Feast of hurling finals in prospect
There’s yet another hectic weekend coming up with some great games in prospect in both codes. More so in hurling with three finals down for decision, while the junior championships also get underway.
Premier Senior Final
Blackrock vs Glen Rovers
Between them they have 59 titles, 32 for the ‘Rockies and 27 for Glen Rovers, yet it’s hard to believe it is all of 42 years since these age old rivals have met in a final. On that day in 1978, Blackrock were comfortable winners. Both have been in finals in recent years, Blackrock were runners-up in 2017 losing to Imokilly, while last year it was Glen who failed to halt the division’s march to three-in-a-row.
2002 was the last time that the ‘Rockie’s were crowned champions, while there was back-to-back wins in 2015 and ’16 for Glen Rovers.
A lot is at stake then as the curtain comes down on the new format of the championship that has produced a mixed bag of games, some good, some bad and some very poor.
It’s fitting that the two clubs who emerged unbeaten from groups should contest this final, it’s just a pity that the attendance will be small, if any at all, given the current situation.
The semi-finals were great games in different ways, the UCC vs Blackrock game produced some quality scores with a fantastic fight back by the ‘Rockies when all seemed lost, to fashion a well-deserved win.
As for Glen Rovers, they were really tested by a resilient Erin’s Own side who lost three key players through injury during the course of a cracking encounter.
The four week gap since their last game did not help Glen Rovers but once they re-shaped their team and adjusted to the pace of the game, they always looked winners. That game will stand to them having not had a serious test in the group stages.
Blackrock have won some very tight games in this championship, their last two in the knockout phase will certainly be of benefit, more so the way the wins were achieved. Both went to the wire, which shows the resolve within the group.
Defensively they are teak tough, fronting an excellent goalkeeper in Gavin Connolly, while Niall Cashman, Stephen Murphy, Gary Norberg and Cathal Cormack are well versed in the art of defending.
In attack Michael O’Halloran, coming back from injury, has enjoyed mixed fortunes in the last two games with 0-7 against Douglas and he was then replaced in the win over UCC but he remains a quality player.
John O’Sullivan equally so, while Tadgh Deasy has surely staked a claim for inclusion with his five point contribution from the bench last Saturday, while Shane O’Keeffe and Alan Connolly are also in very good form.
Glen will have been disappointed with their first half in the semi-final and cannot afford to start as slow again as a team with the Rockies’ quality will punish them.
Cathal Hickey made another vital save late on last Saturday, he remains the best custodian in club hurling, with Adam Lynch, Robert Downey and Brian Moylan excellent defenders while Stephen McDonnell is really showing his class with each game.
The midfield battle will be interesting, both sides will look to gain an edge here, and up front the Glen attack will hope for a consistent return over the 60 minutes, with whatever composition is chosen to join Patrick Horgan, whose scoring rate remains a key factor in their bid for title number 28.
Mark Dooley and David Cunningham improved matters when introduced at half-time, Dean Brosnan can upset any defence, Simon Kennefick has an eye for goal, while David Noonan is also good for a score or two and his work rate is exceptional.
County finals take on a life off their own, but this will be different; there’s no curtain-raiser, no dressing-rooms, no pre-match parade, so the hype will be less than usual and that might suit both teams as they treat it as just another game. But it’s far from it, there’s a lot at stake apart, mainly collecting the Sean Óg Murphy Cup.
The big question though is who will win? Many have held the view that Glen Rovers were favourites from a long way out to lift the title.The favourites tag hasn’t changed, but this is a traditional final in the old sense and favouritism doesn’t matter.
So my call…well Glen Rovers to shade a cracker, there I said it!
Senior A Final
Fr O’Neills vs Charleville
There is no doubt that the two best teams in this championship are contesting the final and luckily the draw decreed that they would do so.
Charleville were really tested by Kanturk in their semi-final whose cause was not helped by Lorcán McLoughlin’s dismissal.
Darragh Fitzgibbon is an influential performer for the North Cork side and gets excellent support from Tim Hawe, Danny O’Flynn, Andrew Cagney and Jack O’Callaghan, making them a formidable team.
O’Neill’s had it much easier in their last four encounter with Newcestown who, like Kanturk, finished with 14 men but even before Colm Dineen’s sending off the tide had turned against his side.
