The great Sean O’Leary in action against Dick O’Hara of Kilkenny during the 1982 All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship Final against Kilkenny. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Cork clubs begin Munster campaigns

Now that the mammoth county championship programme is over, the attention for the next two weekends will switch to the AIB Munster Club Championship campaign with six Cork clubs in semi-finals in both hurling and football, before we can finally put the pen and pencil away for Christmas.

This week the emphasis is on hurling, with three Cork v Limerick clashes to look forward to.

Intermediate Hurling

At various stages of the county final a few weeks ago, the possibility of Courcey’s featuring in the Munster championship looked impossible, but to their credit they displayed remarkable resilience and no little skill to carve out an excellent win.

The manner of that win should stand them in good stead for this encounter against a Mungret side that notched up 4-17 in their Limerick county final win over Cappamore.

A feature of that win was that 2-13 of their tally came from the full-forward line of Liam Lynch, Niall Mulcahy and Paul O’Brien a clear warning to the Courcey’s full back line of Kevin and Brian Collins and Billy Mulcahy.

Equally of course, if the supply to that line could be curtailed that would give Courcey’s a significant edge and in DJ Twomey, Fergus Lordan and Martin Collins, they have the players capable of denying them possession.

It’s big occasion for the Limerick club who are now back in the senior ranks for the first time in 30 years and like the Cork champions, will look to extend their season in this most competitive of championships.

Cian O’Brien is their captain and he get’s great support from Brian Barry, Liam Harrington and Ronan Kirby.

There is a nice balance to this Courcey’s side but they would need to hit the ground running and a more consistent 60 minutes is vital.

They will look to Sean Twomey, Stephen Nyhan, Richard Sweetnam, Jerry O’Neill and Olan Crowley to give them that and a bit more.

Cork clubs have an excellent record in this championship and while it will be a tough encounter, Courcey’s look well equipped to make it to the Munster final, which will be a January fixture.

Senior semi-final

As the Midleton players and selectors departed Páirc Uí Chaoimh after their county final win, I said to coach Ben O’Connor, ‘I suppose ye will give Munster a lash now’?

The reply was positive: “no doubt about it, the opportunity to play in a Munster semi-final does not come around too often, we will enjoy the week and then get down to business”.

It appears that such has been the case the players got back into training a week after beating Glen Rovers and have worked hard since preparing for what is certain to be a real test for the Cork champions.

In contrast to Midleton, Kilmallock have been waiting since late October for this game to come around, but ace forward Graeme Mulcahy maintains is won’t be an issue and they are really looking forward to the campaign, a point also made by their very experienced coach Tony Considine.

Kilmallock were impressive winners over a highly rated Patrickswell team in the county final and apart from Mulcahy, Michael Houlihan bagged 0-11 in that win, while Oisin O’Reilly got the crucial goal. Barry Kennedy, Paddy O’Loghlin and Kevin O’Donnell are also key players for the Limerick champions.

Midleton’s last appearance in this championship came in 2017, but not as champions having lost to Imokilly in the county final and to be fair, it’s hard to motivate yourself when you are not the champions. On the day they were somewhat unlucky to lose to Ballygunner in Walsh Park.

This time round there will surely be an extra pep in their step even if it is late in what has been a long and demanding season.

There form has improved immeasurably since losing to Sars in the group phase and while there was only three points in it at the end of the county final, they were clearly the better team and should have won more comfortably.

That they didn’t could be down to a number of factors; one was the Glen made a big effort and nearly pulled it off, the other was that with the end line in sight, a little bit of panic came into their play.

Now though with that win behind them, they will be much better for it and will be confident enough approaching this game and have no doubt Ben will have them well fired up for this one.

Brion Saunderson is a solid goalkeeper, while the defence excelled in the county final with Sean O’Leary Hayes, Ciarmhac Smyth, Eoin Moloney and Tommy O’Connell keeping a tight rein on the Glen attack.

Paul Haughney and Sam Quirke are a hard working midfield, while the attack are all capable of racking up the scores with Conor Lehane the fulcrum of that unit.

Luke O’Farrell, Cormac Beausang and Ross O’Regan also have the capacity to trouble the Kilmallock defence.

