Páirc Uí Chaoimh will host finals this weekend. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Five hurling titles up for grabs

Hurling is the dominant team this weekend with a total of five finals in the Co-Op Super Stores County championships, and while the senior decider is the big one, the other games are just as appealing and important for the participating clubs.

Senior A Hurling Final

Fr O’Neill’s v Kanturk on Sunday in Páirc Uí Chaoimh at 1pm

With the clock running down in their semi-final clash with Newcestown, Kanturk looked set to exit the championship. Similarly last weekend in football they were on the back foot in another semi-final with Aghada; that they won both, the hurling game after extra-time, is testimony to the depth and commitment with the panel, many of them dual players.

Equally when O’Neill’s - runners-up in last year’s final - lost Declan Dalton to a season-ending injury before their semi-final with Bride Rovers and also without long term injury victims Liam O’Driscoll and Ger Mellerick, their chances of winning appeared to recede, but they displayed tremendous resolve to overcome this setback to reach the decider.

This has the makings of a cracking contest with Kanturk chasing a double and O’Neill’s bidding for a prize that eluded them last year.

O’Neill’s will still be without Dalton and O’Driscoll, but there is a slight chance that Ger Mellerick could play, if so that would be a huge boost. To be fair Kevin O’Sullivan - who assumed the free taking duties - nailed 12 of his 13 attempts, not bad for a first outing as free taker.

Kanturk have been in championship action nearly every week since the club campaign got underway, they have 12 dual players, add in the various knocks and bruises that go with such activity, plus they have also picked up a couple of red cards along the way, and that could be telling.

However, just like Ballinhassig, they keep on going and make light of the schedule, but why complain when at this time of the season, you have two county finals to look forward to?

Their team is littered with big name and big game players, Aidan Walsh, John McLoughlin, Liam O’Keeffe, Brian O’Sullivan, Lorcan McLoughlin and John Browne who are well versed in the art of winning.

The East Cork side have suffered heartbreak in finals in the last couple of seasons and the determination to avoid another loss will drive them and in Mike Millerick, Mark O’Keeffe, John Millerick, Jason Hankard, Billy Dunne, Padraig Mc Mahon and Sean O’Connor and they have seasoned campaigners.

Hard to call this one, will O’Neill’s survive without Dalton and Mellerick again; will the heavy schedule finally catch up with Kanturk? Lots to factor in, but a slight nod to Kanturk but it’s a hesitant one and this could very well go to a replay, a fate I am sure Kanturk will want to avoid given the demands on their players right now.

Junior Hurling Final

Dromtarriffe v Ballygiblin is on Saturday at Páirc Uí Rinn at 1pm

This highly competitive championship has as usual produced its fair share of drama at both divisional and county level and this decider should be no different between two evenly balanced sides.

Dromtarriffe were much too strong for both Ballinora and St Ita’s in the county series and on that basis will start as favourites, especially if Michael O’Brien, Jack Murphy, Thomas Howard and Conor O’Callaghan produce the form they have shown to date.

Ballygiblin were given a real test by Passage who will surely rue the fact that they had a defender sent-off in the opening quarter and still only lost by a couple of points.

To be fair to the Ronan Dwane coached side, they did build up a comfortable lead and held on when the city champions rallied late, so the competitive nature of the game might just stand to Ballygiblin.

Darragh Flynn is their key player while Australia bound, sometime soon, Mark Keane is another vital player for the Avondhu champions, while Fionn Herlihy, Barry Coffey and Sean Barry have delivered when needed in the championship.

It’s a huge occasion for both clubs but Dromtarriffe have been here before, albeit in football, and that level of experience plus the quality and class that Conor O’Callaghan brings to the team, should be enough for them to land the title.

Premier Intermediate Hurling semi-final

Ballinhassig v Castlelyons on Saturday in Páirc Uí Rinn at 3pm

It’s been a hectic few weeks for Ballinhassig, playing football and the fact that they are in the County Junior Final after brilliant wins over Tadgh Mac Carthaighs and Douglas is bound to have lifted their spirits and as they prepare for this game, you can be certain that there is a buzz in training this week.

