Kildare, a county at the heart of our horse racing industry, don't normally play intercounty football games on the weekend of the Irish Derby at the Curragh. However, a Take That concert at Croke Park last weekend meant that the Leinster semifinals could not be switched and so Lilywhites supporters will heading past the Curragh on Sunday morning while their friends who work at the various stables and stud farms in the short grass county will be focusing on the big flat race at the racetrack. The Kildare GAA supporters will be heading to Croke Park for the Leinster semifinal against Dublin. The Dubs will probably start favorites following their easy win over Laois in the quarterfinal. It's a hard one to call. Laois were very poor and this Dublin side have yet to win a really big game when the going gets really tough. Bernard Brogan is a brilliant forward, however, and if he is curtailed, like he was against Laois, then his brother Alan can take over.
Meanwhile the Kildare forwards kicked 19 wides in their quarterfinal win over Meath. If Graham Geraghty's late 'goal' had stood would Meath have caught them, we will never know. In the previous round Kildare shot 17 wides against Wicklow, but if the Lilywhites bring their shooting boots on Sunday they could trouble the Dubs. Still it's a hesitant vote for the Boys in Blue.
The second semifinal at Croke Park on Sunday will feature the unusual pairing of Wexford and Carlow. It's a long time since either county won the Leinster senior football title; Wexford in 1945 and Carlow a year earlier in 1944. Carlow have not been in a final since then and the last time they got to a semifinal was in 1958. Meanwhile Wexford has been knocking on the door in recent years and they got to the final in 2008 where they were well beaten by Dublin. Wexford have also had a few good runs via the back-door route and three years ago they got to the All-Ireland semifinal. It's a sign of the changed times in the GAA that football in Wexford is now stronger than hurling and I think the Yellow Bellies can beat their Carlow neighbours and make it to the Leinster Final on July 10.
AND FINALLY, GALWAY
The Connacht football championship got under way in New York's Gaelic Park on May 1. There are only five counties in the province plus New York and London for the football championship, yet Galway won't play their first game until Sunday next. By then, eight counties nationally will have lost their second chance in this year's championship via the back-door route as the first round of the football qualifiers will be played on Saturday evening. It always happens in Connacht who seem to drag out their championship. And so Galway make their Connacht championship debut against old rivals Mayo in the semifinal at McHale Park, Castlebar, where the price for a seat in the stand will be €30. Before a ball was kicked in the championship I sought the views of former Galway star Stephen Joyce and he reckoned that Mayo had lost their way after a good start to the League, while Galway were making progress after a very poor start to the league campaign. Joyce was correct about Mayo as they needed extra time to overcome London in Ruislip. But we won't know how good or bad Galway are until Sunday. Manager Tomás O Flatharta has recalled 35 year old Padraic Joyce, which is not a great sign. And one of their other star forwards Michael Meehan is unlikely to be fit enough to start. 'Will Galway beat Mayo, not if they have Willie Joe.' That's a famous line from the Saw Doctors song 'Hay-Wrap.' Well Mayo won't have Willie Joe or his son Billy Joe, who is now playing for Armagh. So I will back Stephen Joyce's opinion and think that Galway can beat Mayo on this occasion.
DONEGAL WANT REF'S POOR CALL REVERSED
Donegal supporters will be hoping that Michael Murphy's appeal against the red card he got against Cavan will be successful and that their captain and will be free to line out against Tyrone in the second of the Ulster football semifinals at Clones on Sunday next. Murphy was unlucky to be sent off by Sligo referee Marty Duffy at Breffni Park on June 12. Duffy had earlier sent off Cavan's Ray Cullivan and it looked he was trying to even up the situation. Referees have a difficult task, but Duffy had a poor game in Breffni Park and missed a really high tackle late in the game by a Cavan defender who was more deserving of a red card that Murphy.
LOUTH HOPE FOR REVENGE
Louth is now the only county who cannot stage a big championship game. Their county ground in Drogheda is big enough, but spectators have to stand on grassy banks, something that is no longer tolerated by the GAA for big intercounty games. So the Wee County's first round qualifier against Meath will be played at Breffni Park, Cavan, at 7 p.m. Saturday as part of a double header. Earlier at 5pm Cavan play Longford. Louth supporters will be hoping that they can beat Meath and somehow erase memories of last year's Leinster Final at Croke Park when Joe Sheridan's highly controversial late goal denied them their first Leinster title in 53 years. But I think Louth are not as good as they were last year and Meath could win again. Elsewhere on a busy Saturday with eight games due to be played, last year's All-Ireland finalists Down play Clare in Ennis. The rest of the fixtures should be close games and if you are looking for a possible upset London, who pushed Mayo to extra time in the Connacht championship, might be able to account for Fermanagh at Ruislip.
ARMAGH TAKE ON ANTRIM IN FINAL
Armagh will be making their first appearance in an Ulster Senior Hurling final since 1946 when they play Antrim in the final at Casement Park on Sunday next. Sixty-five years ago Armagh lost to Antrim and I suppose we are likely to see the same result on Sunday. Armagh shocked Down in the semifinal, but they are unlikely to do the same against Antrim, who have won the Ulster championship a record 50 times. Antrim also now compete in the Leinster hurling championship, but they get a bye to the Ulster final.
TG4 WIN HEINEKEN RIGHTS
Irish rugby supporters will have to learn a few new Irish phrases next season. By the end of the season they should know was the Irish for scrum and line out is. That's because Irish language station TG4 has beaten national station RTE in the bidding rights to secure the highlights package for the Heineken Cup. The rugby competition will continue to be shown live on Sky Sports but budget constraints meant that TG4 beat RTE in the bidding war. RTE say they will continue to show Irish international Rugby games.
MCHUGH CALLS FOR MORE CLUB POWER
Former Donegal star Martin McHugh made some interesting points on RTE radio recently. McHugh feels that the club, which is the heartbeat of the GAA, is being forgotten as more and more focus comes on intercounty football and hurling. McHugh suggested that there should only be intercounty hurling and football games on alternative weekends in the provinces. McHugh's idea is that say next weekend there would only be intercounty games in Munster and Ulster, while in Leinster and Connacht the focus would be on the club scene.