Eight still standing: JFC quarter-final previews

Templeport v Drung

Friday, 8.15pm, Kingspan Breffni

Templeport go into this game as favourites after a free-scoring run through the group stages. However, the asterisk beside their form is that they have not really been tested against the better sides in the division yet.

They scored 4-13, 2-16 twice and 5-15 in their four group games against Maghera, Redhills, Kill Shamrocks and Drumalee, with Eoin McCaffrey registering 6-14 (4f) to date, but of that quartet, only Kill have made the last eight.

Drung also only played one team that qualified for the knock-out stages in Shannon Gaels (lost 1-13 to 2-4) but they had a gutsy win over Mountnugent last time out, with the Reilly brothers, Caolán and Tiernan, accounting for 2-12 between them.

If the Bawnboy men can keep the Reillys quiet, they should progress. If not, they will be tested but the quality around the field in the likes of Benjamin Kelly, Liam Maguire and Co should see them through.

Knockbride v Kill Shamrocks

Saturday, 6pm, Kingspan Breffni

Knockbride could have won this championship last year. They led eventual champions Killinkere by two points in injury time in the quarter-final but the concession of a calamitous goal from a long-range free-kick saw them crash out.

They have regrouped and are through to the quarters after a tough draw in the group stages where they beat Shannon Gaels, lost to Denn, edged out Redhills in a high-scoring thriller and then belatedly found their stride with a very impressive win over Munterconnaught last Sunday.

While they have lost attacker Ciaran Smith to injury, forward colleague Philip Rogers is fit again and is in fantastic form. The defence were watertight last time out with Roy Donohoe and Philip Nulty impressive around the middle and playmaker Matthew Traynor also lively at wing-forward.

Kill, for their part, are arguably the most-improved side in the county. They failed to get out of the group last year and finished 11th in Division 3 of the ACFL but their form in this championship has been excellent.

With the likes of evergreen Sean Gaffney, Anthony Brady and Ben McIntyre to the fore, they beat Mountnugent on the opening day by a point, had the same to spare over Swanlinbar and beat Kildallan by four, with a loss to Templeport the only blot on their copybook.

If they can stay with Knockbride for the first quarter, they will be in with a great shout but Larry Reilly’s men are taken to advance.

Kildallan's Niall Crowe moves to block the advance of Munterconnaught`s Shane O'Reilly.

Shannon Gaels v Munterconnaught

Sunday, 2pm, Kingspan Breffni

The Blacklion-based side were in the final last year while the Ryefield men were in the semis so on the face of it this should be a good contest but Munterconnaught’s form coming into the game is poor.

They turned in a very disappointing performance against Knockbride last Sunday in Stradone, failing to score for well over half an hour after a fairly bright start. However, they have potential to play much better with potent forwards such as Kevin Hendrick, Shane Hanley and the experienced John McCabe all well capable of scoring and quality players further back the field such as the O’Sheas, Fionn O’Reilly, Tiernan O’Reilly and veteran duo Stephen Sheridan and Danny Nolan.

They beat Kildallan and Maghera in their opening two games before coming a cropper by a point against Denn in Mullagh and will need to deliver their best performance to date if they are to topple the west Cavan men.

While Nevin O’Donnell, captain in 2019, is away in Australia, former county minor Caoimhan McGovern has stepped up and has landed 2-32 in the four games to date. With a solid spine where full-back Stephen McManus and county star Jason McLoughlin are key at the back and the experienced Enda McHugh pivotal on the edge of the square, they will be hopeful of returning to the final this year and if while they won’t have it easy, they get the vote here.

Denn v Kildallan

Sunday, 4.15pm, Kingspan Breffni

Eleven years have passed since Denn reached their second SFC final in succession. In the interim, they have slid down through the grades and they bottomed out last year when failing to advance past the group stages.

This year, under Ballymachugh man Stephen Baxter, they are on the up again, with their young players now leading the charge, augmented by former county man Mossy Corr at full-back.

The Donohoe brothers have been excellent up front while Cavell Keogan is fit again and will be a major addition. Around the middle, Oisin Kiernan’s strength and energy and Conor O’Reilly’s class have also been crucial as the Crosskeys men have picked up wins over Swanlinbar, Knockbride, Munterconnaught and Redhills.

Kildallan, under manager Emmet Curry, have improved greatly from the side who failed to make the quarter-finals in the last two years. Their best result came when they beat Redhills in round two and they will look to attackers Ryan O’Neill, who has been brilliant, and Darragh McGovern on Sunday.

However, a victory for the Ballyconnell men would rank as one of the upsets of the season were they to pull it off and the odds seemed stacked against them on this occasion.

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