By contrast it is close on eight weeks since Castlelyons last saw championship action and here the direct route to the semi-final could very well be a drawback, and no matter how many challenge games you play, it’s hard to beat the competitive bite that a championship brings to your game.

That said this is a very good Castlelyons side, and if Colm Spillane is available it will make them stronger again, remember he departed very early injured in last year’s final.

There is of course more to this side then Spillane; Niall O’Leary is a top class player, Anthony Spillane, James Kearney, David Morrison, Keith O’Leary and Alan Fenton are all very experienced players still hurting form last year’s loss and determined to make the next step in terms of gaining promotion to a hunger grade of hurling.

Ballinhassig emerged from tough group and looked set for a semi-final spot but a loss to Kilworth sent them to a quarter-final with neighbours Carrigaline and for long periods it looked like they would exit the championship, but as they have done often in the past, they struck for goals to win a tight contest.

Ger Collins (2) and Fintan O’Leary were the match winners that day, Patrick Collins of course is a big player for them as are Evan Cullinane, Conor Desmond, Cillian Tyers and Donnacha O’Donovan.

Castlelyons may very well be the favourites but momentum is huge at this time of the year, 13 dual players in the Ballinhassig team, winning tight games gives them confidence that and the motivation that another South-East team, Courcey Rovers await in the final might just tilt the tie Ballinhassig’s way.

Intermediate A Hurling

Sarsfields v Castlemartyr on Saturday at Páirc Uí Chaoimh at 7pm

A fair reflection of the talent available in the Sars club is their feat in reaching the final of this very competitive championship with their second team, even more so when you consider that well over 24 players were used in the senior campaign.

Sars actually topped their group and then overcame their near neighbours Mayfield in a tight semi-final. In their semi-final, which they qualified directly for, Castlemartyr were given a real test by Cloughduv before getting over the line.

Castlemartyr of course won the 2020 Lower Intermediate championship a short few weeks ago and it’s to their credit that they have maintained a level of consistency that now see them a second successive title and of course with it promotion to a higher grade for the 2022 season.

There is a nice balance within the team and the return of Ciaran Joyce to their defence is a huge plus. His display in the semi-final, adding in two quality points, emphasised his value to the team, while Darragh Moran is also an excellent defender.

Joe Stack works hard in midfield with Brian and Barry Lawton along with Mike Kelly key men in attack.

Sars have a number of players in their side with senior championship experience not least Eoin O’Sullivan, Cormac Duggan, Tadgh Og Murphy and Gary Gray and that will be a big help especially to the younger members of the team.

Sars as with all teams from that club will be hard to beat, but Castlemartyr are going in with real momentum and the extra quality they have in attack will see them with a second county title in a very short period of time, which in itself is some achievement.

Lower Intermediate Final

Lisgoold v Kilbrittain on Saturday at Páirc Uí Chaoimh at 5pm

Just like their East Cork neighbours Castlemartyr in the Intermediate A Final, Lisgoold are maintaining the momentum they got from winning the 2020 Junior Championship and are now on the cusp of another promotion to a higher grade.

This though will be their toughest test to date, as Kilbrittain have comfortably and impressively reached this final under the guidance of Jamie Wall.

John Cronin is probably Lisgoold’s best known player and has performed solidly in defence, while his brother Ciaran has hardly put a foot wrong between the posts, and in Liam O’Shea has been a prolific scorer for them.

James O’Dricoll has an eye for goal, while others to impress are John and Kieran Cashman, Cathal Hickey and Ian Walsh. Consistency and hard work has been their key, and coach Richie Lewis has made that point on several occasions.

Kilbrittain’s form has been such that they are favourites to win this championship and in Maurice Sexton they have a player on the top of his game right now, with excellent support from Conor Ustinowski, Colm Sheehan, Ross Cashman, Philip Wall and Josh O’Donovan.

Both sides went through the group phase unbeaten and of the respective semi-finals, Kilbrittain’s was far more comfortable, but finals take on a life of their own and whichever side can adapt to the wide open spaces of Páirc Uí Chaoimh, could have a bearing on the outcome.

Lisgoold are a lively side, but the odds favour the more experienced hands on the Kilbrittain side getting them over the line.

Best of luck to all teams in what is going to a great weekend of action, and also to referees and their officials who have important roles to play as well.