Semi-finals top big weekend
It’s a case of being spoiled for choice this weekend with a host of exciting and very attractive games down for decision in both codes.
Premier Senior Hurling
UCC vs Blackrock
It’s been a while since these sides last met in the championship but that should not lessen the appeal between two teams that have quality in every line and who have impressed in the campaign to date.
UCC knocked out the champions Imokilly and were excellent in their dismissal of Na Piarsaigh last time out, even with several of their players playing their second game of the weekend.
Cork players dominate the panel but the inclusion of Paddy O’Loughlin, Shane Conway and Mark Kehoe adds another dimension to their team. With Mark Coleman, David Griffin, David Lowney and James Keating also in good form, it’s an indication of the depth in the panel which won’t be as stretched this week in terms of club games involving their players over the weekend.
Blackrock went through their group unbeaten and displayed tremendous resilience in seeing off the determined challenge Douglas presented them with in the quarter-final.
Gavin Connolly is a solid and dependable goalkeeper and Stephen Murphy, Gary Norberg, Niall Cashman and Ciaran Cormack are well versed in the art of defending.
Michael O’Halloran and Alan Connolly were in excellent form in the win over Douglas, bagging 1-13 between them and they will test any defence.
It has the makings of an intriguing hour’s hurling that could go either way, but I expect the ‘Rockies defence to keep a tight reign on the students’ attack and that will give them an edge and with it a place in the final.
Glen Rovers vs Erins Own
This is a repeat of the 2016 final which Glen Rovers won after a tough encounter with the Caherlag lads. While they are favourites again on Saturday, they would be foolish to underestimate a team that have defied the odds to reach the last four.
As manager Martin Bowen pointed out, theycould easily have lost all their games but didn’t and they’re a very hard team to beat as they showed in beating a highly rated Sars team in the quarter-final.
Erins Own are still backboned by a number of very experienced players in Shay Bowen, Shane Murphy - although an injury doubt, and the brothers Eoghan and Kieran Murphy.
Robbie O’Flynn is a key player for them as are Cian O’Callaghan, Stephen Cronin, Maurice O’Carroll and James O’Flynn, whose brilliant hook denied Sars a match winning goal in added time in the quarter-final.
Glen Rovers emerged comfortably from their group, untested really, and that might concern the management ahead of this game. They’ve had four weeks without a competitive outing, their only run out being an easy win over Kerry last weekend.
Stephen McDonnell made his return and looked comfortable, while Robert Downey and Brian Moylan were excellent infront of goalkeeper Cathal Hickey.
Dave Noonan is hurling very well, while as ever in attack Patrick Horgan will provide the bulk of the scores. He does more than that, however, as his presence will keep a couple of defenders occupied which should allow Conor Dorris and Simon Kennefick to prosper.
The general consensus is Glen will be too strong and it’s a view that it is hard to disagree with, and they should win. But any dip in concentration could be fatal against a team that battles to the end.
My prediction is a Glen vs Blackrock final on 4 October.
Senior A Hurling
There are two intriguing games on the cards here in what is proving to be a very competitive championship and it’s hard to predict a winner.
There’s a derby of sorts in Mallow on Saturday with Charleville facing Kanturk, and there are a few Cork seniors in action, among them Anthony Nash and Aidan Walsh for the Ronan Curran-coached Kanturk while Darragh Fitzgibbon remains key to Charleville ambitions.
Kanturk have been very active in both codes in recent weeks and that might come against them but they have a wealth of experience that might get them over the line.
Fr O’Neills are one of, if not the favourites, for this championship but even if their preparations have been disrupted by a Covid complication, Newcestown will really test them especially if Luke Meade and Daniel Twomey play to form.
O’Neills have strength in every line and Declan Dalton, Billy Dunne and Mark O’Keeffe should steer them to victory.
Intermediate and Lower Intermediate Hurling
In the higher grade, Éire Óg and Sars renew rivalry with the Mid-Cork side having won the group game, and with the latter having lost a couple of players in the interim, a repeat win for Éire Óg looks on the cards.
Aghabullogue and Kildorerry is a bit harder to call, the latter have had a two-week run into this game having exited the football championship. Aghabullogue are motoring well in both codes and could maintain that winning sequence.
It’s an East Cork derby in the lower grade, with St Catherine’s facing Russell Rovers, and if the Saints cannot keep the scoring threat of Josh Beausang and Brian Hartnett under lock and key they could be punished.
The second semi-final also features an East Cork side with Castlemartyr favoured to get the better of Kilbrittain, thus setting up an all East Cork decider.
Having been thrown a lifeline with St Vincents win over Naomh Abán in the final group game, Knocknagree took full advantage to get the better of Nemo Rangers in the quarter-final and now it’s an all-Duhallow clash in the last four with Newmarket providing the opposition. This should be a real cracker, and as with all local derbies, they take on a life of their own which makes predicting a winner hard.
But Newmarket really impressed in the group stages and might just have a bit more in the tank than John Fintan Daly’s squad who have put up a lot of hard miles in recent years and that could take its toll.
To be fair they have been written off before and bounced back and they are capable of doing that again, but the odds favour Newmarket.
In Senior A, a cracking semi-final is in prospect as North Cork rivals Mallow and Fermoy go head to head. Mallow look to be hitting top form at just the right time with James Loughrey, Mattie Taylor and the very experienced Cian O’Riordan leading their challenge.
Fermoy are concerned but are hopeful that Tomas Clancy will recover from the injury that forced him out of their last game.
If absent he will be a significant loss and might just tilt the tie Mallow’s way.
The two postponed games, owing to Covid cases, have been refixed. Nemo Rangers and Ballincollig meet in Páirc Uí Rinn on Sunday night and Nemo’s experience will see them handle the disruption better and they should win.
The Barrs vs Newcestown game goes ahead next Wednesday 30 September in Páirc Uí Chaoimh. While the ‘Barrs will still be expected to win, they will not be too happy having to play Castlehaven in the semi-final a few days later in a situation that was not of their making.
Senior Camogie Final
Courcey Rovers and Inniscarra meet on Sunday in Castle Road at 3pm in a repeat of the decider of two years ago in which Inniscarra were comfortable winners.
In the meantime, Courcey’s have shown considerable improvement and were really impressive in their march to this final with Linda Collins, Christine O’Neill, Grainne Hannon and Fiona Keating while manager and coach Mick Boland will have them well primed for this intriguing encounter.
Inniscarra, though, are laced with experience and the manner in which they saw off the challenge of both Glen Rovers and St Finbarrs in successive weeks suggests that despite their considerable success of recent years the desire and motivation is as strong as ever.
Rena Buckley, Joanne Casey, Ellen Murphy, Niamh Dilworth, Treasa Mc Carthy and Katie O’Mahoney are well versed in the art of winning tight games and finals
That experience makes them favourites to win their fourth title in five years, but if they do they will certainly have earned it.
There are two big junior hurling finals; on Sunday in Ballygarvan at 3pm Shamrocks are bidding to win the South East title for the first time since 2005. They face Kinsale who last won in 2012. Ballinlough is the venue for the City Division decider with Passage chasing a double having won the football title last Sunday and they meet holders Brian Dillons at 4pm.