Last season’s beaten finalists Newcastle West meet surprise packet Ballysteen this Friday evening in the first of the Limerick SFC semi-finals.
It’s the 40th anniversary of the county final meeting of these parishes in the county senior football final.
The final of 1972 (not played until August 1973!) was won by Askeaton, 2-13 to 0-5.
One thing for sure, this Friday’s game in Mick Neville Park in Rathkeale at 6.30 won’t be as one-sided.
When these sides met in round three of the group stages back on August 10 it was Newcastle West that continued their 100% record with a 3-8 to 1-7 victory.
All indications are that very little will divide the teams again on this occasion when the prize is much greater.
Newcastle West are bidding to reach back-to-back finals, while it is all of 28 years since the parish of Askeaton-Ballysteen last appeared in a county senior final.
Ballysteen were semi-finalists in 2009, but lost to Drom-Broadford on that occasion.
Since Ballysteen won the IFC title in 2008, these sides have met on three occasions and it’s Newcastle West that have won two of the encounters.
Keen to change that statistic is Ballysteen manager Enda McDaid.
“I suppose this is a great opportunity for us - given the way the early part of the year went,” said McDaid.
Ballysteen took many by surprise with their 0-19 tally in the quarter-final win over St Kierans, but McDaid points out their total of 7-43 was the biggest total score in their group and that their run to the West final also saw them tally some impressive scorelines.
“That display came from a release of pressure. After the Ballylanders game we were just able to go out and express oursleves,” explained McDaid of their quarter-final win.
Pa Ranahan and Shane Hallinan missed that game but are now back in contention.
Where to play the duo will be key for McDaid and his backroom team.
Shane Gallagher, James O’Meara and Danny Neville are all key men, with midfield duo Ray Hayes and Padraig Vaughan essential to keep Ballysteen on the forward foot.
Ballysteen conceded an average of 1-11 in the group games and will need to tighten up against an attack with the Kelly and Quilligan brothers and Jamie Lee.
Newcastle West manager Mike Quilligan will be hoping his side produce their best free-flowing form.
They topped what was the more difficult of the two groups with impressive wins over Drom-Broadford, Monaleen, St Senans and Ballysteen.
But they also suffered defeat to Ballylanders in a reminder that they need to remain focused to produce their best form.
Midfield could be key and Ian Corbett will need assistance from all in the middle third to stop Ballysteen in a sector where they are strong.
The magpies full back line has been efficient with O’Keffee, Woods and Dowling a solid unit and will need to be on their foots to deny Danny Neville and colleagues space to use their pace.
Newcastle West were at their best in beating Drom in last year’s semi-final and a repeat would suffice.
Prediction - Newcastle West.
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