The dust has barely settled on the four quarter-finals, but the 2022 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship will be whittled down to two teams this weekend.
Ulster champions Derry take on Connacht champions Galway in the first semi-final clash on Saturday with both counties seeking to end a long wait since their last final appearance.
For Derry, that wait stretches back to 1993 when they won the Sam Maguire at the expense of Cork while Galway last reached the final in 2001 when they won the All-Ireland via the Qualifiers in what was the first year of the ‘back-door’ system.
Indeed, Derry are making their first semi-final appearance in 18 years and they won the Ulster Championship for the first time since 1998.
Rory Gallagher’s men will be intent on breaking more records before the season is out and the Derry boss looks set to have close to a full panel of players to pick from for Saturday’s game.
Gallagher has, so far, been able to name the same starting 15 for each of Derry’s four Championship games to date.
Emmett Bradley has been named at midfield for every game, but has been replaced by Niall Toner before the wins over Tyrone, Monaghan, Donegal and Clare.
Galway manager Pádraic Joyce is also likely to keep the faith with the same starting 15 from their quarter-final victory over Armagh.
Captain Seán Kelly had his red card rescinded and is free to play, but Cathal Sweeney, who was the final sub used in extra-time, picked up a one-match ban for his role in the ugly melee at the end of normal time.
1. Oran Lynch
2. Chrissy McKaigue 3. Brendan Rogers 4. Conor McCluskey
5. Conor Doherty 6. Gareth McKinless 7. Padraig McGrogan
8. Conor Glass 9. Niall Toner
10. Paul Cassidy 11. Shea Downey 12. Ethan Doherty
13. Benny Heron 14. Shane McGuigan 15. Niall Loughlin
1. Connor Gleeson
2. Liam Silke 3. Seán Kelly 4. Jack Glynn
5. Dylan McHugh 6. John Daly 7. Kieran Molloy
8. Paul Conroy 9. Cillian McDaid
10. Patrick Kelly 11. Matthew Tierney 12. Johnny Heaney
13. Robert Finnerty 14. Damien Comer 15. Shane Walsh
Seán Kelly (Galway) v Shane McGuigan (Derry)
Thankfully for Galway, their captain has had his red card from the Armagh game rescinded and Seán Kelly is available to lead his side out against Derry on Saturday.
He’ll have his hands full regardless of who he picks up as Derry have been in fine goal-scoring form throughout the Championship campaign.
Kelly could pick up Benny Heron, but it is more likely he’ll be given the job of marking the Championship’s leading scorer to date in Shane McGuigan.
The Slaughtneil ace hit 1-7 from play in the quarter-final rout of Clare and also set up Paul Cassidy’s goal late in the first half.
Holding McGuigan to a handful of points would be a good afternoon’s work for Kelly.
Conor Glass (Derry) v Cillian McDaid (Galway)
Two of the best midfielders in the country at the moment, Conor Glass and Cillian McDaid’s battle will also be keenly watched by the All-Star selectors.
Having played a holding midfield role in the Ulster Championship, Class pushed forward more against Clare and his pace and physicality caused the Banner all sorts of issues.
Galway won’t be as easy to get through and McDaid is in a rich vein of form himself, having turned in a Man-of-the-Match display against Armagh.
McDaid hit 1-2 from play against the Orchardmen, including a stunning long-range effort which brought the game to penalties.
It will be fascinating to see which midfielder can wield the most influence on Saturday’s encounter.
Ethan Doherty (Derry) v Liam Silke (Galway)
When Pádraic Joyce and his management team poured through the footage of Derry’s Championship victories to date, they’ll surely have noted Ethan Doherty’s remarkable contribution in the half-forward line.
While others in the team have grabbed the headlines, Doherty has quietly gone about his business and has been instrumental as the Oak Leafers plundered a first Ulster title since 1998.
Clare never really got to grips with him in the quarter-final and Galway can ill-afford to leave him unmarked on Saturday.
Liam Silke had a decent battle with Armagh’s Rory Grugan in the quarter-final and could be the man tasked with marking Doherty this weekend.
Shane Walsh (Galway) v Chrissy McKaigue (Derry)
It is almost a badge of honour at this stage of the season. Whoever Chrissy McKaigue is assigned to mark is probably rated as the biggest threat in the opposition team.
Shane Walsh is probably that man for Galway - although their entire forward unit contributed to their win over Armagh.
Robert Finnerty, Matthew Tierney and Damien Comer were impressive at various stages, but Walsh has been their top forward all season and McKaigue’s expertise will be required on Saturday.
The Slaughtneil ace added Keelan Sexton to the list of top forwards he has bested this term. Darren McCurry, Jack McCarron and Paddy McBrearty got little change from McKaigue in the Ulster Championship and McKaigue will be hoping to do a similar job on Walsh, leaving Brendan Rogers to mark Comer.
Odhran Lynch (Derry) v Conor Gleeson (Galway)
With such a tight game in prospect, one save or one stray kick-out could decide the outcome of Saturday’s semi-final.
Goalkeepers are under more scrutiny than ever and both Derry’s Odhran Lynch and Conor Gleeson of Galway will be aiming for improved efforts from their respective quarter-final performances.
Although Lynch’s kick-outs have generally been excellent all season, he looked nervy at times against Clare as Derry conceded two goals for the first time in the 2022 Championship.
Conor Gleeson had to pick the ball of his net three times the following afternoon as Galway progressed past Armagh and he didn’t convince under the high ball.
Derry tend to run the ball out of their defence, but when they have gone direct this season, they’ve looked lethal and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them lump a few high balls in towards Benn Heron and Niall Loughlin early on.