Assan Gaels (Killinkere-Lavey) and Southern Gaels (Lacken-Gowna) will round off the year with the final match, the DT One U21 Division 1 final, this Saturday (6pm), writes Paul Fitzpatrick.
In terms of competitive games, Assan have been idle since November 25, when a goal from Jamie McEnroe helped them defeat Naomh Brid by 1-12 to 0-9, while Southern Gaels will certainly be match fit following their tense semi-final and replay against Crosserlough on the last two weekends.
Assan’s track record in this competition has been excellent in recent years - winning it in 2011 and 2013 and making a couple of other finals - and while they may have expected to be weakened this time around due to Cuchulainns’ decision to go it alone, they have done well to advance to yet another decider.
Key men include Killinkere duo Lewis Fay-Cooper and Jason McMahon, who bring pace and ball-carrying ability, Jamie Smith (who has bagged 1-3 to date) as well as county minor Danny Cusack, another stand-out performer on what is a fairly well-balanced side.
Southern Gaels will start as favourites and boast lots of quality players with inter-county experience. Interestingly, the goalkeeper and all six defenders on the team sheet last time out were from Lacken (although ostensible centre-back Killian Galligan actually fielded up front), while Gowna players populate most of the attacking positions.
Thomas Galligan and Conor Brady form a strong midfield partnership, with Oisin Pierson, Cian Madden and freetaker Robbie Fitzpatrick moving well in attack along with Paul Leddy.
Most of the U21 games on the fast 3G surface have been relatively high scoring but the feeling is that Assan may look to keep a tight leash on the pacey Southern Gaels attack as a priority.
That will be easier said than done but Assan have several excellent players in their own right and are certainly capable of producing an upset. However, they will need to produce a better performance than they did last time against Naomh Brid and indeed in the quarter-final against Castlerahan (3-12 to 2-14).
Whether the break will be a help or a hindrance to them is anyone’s guess but the smart money still says that Southern Gaels could win this one with a few points to spare.