Despite the long-term absence of several players that were central to last season’s extended run, there is a nice balance and real quality in the O’Neills side.
Declan Dalton, Robbie Cullinane and Billy Dunne are excellent scorers and Mike Mellerick, Eoin Motherway and Mark O’Keeffe anchor a solid defence.
It’s a very hard game to call, I would say it could take a replay to resolve, but of course that cannot happen as it must be a result on the day. On that basis, a slight and somewhat hesitant nod to O’Neills to win.
Premier Intermediate Final
Blarney vs Castlelyons
Yet another fascinating contest in prospect between two sides that met already in the group stages which resulted in a win for Castlelyons, now can they repeat the trick when it matters most?
Blarney looked dead and buried in their quarter-final with local rivals Ballincollig, but they showed their battling qualities to win a game that looked well beyond them with 15 minutes or less remaining.
On the back of that confidence-boosting win, they blew Carrigaline away in the semi-final so their form is good coming into this game, even if they had a slight concern with three of their players involved with UCC in that extra-time game against Blackrock. How they managed their recovery will be key.
Mark Coleman, Shane Barrett and Padraig Power are the trio and obviously they are central to Blarney’s cause, as are Declan Hannon and Keith Costello.
Castlelyons, as group winners, made it directly to the semi-final and were always in control in their win over Courcey Rovers, with several players showing great leadership in key positions.
Colm Spillane’s deployment on the 40 is paying dividends, and with his brothers Michael and Anthony also excelling in attack, they will test the Blarney rearguard.
Their own defensive unit is backboned by James Barry, Niall O’Leary and Colm Barry but they face their stiffest test yet in this game, especially from Power and Barrett.
Another hard one to call but I’m going for Castlelyons to repeat their group stages victory, narrowly.
7pm throw-in on Saturday with live commentary on C103.
Its semi-final time in the Premier grade with champions Nemo Rangers meeting Duhallow in a repeat of last year’s final.
Nemo looked very good for parts of their quarter-final win over Ballincollig, especially in the manner in which they took their goals, pace, power and precision in three of them, but they might be slightly disappointed with their tally of just seven points, something they will work on ahead of this game.
Luke Connolly bagged three and Paul Kerrigan’s workrate was exceptional - he had a hand in all three - while James McDermott, Barry O’Driscoll, Colin O’Brien and Mark Cronin are as effective as ever.
Duhallow edged out a win over Valley Rovers and their concern is that several of their players will be in action with their clubs in advance of this game - not ideal, but it’s a situation they are used to and they generally cope.
They have quality players in Donnacha O’Connor, Eoghan McSweeney, John McLoughlin, Seamus Hickey, Bart Daly and Jerry O’Connor but have they enough to end Nemo’s reign? They will trouble them, but Nemo to prevail.
At the time of writing Castlehaven did not know who their opposition would be as St Finbarrs and Newcestown’s rescheduled game was only being played last night (Wednesday). The odds favoured the ‘Barrs which would make for a really cracking game on Sunday night in Páirc Uí Rinn.
Whether it’s Newcestown or St Finbarrs, the ‘Haven are favoured on the basis of their quality and the fact that they will be that bit fresher.
In Senior A, Clonakilty is the venue for the meeting of Éire Óg and O’Donovan Rossa, both of whom had good wins over one of the favourites for this championship, St Michaels.
Ciarán Sheehan remains an injury worry for Éire Óg but Daniel Goulding, Liam Sheehan, Ronan O’Toole and Kevin Hallissey, despite their dual involvement in recent weeks, are in confident form ahead of this game.
Rossa have also impressed with Kevin Davis, Donal Óg Hodnett, Elliott Connolly, Ryan Price and David Shannon leading their challenge, and with less distractions, the fresher minds and bodies might get them to the final and a meeting with Mallow.
Cill Na Martra have really lit up the Premier grade with the quality of their play in their unbeaten run to date, and they should account for Kanturk whose exertions and injuries in recent weeks is taking its toll.
In the Intermediate grade, Aghabullogue are on a right roll and will really test Mitchelstown but the odds favour the North Cork side making it to the final, where they could be joined by divisional rivals Glanworth if they can overcome the challenge of Rockchapel.