Can Colmcille stop Abbeylara reaching another county final?

Colmcille v St Mary's

Colmcille's Dylan McCabe gets his shot away despite the close attentions of St Mary's Paul Smyth during the recent quarter-final clash at Glennon Brothers Pearse Park

Following their excellent win over Killoe in the previous round after producing a highly committed performance to spring a surprise, Abbeylara are now just one step away from reaching the Senior Football Championship final for the fourth year in succession.

Standing in their way in the last four clash at Glennon Brothers Pearse Park on Sunday next (3.30pm) are Colmcille in a repeat of last year’s quarter-final when only a solitary point separated the sides in the finish (0-15 to 0-14).

The outstanding Robbie Smyth was the matchwinner for Abbeylara in that close encounter as he fired over the fantastic total of 13 points (nine frees) but he is currently out injured after missing the match against Emmet Og a couple of weeks ago.

As a result Abbeylara were not expected to beat Killoe but whatever words of wisdom were spoken by manager Danny Brady certainly worked as his team showed a lot of character to emerge victorious despite kicking 16 wides.

Six points down at one stage in the first half, Abbeylara came back from the dead to keep alive their hopes of capturing the Connolly Cup with influential substitute Padraig Berry scoring the decisive late goal to knock Killoe out of the championship.

While the absence of Robbie Smyth was a serious blow for the beaten finalists in 2015, 2016 and 2017, there was just no stopping Conor Berry who dominated at midfield in the second half of the quarter-final against Emmet Og.

The powerful Berry is now very much the main main for Abbeylara and with prolific forwards Nigel Rabbitte and Jason Kelly well capable of getting the vital scores there is a fierce desire there to make amends for the previous bitter disappointments.

Colmcille have their own injury problems with Cathal Reilly, part of the Longford senior squad this season, currently on the casualty list while other absentees include Vinny Hourican, Enda Macken and Darren Mulligan.

All four started on the team that faced Abbeylara in the 2017 last eight clash but Colmcille continue to battle on with manager Stephen Coy working with a generally young panel of promising players.

Providing some valuable experience are Declan Reilly, John Paul Reilly and the Farrell brothers Noel and Declan while a key element in Colmcille’s chances of reaching the county SFC final for the first time since 2008 are the McKeon brothers Barry and Paul who will be going all out to make a big impact.

Colmcille have succeeded in getting this far after recovering from a very heavy defeat (2-17 to 0-8) against the title holders Mullinalaghta in the opening round.

Coy’s charges safely negotiated their way through the group stage with comfortable wins over Carrickedmond and Granard before taking on St Mary’s again in the quarter-final.

Colmcille looked good in the first half as they built up a commanding 1-8 to 0-1 lead but only managed to register a couple of more scores in a poor performance on the changeover as they withstood the Granard comeback, winning by four points in the finish.

The indications are that Colmcille will be hard pressed to overcome Abbeylara who have accumulated a lot of experience in the heat of the championship battle since losing to Killoe in the 2015 title decider.

Having said that, Colmcille will see this as a great opportunity to make it through to the county final on the first Sunday in October, particularly with Killoe now out of the way, and will be quietly confident of stopping Abbeylara without the major scoring threat of Robbie Smyth.

Prediction: Abbeylara

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