Three Midlands Teams Bid To Reach Intermediate And Junior Leinster Football Finals

We could have an local derby in the junior ranks if results are positive.

Away from the spotlight of the senior ranks, there's still a massive opportunity for clubs in the region to make a stamp on the provincial championships this weekend. 

Clara will bid to justify their favouritism in the Intermediate grade as they welcome opposition from neighbours Kildare while intriguingly, we could have a local derby in the junior ranks. 

Here's a quick look ahead to each with all the details you'll need to follow the action on Saturday. 

Castletown Finea Coole Whitehall v  Kilcullen (Kildare) - 1pm - Lakepoint Park, Mullingar

The Westmeath side entered the junior championship with a bang two weeks ago, defeating Dublin champions St. Marks in somewhat of an upset to those outside the area. 

They racked up 3-10 on that day, which will have sent out a warning signal to their next opponents, Kildare's Kilcullen. 

Midfielder Joe Rabbitt was the standout player in the previous round, slotting 1-4 and providing a superb platform in the engine room. Glen Plunkett and Mark Cunningham raised the other green flags but to be fair, this was a stout performance from 1-15 for the lake county team. 

Kilcullen themselves have carved out a decent run in the provincial series to date. They've convincingly dispatched the Wicklow champions on a scoreline of 2-11 to 0-5 in the opening round before hitting the exact same total in ousting the Carlow champions in Dr. Cullen Park a week ago. 

Grange got a lot closer to the lily-white side, going down by just two points at the close of play. The point being Kilcullen will be plenty battled hardened come this stage while it isn't inconceivable that CFCW could still be finding their Leinster legs. 

Ciaran O'Brien and Dave Marshall are the names to watch out for in the Kilcullen ranks. They notched 1-3 each in the previous round.

Ref: Andrew Smith (Meath)

Clara v Kilcock (Kildare) - 1pm - O'Connor Park, Tullamore

Clara are once again odds on with the bookmakers to continue their run in the intermediate grade and reach the final. 

They've been the favourites with many from the outset, having dropped down from the senior ranks in the faithful county and returning to the top tier at the first time of asking. 

They've been mighty impressive in two games to date. Ruthlessly defeating Longford opposition in the opening round by sending six strikes past a hapless keeper on the day. They then stepped up another level by defeating the Dublin champions Donabate in the last round. 

Ross Brady was the man in ruthless form on that occasion, striking 1-4 in total with only three of those scores coming from placed balls. 

Kilcock come in as underdogs but by all accounts, it's a tag they're relishing. They took out the Wicklow champions with aplomb in round one, before  beating an impressive Tang team by double scores in the last eight. 

Kilcock have had a miserly defence all year and this will take some breaking down from the Clara men. On the same token you could argue that they haven't come up against an attacking side to the level of Clara to date, with respect due to their vanquished rivals. 

While the game may turn out closer than the odds makers appreciate, there'd be some amount of disappointment in the faithful county if Clara are dumped out of the Leinster championship at this point and should have enough resolve to see them over the line in a tight contest in O'Connor Park. 

Ref: Patrick Coyle (Meath)

O’Loughlin Gaels (Kilkenny) v Clonbullogue - Sunday - 11am - St Lachtains, Freshford

Clonbullogue's third game in the provincial series is one they shouldn't underestimate. 

The Offaly champions have defeated opposition from Longford and Louth with relative ease in the previous two rounds. An aggregate score of 25-points will tell you enough about the form they're in at the moment. 

They're riding on the crest of a wave of some young attacking talent that made the breakthrough in 2021, none more so than Keith O'Neill , who just this morning received the honour of being named player of the year at junior level in the faithful county. 

They'll rightly be expected to win and take their spot in the Leinster final but shouldn't under estimate their Kilkenny opponents just because of the lack of a traditional football background in the county. 

The Kilkenny champions came out on top in a real physical tussle with Clongeen of Wexford in the last eight, triumphing by three points in atrocious conditions in the South-East. 

They boast some handy players in their ranks in the form off accurate free taker Sammy Johnston and the powerful Cian Loy at the full forward position. 

Those two combined for 1-9 of their 1-10 total in Wexford. 

It would appear as if the tie is Clonbullogue's to lose if they perform to their top level, but as proved the last day by their opponents, that is far from a given in this grade. They also face the added obstacle of making the journey to Freshford, having played the previous two games on faithful soil. 

Ref: Gary Hurley (Westmeath)

More from Sports