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Monday, 21 January, 2019

Now is the time to get on Na Piarsaigh for All-Ireland title

Champions Cuala can claim cosy win over Liam Mellows

Cuala's Con O'Callaghan (front) battles away in the Leinster Senior Hurling Championship final
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Live on TG4, 2pm Saturday

Last year's All-Ireland club champions Cuala of Dublin face Liam Mellows of Galway on Saturday as the Dublin side bid to move a step closer to becoming the first back-to-back champions since Portumna in 2009.

Cuala have moved through this campaign with relative ease, overcoming Dicksboro (Kilkenny), St. Martin’s (Wexford) and Kilcormac-Killoughey (Offaly) in the Leinster championship, with 2017 Young Footballer of the Year Con O’Callaghan leading the charge.

Galway club teams are no strangers to winning All Irelands, with eight wins since 2000, but Liam Mellows are not your typical Galway champions. The city team won their first championship in 47 years in December on the same day Cuala coasted to another Leinster championship, and they have been thrown into the deep end against the champions.

The key for Liam Mellows will undoubtedly be stopping Con O’Callaghan, but that is easier said than done. O’Callaghan’s athleticism and instinct for goal has been deadly, while Kerryman Darragh O’Connell and free-taker David Tracey have been in top form. Cuala should have the class and experience to pass this test and reach another All-Ireland final.

If Cuala make it to the final, it’s almost certain they will be facing a Limerick side - 2016 All-Ireland champions Na Piarsaigh.

Na Piarsaigh boast the formidable record of being unbeaten in Munster Championships, and they enjoyed wins over Blackrock (Cork) and Ballygunner (Waterford) following their third Limerick club championship in a row.

A late Ballygunner goal in the Munster final left just a point between the teams with two minutes left but Na Piarsaigh responded like a top-class outfit, with brothers Adrian and David Breen hitting injury- time goals to secure their fourth Munster Championship.

Adrian Breen has been the star for the Limerick, scoring 1-8 in the Munster Championship, while Ronan Lynch has taken over free-taking duty in Shane Dowling’s absence. Dowling has yet to feature since his injury in the Limerick County Final, but he is expected to play.

Their opponents Slaughtneil (Derry) have dominated Ulster hurling in recent years, having won their fifth Derry title in a row in 2017, and their second Ulster title in succession. Twelve months ago, they fell to a 13-point defeat by Cuala at this stage so they will be keen to improve on that performance, but this looks a mountain to climb.

Na Piarsaigh have looked impressive throughout this campaign, and Saturday should be the next step on their way to a second All-Ireland title.

Cuala -6 
1pt Evs bet365 
Na Piarsaigh to win All-Ireland
2pts 10-11 Boylesports, Ladbrokes

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This should be the next step on their way to a second All-Ireland title
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