Action packed weekend ahead
Now that the semi-final pairings in a number of hurling championships are now known, a few more issues will be resolved this weekend with vital games in both codes.
The main focus will be on the Bon Secours Premier Senior Football Championship with three quarter-finals scheduled for Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
With champions Nemo Rangers surrendering their crown in the group stages, it’s fair to say that the ‘Barrs will be considered one of the favourites to lift the famed Andy Scannell Cup and it’s hard to argue against that viewpoint, but they face a tricky tie against an Eire Og side that have taken to playing at this level in their stride. Two wins out of three and the loss a very narrow to one of the other favourites Castlehaven, is a clear indication of the potential and quality they have in their side. The ‘Barr’s were unbeaten in the group phase but there was an inconsistency in their play that they will need to eradicate if they are to remain contenders, while a growing injury list is also a concern. Ian Maguire remains a key player for them as has Michel Shields who is used as an impact sub nowadays and plays it to perfection. Sam Ryan, Com Barrett, Cillian Myers Murray and Conor McCrickard are others who have performed well to date. The momentum that Eire Og gained from winning the Senior A title has seen them play confident football to advance to this stage and will certainly test the ‘Barr’s, particularly Daniel Goulding, John and Joe Cooper, Ronan O’Toole and Dylan Foley, and with them entering the game as underdogs, the pressure will all be on the ‘Barr’s. It has the makings of an intriguing contest, but the greater experience of the ‘Barr’s could be decisive. It’s a 7.30pm start.
They were runners-up to Nemo in the 2020 final a short few weeks ago but they quickly put that behind them to qualify as group winners for this stage but it took a very late goal from Mark Collins to get them the win against West Cork rivals Carbery Rangers last time out, but the key here is they had the capacity to get the vital goal. Valley’s got their campaign off to the best possible start with a win over Nemo and while they lost to Douglas in round 2, they had an emphatic win over Carrigaline, in which they bagged six goals. They are unlikely to get as many on Sunday, but they might need a couple to get the better of the ‘Haven, but in Eoin O’Reilly - he got a hat-trick off the bench in that win - Fiachra Lynch, Adam Walsh Murphy, Johnny Kiely and the vastly experienced Kevin Canty they have excellent players.
Now that their hurling commitments are at an end, the Cahalane brothers Damien, Conor and Jack will be key to Castlehaven’s challenge as will Brian and Michael Hurley, Mark Collins and Anthony Seymour, who look better equipped to progress to the last four.
Without one single training session Duhallow managed to get the better of UCC in the last round and whether they have managed a session ahead of this game might shape the outcome. To be fair the players who don the Duhallow jersey do so with immense pride as was evident in that win, even losing Donnacha O’Connor in the warm up did not deter them. O’Connor should be fit for this game and with John Mc Loughlin, Kevin Crowley, Mark Ellis, Conor O’Callaghan, Darragh Cashman and Seamus Hickey are all versed in the art of winning in the Divisional jersey. Clonakilty lost to St Finbarr’s in their last group game but had done enough to progress, and they will once again look to Kerry native Dara Ó Sé who has been brilliant to date, add in Tomas Clancy, Liam O’Donovan if fit, Sean Mc Evoy, and Jack O’Mahoney, they only managed 1-5 last time out, and they will have to improve immeasurably on that. The fact that several of the Duhallow players will have club games on Saturday will do little for their preparation for a game of this importance and that give Clonakilty a big advantage.
Both games on Saturday at 4pm, Knocknagree and Doheny’s meet in Macroom and here the Duhallow side, who lost to St Michaels in their last game, will look for a positive response from a very committed group of players.
They are contending with a few injuries but in Matthew Dilworth, Eoghan Mc Sweeney and Fintan O’Connor they have enough to get them over the line. The meeting of Clyda Rovers and Ballingeary in Ovens is really hard to call. The Gaelthacht men showed huge determination to get the better of O’Donovan Rossa and that will stand to them.
Equally the men from Mourneabbey came out of a tough competitive group as well, hard one to call but a hesitant nod to Clyda, might go to extra-time to resolve though.
The first of these is on Saturday at 2pm in Millstreet and here Newmarket will be over so slight favourites when they face Naomh Aban. While on Sunday in Cobh it’s Aghada v Nemo Rangers and now that they are out of the Senior, this is an ideal opportunity for Nemo to extend their season, they still have a number of excellent players on duty and that gives them an edge and maybe good enough to win.
Again 4pm starts on Saturday for two of these games. It’s a local derby of sorts in Kilbrin between Millstreet and Kilsahnnig, with the latter slight favourites, while the clash of Mitchelstown and Ballydesmond in Ballyclough is likely to go the way of the North Cork side. There is a 2pm start in Mallow for the meeting of Aghabullogue and Dromtarriffe and while both had hurling games last week, with mixed results, Dromtarriffe should prevail especially as Paul Ring is a doubt for the Muskerry side.
The fourth quarter-final is on Sunday in Mourneabbey at 2pm and here Iveleary Junior Champions a short few weeks ago look set to make it to the last four at the expense of Glanworth.
Saturday in Páirc Uí Chaoimh sees a very attractive double-header and on the pristine surface that the Park will present it should help produce two cracking encounters. First up at 5pm its Blarney v Bride Rovers who are two very good sides and while the Rovers are a younger outfit they will be very hard to beat especially if Brian and Eoin Roche, Tadhg O’Sullivan and Shane Walsh play to form. Blarney are laced with quality players and have that bit more experience. Mark Coleman and Shane Barrett have Cork senior experience, Padraig Power has an eye for goal, Shane Mulcahy, Declan Hannon and Mark O’Leary anchor a side that will have to much firepower for the emerging East Cork side.
The second game at 7pm is very hard to call as Newcestown and Mallow cross swords two sides that ended their football campaign’s a few weeks ago allowing them to focus on this big game. Newcestown are a dogged and determined side even if they were somewhat fortunate to get a draw with Killeagh in their final game, but with Luke Meade directing operations they might just shade this one.
Ballinaspittle is the venue on Saturday at 3pm for the quarter ginal of the Lower Intermediate Hurling Championship between Ballygarvan and Argideen Rangers with the latter expected to prevail. There are vital relegation games in football too. Bishopstown and Bantry Blues play in Senior A while in the Premier Intermediate it’s St Vincent’s v St Nick’s and in Intermediate A, Kildorrery play Kinsale. One relegation game in Hurling Senior A sees Ballymaw host the meeting of Cloyne and Bandon.
It’s semi-final time in both Senior A and B championships with home advantage bound to be factor in all four games. Mourneabbey on Sunday at 5pm should witness a cracker between the holders and Kinsale who can call on classy forwards Orla Finn and Sabdh O’Leary but that night not be enough against a side backboned by a host of Cork seniors whose experience should get them to another final. At 1pm also on Sunday, Ovens will see Eire Og meet an ever improving Bride Rovers, but the odds favour Eire Og progressing.
In the B grade, last year’s Intermediate Champions Clonakilty make the long trip to Killeagh to face Inch Rovers on Sunday at 12.30pm and they might shorten the journey home by winning. St Vals play Fermoy also on Sunday with time and venue to be confirmed but the absence of Australia based Brid Stack might prove too much of a handicap for Vals. The Intermediate Final will be played on Saturday Valley Rovers and Glanmire will contest the decider again a time and venue to be confirmed.