By DECLAN ROONEY
Dublin ladies captain Sinead Aherne says hosting the TG4 ladies SFC semi-finals at Croke Park is a massive step forward for the game.
History will be made later this summer when both semi-finals will be played in the Dublin venue, with both games featuring on a bumper double header bill on Sunday 25 August.
The TG4 All-Ireland finals are a regular fixture at Croke Park, but this will be the first time in the LGFA’s history that the semi-finals will also star at headquarters, while the intermediate semi-finals will be hosted at Nowlan Park in Kilkenny.
Last year’s semi-finals pitted Dublin against Galway, and Cork with Donegal, and both games took place in Dr Hyde Park, Roscommon. The same four teams are fancied to return to that stage in 2019, and if results go to recent form we could see a re-run of last year’s All-Ireland final between Cork and Dublin in one of the Croke Park semi-finals. The teams also met in the recent Lidl NFL Division 1 semi-final where Cork needed extra-time to claim the win.
Dublin captain Aherne admitted the prospect of reaching an All-Ireland semi-final at Croke Park excited her, and for whichever team reaches the last four it will be an exciting prospect.
“That’s massive, it’s a huge step forward for the game,” said Aherne. “The thing about the ladies game when you look at the last couple of years there has only been six teams that got that opportunity to play in Croke Park on All-Ireland final day.
“For it to be a double header of semi-finals it should be great games. Last year’s semi-finals ended up on a double bill and they were two great games in Hyde Park.
“It’d be great to see a huge crowd in for that and I think there will be if the competition continues to be close.”
Although Aherne will miss Dublin’s opening All-Ireland series game against Waterford this Saturday because of a shoulder injury, she hopes to be back in time for their final Group game against Monaghan a fortnight later.
“It’s not too bad, I just shipped a bit of a knock against Westmeath. I’ll be a couple of weeks getting back but I’m happy enough with how it’s progressing and I’m looking forward to returning.
“I don’t expect to be in the frame this weekend but we have a couple of weeks to the next game and I’ll be targeting that one against Monaghan.”
The TG4 senior, intermediate and junior championships continue this weekend following the conclusion of the provincial championships last Saturday, with Galway’s replay victory over Mayo in the Gaelic Grounds.
The senior championship is split into four groups in the All-Ireland stages, with one of the four provincial winners: Dublin, Donegal, Cork and Galway in each group. Defending champions Dublin start their Group 2 campaign this Saturday against Munster finalists Waterford, a game that will be shown live on TG4, while the other live game this weekend features Connacht winners Galway and Kerry. Both games will be hosted at O’Moore Park Portlaoise.
In the other two senior games this Saturday, Cavan host Armagh in the all Ulster affair, while Mayo will look to recover from last weekend’s Connacht final loss by making the trip to Healy Park to face 2018 intermediate winners Tyrone. Cork don’t start their All-Ireland campaign until 20 July, when they face Cavan.
In the TG4 intermediate championship, Down and Sligo face off, while Roscommon host Leitrim as part of a triple header at Dr Hyde Park alongside the Roscommon men’s Super 8s clash. The meetings of Clare and Wexford, Tipperary and Meath take place this weekend, while Longford and Wicklow meet at Pearse Park.
The withdrawal of Kilkenny from the junior competition has caused some imbalance in the group stages, but Derry have been moved from Group A to B, where they will face Antrim and Fermanagh, while Louth, Carlow and London will do battle for the two semi-final slots available from the group.Tweet