Hurling knockouts begin as camogie finals take place
With the group phase now complete in both the hurling and football championships, there’s now no room for error and it’s winners takes all from here on in.
What we do know is there will be new football champions following Nemo Rangers’ elimination last Sunday, so the hurling champions Blackrock will try to avoid a similar fate as the Co-Op Super Stores Premier Senior Hurling quarter-finals take centre stage with Páirc Uí Chaoimh hosting all three games.
Premier Senior Hurling
Erin’s Own v Midleton on Friday at 7.30pm
With victory over champions Blackrock in their opening game, Erin’s Own sent a clear signal of intent that once again they would make an impact on the championship and they backed that up with a stunning comeback in the second game to earn a draw with St Finbarr’s. It ended the ‘Barrs challenge and there are unconfirmed reports that after just one year at the helm Ronan Curran has stepped down.
All which suggests that this East Cork derby is up for grabs especially given how poorly Midleton performed in their heavy defeat by Sars; maybe the fact that they had already qualified had an impact on their approach, not underestimating how well Sars played on the day.
Erin’s Own are full of battling qualities and it has stood them well in this campaign allied that to the excellent form of Robbie O’Flynn, they are well capable of winning this game.
Midleton of course will look to improve, and they will expect big displays from Conor Lehane, Luke O’Farrell, Paul Haughney and Tommy O’Connell if they are to progress.
Equally the contribution from the Murphys Eoghan and Kieran, Brian Ramsey, James O’Flynn and dependable goalkeeper Shay Bowen are key to Erin’s Own’s ambitions.
Local derbies are hard to call, and while Midleton are favoured by many, I have a fancy that Erin’s Own might just edge this.
Blackrock v Douglas on Sunday at 2pm
An intriguing encounter in prospect and for Douglas the added incentive of doing what their footballers did last week, knocking out Nemo Rangers, by repeating the dose and ending the reign of the champions.
Blackrock showed their mettle by the manner in which they recovered from the opening round loss to Erin’s Own by comfortably seeing off Charleville and St Finbarr’s to keep their retention ambitions on track.
The win and especially the manner in which it was achieved over the ‘Barr’s will have given them a huge confidence boost and they will relish the challenge Douglas will present, and with John and Niall Cashman, Alan Connolly, Tadgh Deasy (if fit), Jamie Ryan, Michael O’Halloran and Robbie Cotter all showing exceptional form they will look for a repeat performance in this game.
Douglas though have been the team of the championship so far, their demolition of Glen Rovers in round 1 was the benchmark for the rest of their group games and they had secured their place in the knockout phase with a game to spare.
In the past it has been said that given the quality and potential within the team, they should be achieving much more and it’s hard to argue with that assessment, now will this be their year?
Brian Hartnett and his brother Niall are comfortably playing both codes and in the process making vital contributions, while Shane Kingston has been their scorer in chief in their games to date, Brian Turnbull, Eoin and Alan Cadogan along with Mark Harrington are playing very well and with confidence.
This will represent their biggest test to date and they will approach this game in confident mood, but champions die hard, and it’s a slight nod to Blackrock in what could very well be the game of the weekend.
Glen Rovers v Imokilly on Sunday at 4pm
A repeat of the 2019 final in which Imokilly won, but the divisional side have lost several players from that team but it is to their credit and the strength of the game in the division that they are once again a force to be reckoned with at the business end of the championship.
They have had two games to date, narrow winners over UCC first time out and then the most facile of wins over a depleted Seandun side.
Glen Rovers recovered from the heavy defeat to Douglas with wins over Bishopstown and then won a thriller over a very good Newtownshandrum side and that will have given them a boost.
Ciaran Joyce is a loss to Imokilly but they could have Daire O’Leary back from injury and with Lisgoold, Castlelyons and Castlemartyr safely into their respective semi-finals, there won’t be any distractions this week and they could get in a couple of training sessions, while Nemo’s defeat might also see Kieran Histon return.
