Mullagh (Galway) v Oulart-The Ballagh (Wexford), Croke Park, 3.15pm
This is a battle of two real heavyweights. Oulart-The Ballagh might have a more recent tradition at this level but Mullagh are former All-Ireland champions themselves, having won in 1991.
More relevant than that, is the fact that they are Galway champions. They had been knocking on the door in recent seasons and finally got over the line last year.
They did it the hard way too, beating Killimor along the way to the county final, where they then dethroned Ardrahan in convincing fashion by 4-6 to 1-8.
Adding to their credentials is the fact that they put paid to another champion outfit in Milford in the All-Ireland Semi-Final. The Cork crew were in pursuit of a third All-Ireland in a row but were denied by a strong second-half effort by Packie Dervan’s side.
While it was newsworthy that Milford’s long unbeaten run had ended, the result could not be termed a shock. After all, Killimor had appeared in the 2013 All-Ireland Final, while Ardrahan fell by just a point to the Munster team 12 months ago and both were unable to beat Mullagh.
Dervan, who is married to the hat-trick heroine from the ’91 final Emer Hardiman, has pointed to the experience provided by county players, Sinéad Cahalan and Rachel Monaghan as being vital as they mapped their way to this juncture.
If you want to discuss experience though, Oulart-The Ballagh are extremely well equipped in this department. In Ursula Jacob, Karen Atkinson and the Leacy sisters, Mary and Úna, they possess the captains of Wexford’s last four All-Ireland successes, while Mary Leacy was also skipper when Oulart annexed the club title in 2012. Atkinson leads the team on this campaign.
After losing at the semi-final stage in 2013 and 2014, they were then shocked in the county championship. That reverse prompted a serious reaction and they are back in the big time.
They had 10 points to spare over Thomastown in the Leinster final at the end of October, asserting themselves in the first half and retaining their advantage all the way through. That was their margin of victory too in the semi-final against Loughgiel Shamrocks.
With Úna Leacy, Stacey Kehoe and the incomparable Jacob around, they are always a goal threat and they seem to have made a habit of starting strongly. Mullagh will look to prevent them building a head of steam early on, while getting the likes of Monaghan on the ball as often as possible.
It should go down to the wire.