Big day in Croke Park for minors
All-Ireland Minor Final
Cork V Galway
My first interview this year with Cork minor football manager Bobby O’Dwyer was in Ennis on the night they defeated Clare to qualify for the Munster Final. I missed the first round loss to Kerry, and his words resonate with me ever since.
“This is exactly what this group of players need, a summer of football, and we will really develop as a team.”
How right he was; here we are now heading into the All-Ireland Final, and on the cusp of ending a long wait for the Tom Markham Cup to return to Leeside for the twelfth time.
Not that it will be easy, as Bobby explained: “Galway are a good team, we played them twice this year with one win each, and any side that can beat Kerry must be respected.”
Equally Bobby is delighted with how his team has progressed. “As the year moved on our injuries cleared up and we managed to put out what we consider to be our strongest team. All that has helped strengthen the panel, in which there is a great sense of purpose and unity within the squad.”
Cork were excellent in the Munster Final and came very close to beating Kerry, which gave them huge confidence for the quarter-final clash with Monaghan, and the manner in which they saw off the Ulster champions showed the signs of considerable improvement.
Connacht champions Mayo were next up, and with some cracking goals, the men from the west were sent packing and here we are with another Connacht team standing between Cork and victory.
This is an excellent Cork team, well balanced with a very high level of skillful players whose basics of the game are a pleasure to watch.
Adam Walsh Murphy, Daniel Linehan - what a goal he got against Mayo - Daniel Peet and Neil Lordan are all quality defenders, while the midfield pairing of Jack Lawton and Kelan Scannell have provided the platform for some memorable displays.
The attack is lethal; Jack Cahalane has a tremendous engine, while Conor Corbett, Michael O’Neill and Patrick Campbell are a handful and have the capacity to test the best Galway can offer.
Every journey has a beginning and an end and I suspect this one is going to end in triumph with an exceptionally talented Cork side.
Best of luck lads and the match is live on C103 from 1pm with full commentary.
Four games, all on Saturday, with a lot at stake. Apart from progressing in the championship, where the teams will be competing next season will also be determined.
Bandon with a 3pm start is the venue for a meeting of near neighbours Valley Rovers and Newcestown, with the latter's sole concentration now the football following their exit from the hurling championship.
This has the makings of an intriguing contest with Luke Meade and Cathrach Keane key players for Newcestown, but this is a well balanced Valley’s side who will look to Noel O’Donovan, Chris O’Leary and Fiachra Lynch to keep their double aspirations on track. They might just shade this one.
Clyda Rovers and Ballincollig head to Blarney for their clash and here the latter will be strongly fancied to advance, especially if Paddy Kelly, Cian Kiely and Liam Jennings play to form. Although Clyda are hard to beat, they are a bit reliant on veterans Paudie Kissane and Ray Carey and that will not be enough against the champions of 2014.
Fermoy caused an upset when beating Castlehaven, but it was well deserved, and that should put them in confident mood for their clash with Ilen Rovers in Brinny.
Ilen themselves impressed in their victory over Carbery Rangers but both will have had to cope with the long gap, although Ilen enjoyed success winning the Division 3 League Final.
Tomas Clancy, Ruairi O’Hagan and Jack Hutchings are big players for the North Cork outfit while Dan McEoin remains the go to man in Ilen’s attack, but a nod to Fermoy to win.
Mallow were recently crowned Division 2 league winners, and with Cork stars Mattie Taylor and James Loughrey leading their challenge, they will be hot favourites to defeat St Nick’s who lost heavily to Dohenys in the first round.
Cian O’Riordan is an absentee for Mallow, and in Dean Brosnan, Adam Lynch, Dave Dunlea and Alan Hosford, Nick’s have good players and always produce their best when the odds are stacked against them, as they are in this case. Can they do so again? Do not rule it out.
There’s an interesting double-header in Páirc Uí Rinn on Saturday night with Ballyhea and Kanturk getting proceedings underway at 6pm and the winners here will secure their place in the premier grade next season.
Both impressed last time out and will enter this game confident of prolonging their season. Ballyhea are bit dependent on the talented Pa O’Callaghan, while Kanturk welcome Lorcan McLoughlin back from his travels. Add in Aidan Walsh, Anthony Nash and Darren Browne and they look better equipped to advance.
This is followed at 7.45pm by what many see as the game of the round between Sars' and Douglas and this one is really hard to call.
Kieran Kingston will have his Douglas charges well primed for this game, and with quality all over the field there is huge potential in this group, but can they deliver?
Mark Collins, Eoin and Alan Cadogan, Brian Turnbull and Shane Kingston would grace any team.
Sars' were going well up to the league semi-final when they were ripped apart by Blackrock in a game when their system of playing seemed to break down and they were duly punished.
That said, they too have a very strong panel, with Daniel and William Kearney, Conor O’Sullivan, Jack O’Connor and Tadgh Óg Murphy.
Picking a winner is not easy, but I will take a punt on Douglas, but they might need extra-time to resolve this one.
On Sunday, it's UCC and Bishopstown in Ballinlough, and depending on what team the students have at their disposal, they have the capacity to test most sides. They usually have a strong team on duty, and if they have that for this game, they could be too strong for Bishopstown.
Midleton and champions Imokilly, a repeat of last year’s final, meet in Carrigtwohill and given the level of activity involving clubs from the division, Imokilly’s preparation might not be as good and the absence through injury of Paudie O’Sullivan and Colm Spillane will not help.
Midleton, despite a few absentees, had a good win in the last round and will relish this challenge and an opportunity to gain a measure of revenge for last year’s loss.
As ever, they will look to Conor Lehane, Sean O’Leary Hayes, Paul Haughney, and Luke O’Farrell for leadership, and while Imokilly are strong favourites, Midleton are well capable of ending the champions' reign.
Premier and Intermediate
The pick of the games in these grades is the Mid-Cork derby between Macroom and Cill Na Marta; the latter were runners-up in the Kelleher Shield Final recently and that might just give them an edge.
Nemo Rangers could get the better of Bandon, while Dromtarriffe will find Glenville tough opposition on the back of their great win last week.
In hurling, Bill Cooper's fitness will be crucial for Youghal's clash with Carrigaline, if he's fit they might win, while Mayfield, if they contain the scoring threat of Peter O’Brien, could get the better of Kildorrery. Argideen Rangers should shade their encounter with the ‘Barr’s second string outfit.
There are two games in the losers round of the SE Systems County Senior Championship with the first this evening (Thursday) in Castle Road between Milford and Ballygarvan at 6.45pm and here the odds favour the latter as Milford suffered a heavy defeat in the first round and are without a number of players that backboned their side in recent years.
On Sunday at Castle Road at 6.45pm, Douglas and Éire Óg meet and the city side will be fancied to advance especially if the Mackey sisters, Catriona and Pamela, and Julia White play to their undoubted potential.