Jim Woulfe, CEO Dairy Gold with Daniel Kearney, Sarsfields; Cathal Hickey, Glen Rovers; Tommy O’Connell, Midleton and Niall Cashman, Blackrock ahead of the semi-finals this weekend. Photo: Jim Coughlan.

Senior hurling semi-finals take top billing

Another exciting weekend of championship action is coming up and once again those charged with the fixture making process will be hoping that the weather gods will be kind as a couple of cancellations will throw the schedule out, and with Munster Council deadlines to be met, that would be a concern.

There is also a host of games in the Junior Championship with some clubs having to play twice within a short space of time as a couple of divisional finals will only be played midweek.

Co-op Superstsores Premier Senior Hurling semi-finals in Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Sunday

Blackrock v Midleton at 1.30pm

When they lost their opening game to Erin’s Own, many wondered if Blackrock would feature at the business end of the championship. Well they have shown why they are the champions and are just 60 minutes away from appearing in back to back finals.

The manner in which they saw off Douglas was very impressive, even allowing for the fact that Douglas had 14 players from late in the first half. The game was already turning in their direction before the dismissal.

They are well a balanced and strong physical team with key players in big positions, and they also have depth in the squad.

Gary Norberg, Jamie Ryan and the Cashmans Niall and John anchor the defence; Stephen Murphy is a very effective midfielder with a huge work rate, while in attack Alan Connolly, Michael O’Halloran, Daniel Meaney and Mark O’Keeffe will test any defence, and then they can spring Tadhg Deasy and Liam O’Sullivan from the bench.

Midleton had comfortable wins in their opening group games but never really fired against Sarsfield’s before coming through a tough test against Erin’s Own in the quarter-final, who lost Kieran Murphy to a red card, at a vital stage, but Midleton dug out the win.

That response will have pleased Ben O’Connor as they were clearly disappointed with the Sars performance but they will now need a consistent effort if they are to dislodge the champions.

They have excellent players in Sean O’Leary Hayes, Tommy O’Connell, Paul Haughney, Ross O’Regan, Conor Lehane and Luke O’Farrell.

Hard one to call but Blackrock appear to be building momentum at the right time and will not want to surrender their title. Midleton have a lot of talent but they will all need to be at their best to win this one, and it’s a nod to Blackrock to shade it.

Glen Rovers v Sarsfields at 3.15pm

Apart from Blackrock, Sarsfields have been installed as favourites to land the title and with easy and comprehensive wins in their three group games, they have justified that tag, although the quality of opposition should be factored in, but then you can only play what’s in front of you, and they have done that comfortably.

A passage direct to the semi-final was their reward, but will the lack of a competitive outing in the last month be a concern? They have the players to overcome that.

By contrast, Glen Rovers quickly dusted themselves down after the loss to Douglas, and how they ground narrow but deserved wins over Newtownshandrum and Imokilly is testimony to the determination within the squad.

The latter win, achieved with 14 men from the 24th minute following Patrick Horgan’s dismissal, was hailed by many as their best display in a long time.

News that Patrick has been cleared to play will come as a huge boost, as his value to the team is well documented, even more so now that injury rules Mark Dooley out.

Sars of course will still be favoured to progress, given the overall strength of their team.

Alan Kennedy along with his opposite number on Sunday Cathal Hickey are the two best clubs goalkeepers in the county.

Conor O’Sullivan will play the sweeper role to perfection while William Kearney and Craig Leahy also impress in defence.

The attack centres around Aaron Myers, but Daniel Kearney, Luke Hackett, James Sweeney, while the pace and goal scoring threat of Jack O’Connor is an added and vital dimension, how and who Glen deploy on O’Connor could shape the outcome of this semi-final.

Stephen McDonnell, Robert and Eoin Downey were immense in the win over Imokilly, while Brian Moylan’s leadership came to the fore, even taking over the free taking duties, after the sending-off.

Dooley’s physical presence will be missed, so the onus will now fall on Dean Brosnan and Dave Noonan to deliver big games, while Simon Kennefick’s match winning points shows the quality he has.

Games between these keen rivals rarely disappoint, Sunday’s encounter should fit into that category with a close encounter on the cards.

