A Kildare club playing in December is always nice to see, even if it isn’t the month when important club games should be decided.
Two Mile House carry the flag for the county down to Tullamore this afternoon as they enter the lion’s den against a side who are well used to the O’Connor Park surroundings, and this will be the Kildare side’s first trip outside their home county for a competitive clash since they lined out in Croke Park for an All-Ireland Junior Championship final in 2014.
To say that the Shamrocks are a battle-hardened side at this point in the year would be an understatement; they have played a pretty eye-watering 12 championship games to get to this point. As much as the new structure of the Kildare Senior and Intermediate Championships were criticised, the Offaly Senior B Football Championship looks a bizarre setup on paper, with teams playing up to eight games before reaching the semi-final of a competition that only has eight teams.
Shamrocks have shown up well in their big games this year however, with two of their biggest wins coming in the Offaly final and in the Leinster semi-final, winning by 12 and 13 points respectively.
Two Mile House go into this game as favourites, and that is a deserved tag following their strong run of performances since the beginning of their championship season. Like their Offaly counterparts, they haven’t been beaten in championship football this year and looked like likely winners from a long way out in the Kildare championship.
Their Leinster campaign has been a storied one with lots of bumps, bruises and brilliance. Injuries have threatened to take their toll on occasion, with a number of players carrying knocks into games and some being forced off during matches due to niggly pains. It is clearing up ahead of the big game in Tullamore however, with Andrew Cregg returning to action in the semi-final win over Courtwood following some time out, while full-back Willie Burke is expected to shake off a hamstring strain.
Shane D’Arcy also returns to the fray after missing the last two games through suspension, and his return to midfield will free up a space for either Peter Kelly or Chris Julian to roam further forward.
Shamrocks are spearheaded by county star Nigel Dunne who has been turning in some superb displays for his club this year. Dunne was most impressive when kicking a combined total of 0-17 in the first round and quarter-final games in the Leinster Championship, while he was the dominant player up front when they hammered Horsewood in the semi-final. Shutting down the Offaly star will go a long way to winning this game for Two Mile House, and Nathan Sherry will probably be the man tasked with that role after doing some fine man-marking jobs already this year.
The Kildare champions have really clicked up front in recent weeks however, and shooting the lights out with 4-15 and 3-18 in their past couple of games should have them coming in high on confidence. Mark Sherry and Chris Healy have found their best form, while Peter Kelly continues to deliver turbo-charged displays going forward and Aidan Casey offers supreme reliability from placed balls.
It feels like things are clicking into place at just the right time for Niall Browne’s men, who look well placed to continue their fine season into the new year.
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