Seamus Harnedy, John Cronin, Brian Lawton, Liam O’Shea, Shane O’Regan and Colm Barry will also feature in a team that improve with every outing; they might not be as strong as they were when winning the three in a row, but they will still be formidable.
Not for the first time Patrick Horgan with 2-13 was key for the Glen in the win over Newtown, while Mark Dooley worked hard in attack but a better scoring return for others is clearly required for that sextet if progress is to be made.
Cathal Hickey, Brian Moylan, Adam Lynch and Stephen McDonnell are all well versed in the art of winning tight games and this could very well be the case on Sunday, and that might be enough to get them over the line.
It’s also quarter-final time in the Intermediate A grade, both on Saturday at 4pm. Ovens is the venue for the Muskerry derby between Cloughduv and Aghabullogue and here the latter will be favourites especially if Matthew Bradley, Paul Ring and Shane Tarrant reproduce their form of previous rounds.
Cobh will host the clash of Midleton and Mayfield who were excellent in their narrow loss to Castlemartyr and with Nicky Kelly and Shane O’Donovan as effective as ever they should make it to the semi-final.
In the Lower Intermediate grade, Milford will be fancied to get the better of Tracton in Mallow also on Saturday at 4pm.
There are also two relegation games at 2pm, Grenagh play Russell Rovers in Riverstown and despite their injury list the latter should prevail.
Old rivals Blackrock and Glen Rovers meet in Ballincollig in what is a crucial game as the losers will drop to the Lower Intermediate grade for next season and with this set to be abolished it would represent a serious setback in terms of player development effectively it means your second team would then be playing junior and that’s a big step up to senior.
On current form Blackrock would be favourites to survive but irrespective of the grade whenever these clubs meet form goes out the window, making it a hard one to call.
On Sunday at 2pm in Blarney, there’s a quarter-final in Premier Intermediate hurling between Kilworth and Valley Rovers. Here the North Cork side will be boosted considerably by their great win over another Carrigdhoun side, Ballinhassig in the last round and with Valley’s playing football last week, the momentum might be with Kilworth to progress.
Camogie Senior Final
Castle Road, the superb complex of the Cork Camogie Board has been a hive of activity in recent weeks and that continues this weekend with no less than three finals down for the decision.
The big one is the SE Systems County Senior Final featuring Seandun versus Imokilly on Sunday at 3.30pm.
This is Inniscarra’s sixth final in a row, winning just two of the last five, and they will be anxious to improve on that ratio on Sunday and certainly the improvement they have shown since losing their first round tie would suggest they are in a good position to do just that.
However Seandun have also shown improvement with every outing and with less complications this week will be formidable opposition.
Amy O’Connor, Amy Lee, Niamh O’Leary, Nicole Crean, Katleyn Hickey, Roisin De Faoite and Hayley Ryan impressed in the semi-final but they will need to be as good again this time round, and avoid a period in the game in which they were outplayed and outscored before regaining their composure and seeing off a determined Sars side in the semi-final.
Inniscarra were well in control in their win over a fancied St Finbarr’s in their semi-final and the experienced gained in successive campaigns will stand them especially in a tight contest.
Joanne Casey, Claudia Keane, Aileen Sheehan, Katie O’Mahoney, Aine O’Regan and Ciara Ring have what it takes to win games of this magnitude.
The make-up of the Inniscarra team may have evolved with the passing of time in recent years but what has not changed has been their work-rate, team spirit and that should be good enough to win what has the makings of an intriguing encounter.
In the Intermediate Final on Saturday at 3pm, it’s Fr O’Neills and Aghabullogue, while in the Junior Final on Monday, Charleville play Sliabh Rua.
Cork Camogie have set up an interesting sub-committee to begin the search for a new senior manager. It includes former All-Ireland winning captains Glen Rover’s Linda Mellerick, Inniscarra’s Rena Buckley, Marion McCarthy - current Treasurer of the Board, Cork hurling selector Ger Cunningham and former Limerick senior hurler Damien Quigley. We wish them well in their endeavours.