The Joe Mallon SFC returns this weekend as eight teams battle it out for places in the championship quarter-finals, with four of those involved in this Saturday’s games facing up to the fact that their year will be over with a loss.
Here’s our preview of the action.
Clane v Leixlip
Two teams coming off the back of absolute hammerings in the second round of the championship, the outcome of this game will depend on how quickly both sides have erased their respective defeats to Athy and Moorefield.
Clane certainly showed enough in their opening round win over St Laurence’s to suggest that they have enough in the tank to win this one, but Leixlip are a solid outfit who have an ability to grind out wins over teams around their level. How they shut down the scoring threat of Brian McLoughlin, who has been in brilliant form for Clane so far this year. The worry with Leixlip centres on their ability to get enough scores, but they should be prudent enough to edge this one.
Sarsfields v Castledermot
Castledermot took two bites at the cherry to eventually send Allenwood into a relegation battle and progress to round three, and there was certainly no shortage of Sarsfields clubmen in the stand at Hawkfield last Thursday to witness their replay win.
The reigning county champions looked well short of their usual spark when they were well beaten by Celbridge in the second round, but their 2015 county title win came after they had suffered an early blow in the championship when losing to Moorefield. Their attack was well below par against Celbridge last time out, and they will need to be much better if they are to achieve their goal of securing three county titles in a row. They should have far too much for a Castledermot side that is well drilled and quite balanced, but they are just a level below really putting it up to the top club sides in Kildare.
Round Towers v Confey
This is an incredibly difficult game to call. Round Towers have proven that they certainly belong at this level and enjoyed a fine win over St Laurence’s in their last game to back up a promising opening round display against Celbridge.
Confey, who won the Division 1 league title in 2016, have been consistent performers at this level for a few years now and it would be bitterly disappointing for them to exit the championship before the quarter-final stage. They started their last game against Eadestown without Paul Divilly and David Slattery, while Colm Chan also missed out through injury. All three of them will probably come back into the fold and will be needed to get by an ever improving Towers side.
Confey’s workrate and intensity in the tackle will be key as they look to shut down the likes of Neil Scanlon and Stuart Murphy, and if they can do that they should have just enough.
Naas v Carbury
Two teams coming off the back of very different performances in the second round meet in Hawkfield on Saturday evening in what is undoubtedly the most difficult game of the day to call. Outside of Moorefield, Carbury have been the most consistent team in the county so far this year and while that means their gameplan is entirely predictable, stopping it is a completely different matter.
Eoghan O’Flaherty was dominant when these two teams met in the league, but championship football will bring out a higher intensity from the Naas backline. Should Eoin Doyle return from injury Naas will probably be considered favourites, but their loss to Johnstownbridge two weeks ago will have hurt.
These two teams are physically well matched, play an open and exciting brand of football and will not employ blanket defences. While a winner is hard to predict, the promise of a thoroughly enjoyable game is a banker.
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