This is a real test for what is essentially a young Midleton side, and with Limerick hurling on a high, they might just find this one a bridge too far; that said they have defied the odds before and are well capable of doing so again.

Junior semi-final

In the immediate aftermath of their dramatic win over Dromtarriffe in the county final, coach Ronan Dwane said “there is tremendous spirit in this team and they never give up”.

That was very evident in the comeback win facilitated by the switch of Mark Keane to centre-forward where he scored the match winning goal. Now they will have to plan without Keane who has returned to Australia, while a number of their players were involved with Mitchelstown in last Sunday’s football final in which they suffered a heavy defeat.

That will have impacted on preparation and possibly morale, but what better way to get it out of the system than by qualifying for a Munster Final, and they have an excellent chance of achieving that objective.

Caherline had a 1-13 to 0-10 win over St Kieran’s in the Limerick final, but there is an over reliance on Andrew Brennan for scores, while the Wixteds Kevin and Padraig, Jack Enright, Aaron Power and team captain Paudie O’Keeffe are big players for them.

All-Ireland Under 20 medal winner on the double Darragh Flynn is vital to Ballygiblin’s cause and how he performs, which is normally top drawer, could shape the direction of the contest, with Fionn Herlihy, Michael Lewis, Dillon Sheehan, Dean Barry and Kieran Duggan lending quality support.

There is a nice balance to this team, familiarity with the Kildorrery venue should also help them and even without the influential Keane, they look well equipped to progress to the final.

Munster Ladies Football Senior Finals

The well appointed Mallow ground will host both of these Munster championship football finals over the weekend with Cork clubs involved in both.

First up on Friday night at 8pm, it’s Inch Rovers against the Kerry champions Rathmore.

Inch had a tough semi-final win that took extra-time to resolve over Comeragh and that might stand to them.

Even without Hannah Looney they are still hard to beat, with the very experienced Angela Walsh showing her value to the team - and it might be enough to get them over the line.

In the A decider on Sunday at 2pm, it’s Mourneabbey against Tipperary champions Aherlow, and here it will come as a major shock if the reigning Munster champions were to lose.

Mourneabbey showed their class by demolishing a highly rated Ballymacarbry side from Waterford in the semi-final.

Laura Firztgerald led the way with a hat-trick of goals, Elle Jack, Brid, Doireann and Ciara O’Sullivan also showed they still have the desire to perform at the top level and that should ensure they retain their title.

County convention

Last Saturday’s remotely held event was a pretty mundane affair, which was to be expected as it is hard to generate debate on a monitor, there’s nothing like the cut and thrust of a good argument when it’s an in person event.

The gathering brought the curtain down on Joe Blake’s three year term as PRO, and he is deserving of all our thanks for a job well done, particularly the last two years operating under difficult circumstances.

Joe was always available to answer a query, or supply a Cork team and best wishes to him in his new role with both club Adrigole and the Beara Division.

Francis Kenneally takes over as PRO and very nearly had the perfect start as his club Kanturk were minutes away from completing a historic double in Páirc Uí Choimh. With a long involvement in administration with his club, I am sure Francis will fit seamlessly into his new role.

Seanie O’Leary

Seanie’s passing last week severed a link with successful Cork teams of 1976-78 and of course the historic team that captured the Centenary All-Ireland on a never to be forgotten Sunday afternoon in Thurles.

His medal haul made for impressive reading, add in 3 All-Star awards and it is clear he was a very special hurler with a magical eye for goal. Who will ever forget the winner against Tipperary in the 1984 Munster Final or the brace in the All-Ireland Final over Offaly? The 1977 Final is also well documented - a broken nose in the pre match puck around yet goes on and scores 1-1 in the win over Wexford.

On retiring he immersed himself in coaching and guided Imokilly to championship wins in 1997 and 1998, while he was a selector on Cork winning All-Ireland teams of 1999 and 2004.

Seanie did not enjoy the best of health in recent years but still maintained a keen interest in hurling and we extend our sincere sympathy to his family on his untimely passing.

A Cork and Youghal legend gone too soon.