
There is quarter-final action in both the AIB GAA Football All-Ireland Senior and Junior Club quarter-finals in England on Sunday, with Tír Chonaill Gaels hosting Dr. Crokes in Ruislip in the weekend's main game and St Peter's facing Castleknock in Manchester.
Sunday, December 16
AIB GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Club Championship Quarter-Final
Tír Chonaill Gaels (London) v Dr. Crokes (Kerry), Emerald Grounds, Ruislip, 1.30pm
With the four provincial championships decided in recent weeks, the All-Ireland series stages of the AIB Club Championship begin this weekend with the meeting of London champions Tír Chonaill Gaels and Kerry kingpins Dr. Crokes at Ruislip.
The Exiles, who beat Kingdom Kerry Gaels at the Emerald Grounds on October 14 to claim their 14th county title, will be banking on ‘home’ advantage to tip the balance in their favour against a Crokes side that has played 11 matches in the last 12 weeks.
Gaels have been largely inactive since mid-October, while Crokes star Colm Cooper spoke this week of the fatigue that has set in in the Kerry champions’ camp after such a demanding end to the calendar year.
Crokes, certainly, could have done without a trip across the water for a tricky quarter-final assignment so close to Christmas, having retained their Munster title with a clinical defeat of Castlehaven just a fortnight ago.
The Kingdom outfit didn’t even have the luxury of a week off to enjoy their latest provincial success, as they were back in action last Sunday, when they beat Rathmore to claim the East Kerry title thanks to three Chris Brady goals.
Crokes do, however, travel to London with some inside information on their opponents, as two of their players, Mike Moloney and Shane Doolan, played in the English capital last year with Kingdom Kerry Gaels and the Exiles’ inter-county side.
Dr. Crokes’ last outing in an All-Ireland quarter-final was back in 2006, when Colm Cooper scored 2-6 in a 2-12 to 0-5 win over another London side, St Brendan's.
On Sunday, they will have to cope without inter-county star and vastly experienced centre-back Eoin Brosnan, who is ruled out through injury, while manager Noel O’Leary is hopeful that Luke Quinn, Shane Doolan and Kieran Ward will all overcome injuries sustained in last weekend’s local decider.
With a glamour semi-final tie against Dublin champions Ballymun Kickhams in prospect for the winners, Cooper warned this week against taking their underdog rivals for granted.
“People are saying we’ll handle it and we’ll play Ballymun after Christmas and that will be the real test," he said. "But I wouldn’t subscribe to that at all. I’ve been at enough matches to know that is silly talk, especially at this time of year.”
While Cooper is naturally cautious ahead a potentially hazardous trip to London, Tír Chonaill have a poor record in the quarter-finals having lost at this stage on four occasions since 2005.
Gaels' Tale of Woe
Recent Quarter-Final Defeats
Crossmaglen Rangers (2007/08)
However, Gaels do have an ace in their pack in the shape of manager Paddy Carr, who won an All-Ireland title with Kilmacud Crokes back in 2009. Although based in Ireland, Carr’s considerable experience was a key factor in their reclaiming of the county title this year.
Gaels have also had the benefit of a recent visit from All-Ireland winning Donegal manager Jim McGuinness, who took a training session with the team last month.
"Jim McGuinness came down with the Sam Maguire and gave us a big talk after training that went on for ages. It was great,” said Gaels defender Dave McGreevy afterwards. “You could see with Donegal this year that all the players bought into their game plan and he explained to us how that worked. From listening to him speak it was blatantly obvious why the man has won an All-Ireland. We took on board everything he said."
Gaels have had 13 successive unsuccessful attempts to break their hoodoo at this stage of the competition, and they may need all the inspiration they can to beat a quality Crokes outfit on Sunday.