Nemo Rangers celebrate with the cup after the 2020 Cork County Senior Club Football Championship Final match against Castlehaven. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Massive opening weekend of club football action

Just six days after contesting the 2020 County Football Final, champions Nemo Rangers and runners-up Castlehaven will begin their 2021 campaign, along with every club in the county as after a longer than expected inter-county season, the attention reverts to the club with a bumper weekend ahead.

The meeting of Nemo Rangers and Valley Rovers is actually a repeat of their clash in the group stages of last year’s championship in which the Innishannon side really tested the then and still current champions, where goals were key in the win.

Nemo will have put their celebrations on hold and with Paul Kerrigan, Luke Connolly, Kevin O’Donovan and Micheál Aodh Martin keen to get off to a winning start before the two week break. It will be a major surprise if they are beaten and they probably won’t in a match that has a 5pm start in Ballygarvan on Saturday.

The second game in group A is in Páirc Uí Rinn at 7pm and here Douglas even without their dual players should get the better of Carrigaline, especially if Brian Hartnett and Sean Powter play to form.

In Group B, three of the four teams are from West Cork. A local derby between Castlehaven and those really tough competitors Newcestown kicks things off. The ‘Haven will be fancied but they will need to be close to their best to win this clash which has a 4pm start Saturday in Clonakilty.

A big day for Eire Og as they make their debut in top grade football at 2pm on the same afternoon in Bandon with Carbery Rangers who would appear to be in transition. With momentum being a big factor plus the quality of John Cooper, Daniel Goulding, Ronan O’Toole and possibly Ciaran Sheehan, they could make a winning start.

Group C features St Finbarr’s and Ballincollig in Páirc U Rinn on Saturday at 2pm and here with Ian Maguire, Stephen Sherlock and Sam Ryan leading their challenge and fresh from winning their section of the league, ‘Barr’s should prevail.

The other game in this group is on Sunday in Rosscarbery at 3pm and it’s another West Cork derby - Clonakilty v Ilen Rovers. Liam O’Donovan could return after injury for Clon, add in the White brothers and Tom Clancy and they should get their campaign off to the best possible start.

Group A has a West Cork feel to it although Ballingeary are Muskerry based, given their geographical location they’re close enough, and they open their campaign in Kilmichael with Doheny’s as their opponents on Sunday at 2pm and the Dunmanway lads look better equipped to win.

Ballinscarthy is the venue on Saturday at 6pm and here O’Donovan Rossa should get the better of Bandon but as always with local derbies, that might not be the case.

Group B will have local derbies to start with on Friday in Páirc Uí Rinn at 7.30pm, Bishopstown relegated from the Premier grade last season will want to make a quick return but they face a tough hour against a St Michaels side that has won a lot in the last few years at various grades and that might give them the edge.

It’s an all-Duhallow clash in the second game and here the meteoric rise of Knocknagree from Junior to Senior is complete but they face a tough opener against neighbours and rivals Kiskeam in Boherbue on Sunday at 2pm.

A tough day as well as their runaí Michael Dilworth passed away shortly after they won the Premier Intermediate title recently and this will make the occasion an emotional one, but Manager John Fintan Daly is experienced enough to get them through the day and make it a special one by winning.

The third group here sees Fermoy taking on Mallow, in Castletownroche on Saturday at 6pm. Mallow might find it hard to shake off their poor display in losing the final to Eire Og and that might be enough to give Fermoy the win, while Clyda Rovers will be without the very talented Conor Corbet and his loss as a scoring threat will not help against Bantry Blues in Aghinagh on Sunday at 2pm.

Knaturk having lost to Knocknagree in the final a few weeks back, will look to this clash with St Nick’s to kickstart their season in Mourneabbey on Saturday at 4pm and will be favoured to win this Group A encounter, while it’s a toss of a coin to see who wins between Muskerry neighbours Naomh Aban and Macroom in Ballingeary at the same time, with the latter fancied.

In Group B, Cill Na Martra should be too strong for Nemo’s second team on Sunday in Carrigadrohid at 2pm, while Rockchapel on the crest of a wave following their win in the Intermediate decider two weeks ago should edge out St Vincent’s in Mallow at 3pm.