Patrick’s availability and undoubted class might be enough to get Glen over the line.

So a repeat of the 2020 final Glen Rovers v Blackrock could be on the cards, but then again I have been wrong before!

Both games are live on C103.

Intermediate A Hurling semi-finals

Páirc Uí Rinn on Friday at 7.30pm will see neighbours Mayfield and Sarsfields meet. They met a number of years ago in the County Junior final - Mayfield won a thriller and subsequently won Munster and All-Ireland titles.

Several members of that squad are still key players today among them Shane O’Donovan, Nicky Kelly, Shane Duggan, Kevin Punch and David O’Neill.

Sars emerged as group winners, which is testimony to the depth within the club and they will be hard to beat especially with players like Cormac Duggan and Dylan Walsh in their side but the odds favour a Mayfield win.

It’s back to Páirc Uí Rinn on Saturday at 2pm for the second semi-final and here Castlemartyr are strong favourites against a Cloughduv side that really impressed when dismissing the challenge of Aghabullogue in the quarter-final and if they play as well again, they will be provide stiff opposition to the championship favourites.

The Verling brothers Mark and Brian, Mark Walsh and Eoghan Clifford were excellent in that win and will be keen to produce a similar display, but this will be their toughest test to date, Brian and Barry Lawton, Mike Kelly, Joe Stack, and Niall Madden are part of a formidable outfit.

One slight drawback might be Castlemartyr have not played in a few weeks but they have the capacity to overcome that and should progress to the final.

Lower Intermediate semi-finals

Kilbrittain are one of the contenders for this championship and make the trip to Ballinspittle for the clash with Tracton who improved immeasurably to beat Milford in the quarter-final but will need to be as good again and better if they are to win this game on Saturday at 2pm.

A short few weeks ago Lisgoold were crowned 2020 County Junior Champions and that momentum has carried them into a semi-final meeting with Ballygarvan in Páirc Uí Rinn on Saturday at 3.45pm. The latter had a very good win over Argideen Rangers last weekend but with John and Ciaran Cronin and Liam O’Shea anchoring their challenge the East Cork side look well equipped to continue their winning run.

Senior A semi-final

The first of these goes ahead in Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Saturday at 7pm and it pits Newcestown against Kanturk, which should prove to be an intriguing contest. Both were dually involved up to recently; Kanturk still are, while Newcestown’s two week run in to their quarter-final game with Mallow showed as they were very comfortable and impressive winners.

In that game, they racked up the impressive tally of 0-28 and while they did concede two late goals by then they had emptied the bench and the win was secured.

They had several impressive displays in that win; Luke Meade was as effective as ever, his brother Jack whipped over some excellent points, while Richard O’Sullivan, Sean O’Donovan, Trevor Horgan and David Buckley all made important contributions, and they have shown in the past, in both codes they are a very hard team to beat.

Kanturk though will really test them they have quality all over the field, the Mc Loughlins John and Lorcan, Aidan and Paul Walsh among them.

Kanturk might start as favourites do not rule out a Newcestown win.

Managerial appointments

It’s been an eventful and busy few days with comings and goings with several Cork teams.

Ger Cunningham’s departure was quickly followed by the appointment of Pat Mulcahy and Noel Furlong to the coaching team, Gary Keegan returns as performance coach, Gary Casey is the new S&C coach, while Donal O’Grady remains involved.

Bobby Dwyer is the new U20 football manager with Billy Morgan joining as a selector along with James Masters, Ollie O’Sullivan and Kieran Cronin completing the team.

As expected Paudie Murray is the new Minor Hurling manager with his brother Kevin a selector along with Declan Fitzgerald and Fergal McCormack, and one more to be announced.

Donal O’Mahoney steps up to the role as U20 hurling manager having been involved with Pat Ryan for the last two years, while Tom Kenny and Traolach Martin come in for Ryan and Wayne Sherlock who have both stepped down.

The previously announced Senior Football Management team under Keith Ricken was formally ratified at last Tuesday’s meeting as was Kieran Murphy’s appointment as Under 16 manager for the coming season and he will then assume the minor role in 2023.

Best of luck to all the selection committees as they head into the new season where hopefully they can enjoy a full campaign without restrictions.