This week, Tipperary were crowned Munster Under-21 Football champions, while Tyrone claimed honours in Ulster, meaning that the pairings for the All-Ireland Under-21 Football semi-finals are now known.
Leinster Champions Dublin will face Tipperary in Tullamore on Saturday week, while Tyrone will face Roscommon in Markievicz Park on the same day.
Both semi-finals promise to be very competitive affairs, and in line with the recent trend in Under-21 Football, it’s difficult to predict a winner from the last four teams in the competition.
Both Tipperary and Tyrone caused an upset in their respective provincial finals to make it to this stage, but can they go one further and make it to the All-Ireland final on May 2nd?
Dublin vs Tipperary
Cork were the favourites going into their Munster Final clash with Tipperary and after beating the Premier in the 2013 and 2014 finals, many people, this writer included, expected the Rebels to complete three final wins in a row over their Munster rivals, and claim their fifth Munster title in as many years.
Tipperary were eager to make up for losses in the previous two years though and were boosted by the return of captain Colin O’Riordan, who had not initially been listed in Tipperary’s starting line up, after suffering what seemed like a serious neck injury playing for the seniors in their win over Sligo last weekend.
The JK Bracken’s man lined out at midfield nonetheless and scored two points from play, as Tipp overcame a goal eitherside of halftime by Peter Kelleher to edge out Cork by a single point in the end.
Cork found themselves 2-5 to 0-8 in front right after half time, but Tipperary drove on and in spite of a late goal by substitute Cian Dorgan, Tipperary had done enough to earn their win.
Tipperary will be up against it next weekend when they take on a very talented Dublin side containing a number of players such as Conor McHugh and Cormac Costello, who featured for the Dubs when they defeated Roscommon in last year’s final.
Dublin defeated Kildare by 3-10 to 1-12 in last week’s Leinster final to claim their second Leinster title in a row and with a full forward line of Costello and McHugh as well as Colm Basquel contributing to 3-07 of Dublin’s tally that day, the Tipperary defence will have to be at its best if the Premier are to win this one.
Tyrone vs Roscommon
For the first time since 2010, a team other than Cavan will represent Ulster in the semi-finals, after Tyrone defeated Donegal by 1-11 to 0-13 to claim their first Ulster title since 2006. Donegal, who finally defeated Cavan in the semi-final, after losses to the Breffni County in the 2013 and 2014 were expected to go on and make amends for their previous two final losses, and in spite of being three points down going into the last ten minutes, they drew level in the last minute of injury time.
The Red Hands had other ideas however and Daniel McNulty’s injury time free gave Tyrone victory. Tyrone just about deserved their victory and fine displays by McNulty, Lee Brennan and Conor Meyler will give them confidence heading into their encounter with Roscommon.
The Rossies, beaten by Dublin in last year’s final, emerged victorious over Galway in the Connacht final by a scoreline of 3-14 to 3-11 and will be hoping to make amends for last year’s disappointing performance against the Dubs.
Roscommon defeated a strong Galway side that day, holding on to deny the Tribesmen victory in the dying stages and will be looking to finally win an All-Ireland title after losses in the 2012 and 2014 finals.
Key players Cathal Compton and Diarmuid Murtagh goaled against Galway that day, and along with Ultan Harney and Enda Smith, they will be looking to avenge last year’s loss and claim their first All-Ireland win at this grade since 1978.
Tyrone will be by no means a pushover, but expect a repeat of last year’s final, in what would be the third Roscommon-Dublin final in four years.
Eoghan Lordan, Pundit Arena