The final group in this grade contains exactly the same four teams as last year - Na Piarsaigh who had a good league run play Castletownbere on Sunday in Enniskeane at 3pm, while it’s Aghada v Newmarket in Glantane on Saturday at 3pm; wins possibly for Na Piarsaigh and Newmarket.

There are 16 teams in this championship and will be competitive, here’s a shot at predicting the winners.

Group A; Kildorrery v Glanmire, Sunday 4pm in Fermoy - Glanmire win

Mitchelstown v Aghabullogue, Saturday 2pm in Watergrasshill - Mitchelstown win.

Group B; Kilshannig v Glanworth, Sunday 4pm in Kilavullen - Kilshannig win.

Adrigole v Glenville Saturday, 6pm in Dunmanway - Adrogloe win.

Group C; Milstreet v Kinsale, Sunday 4pm in Macroom - Kinsale win.

St Finbarrs v Iveleary, Sunday 4pm in Cloughduv - Iveleary win.

Group D’; Gabriel Rangers v Ballinora, Sunday 4pm in Ballinacarriga - Ballinora win

Dromtarriffe v Ballydesmond, Sunday 4pm in Cullen - Dromtarrife win.

The attendance at all these games should not be an issue and with the continued easing of restrictions how good it will be to see supporters back at games again.

One thing that did surprise me though was the fact that the County Board are sticking with their policy of online ticket sales for games going forward. This was understandable while attendance was limited, but surely that could now be looked at again in light of recent developments.

Clubs are asked to assist their members that do not have access to such facilities but what about the neutral supporter or the walk up supporter who might make a late decision to attend a game - are we now going to deny them that opportunity?

Would it not be possible that there be certain gates, especially in Páirc Uí Chaoimh and Páirc Uí Rinn where cash sales could be facilitated, and for games at club grounds around the county that such a facility could also be made available.

The sporting world has undergone a lot of changes in the last 18 months, but one thing that should not change in my humble opinion is the facility where the ordinary GAA supporter not affiliated to any club could attend a game of his choice and put his money on the table, it is what made us today and will sustain into the future.

With just 20 minutes played last Saturday in searing heat, the Cork minors lost a player to a very harsh second yellow card and their bid for a third successive All-Ireland title looked like it was coming unstuck against a very good Dublin team. But to their credit, they dug out a fabulous one point win to set up an intriguing final against Kilkenny next Sunday in the LIT Gaelic Grounds Limerick at 6pm.

Kilkenny themselves got the better of a highly rated Galway side in a very high scoring encounter that took extra-time to resolve, and with their seniors relinquishing their crown to Cork last Sunday, they will now want to exact a measure of revenge.

Of course such thoughts will be furthest from the minds of both set of players who will just focus on the job in hand and that is to win the title.

The counties met recently in the All-Ireland Under 16 Final and Cork were narrow winners so expect another close game on Sunday.

Kilkenny will look Ellie O’Neill, Niamh Phelan, Sontae Jackson, Emma Mulhall, Katie Byrne and free-scoring Amy Clifford who bagged 1-14, (1-6 from play) in the quarter-final win over Limerick, in a bid to wrestle the title from Cork in their first final appearance at this level since 2015.

Cork showed tremendous resolve to win their semi-final, defensively they were excellent and disciplined Ciara Hurley did not put a foot wrong in goal, while Avril Cashman, Olivia McAllen and particularly when needed most Aoife Healy was a rock at centre-back.

Meabh Murphy and her cousin Rose worked tirelessly, as did Aimee Morgan and Orlaith Cahalane would you expect anything else from a player with that name, while Orlaith Mullins made a very telling contribution when introduced enough maybe to earn her a starting berth on Sunday.

Both sides look to have quality all over the field which should make for a fascinating encounter, and a nod to Cork to make it three on the bounce with a narrow win.

Next week it’s the opening rounds of the County Hurling Championship and of course the All-Ireland Senior Camogie Final - Cork v Galway - plenty to look forward then as we head into September!