St Finbarr’s captain Ian Maguire, left, and Michael Shields celebrate with the cup following the AIB Munster GAA Football Senior Club Championship Final match win against Austin Stacks at Semple Stadium in Thurles last weekend. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Ballygiblin looking to book Croke Park date

There was a time when January was a quiet month, now it’s packed with games and the majority of them semi-final or finals.

The Munster Council’s secondary competitions are also ongoing and will conclude this weekend, add in the Harty Cup, Corn Uí Mhuirí and the highly competitive Sigerson and Fitzgibbon Cups and supporters are spoiled for choice.

The most important games though are the AIB Club Championships and two men’s Cork clubs are still in the hunt for ultimate honours, and one of them are in action on Sunday.

All-Ireland Junior

Hurling Semi-Final

Ballygiblin v Fullen Gaels at O’Moore Park, Portlaoise on Sunday at 12.30pm

With 20 minutes left in the county Junior Hurling Final, Ballygiblin trailed Dromtarriffe and looked unlikely winners, but the switch of Mark Keane to centre-forward sparked a revival. They won and subsequently saw off the Limerick and Tipperary champions to claim the Munster title. Now Lancashire side Fullen Gaels stand between them and a place in the All-Ireland Junior Hurling Final in Croke Park in two weeks.

In the immediate aftermath of the county final, Coach Ronan Dwane said “there is tremendous spirit in the group and they never give up” that was clearly evident in the Munster campaign as they were really tested by Caherline and Skeenheenarinky.

The return of Mark Keane is a further boost and his availability from here on in is a huge boost especially as they face into the Intermediate grade in the coming season. The opposition on Sunday have competed at this level on a regular basis and have in the past beaten the Munster and Leinster champions so Ballygiblin would not want to underestimate them.

There is a strong Cork connection with Fullen Gaels as two Killeagh lads are on the team - Kevin Fennelly and goalkeeper Darren Cashman who was the hero of their quarter-final win over Armagh side Craobh Ruadh.

That game went to extra-time - 2-17 each it finished, with Gaels winning the subsequent penalty shoot out 2-1 with Cashman hitting the winning penalty.

Among the players that have impressed in their run to the semi-final David Burke, Eoin Kelly, Robin Spencer, Hugh Lane and David Power which would suggest there is a nice balance in their team.

Ballygiblin though have grown in confidence since winning the Cork title and Keane gives them an extra dimension in strength and experience.

Sean O’Sullivan was excellent in the Munster Final and his two goals were crucial, Darragh Flynn is another quality player didn’t start that game but looks good to go on Sunday.

Michael Walsh, Joseph O’Sullivan whose free taking in Flynn’s absence was unerring, Brian O’Gorman and Christopher Noonan anchor a side that will be hard to beat. The Cork champions will start as favourites and if they play consistently for the 60 minutes it’s hard to see them losing. Get a good start don’t allow Fullen gain any degree of momentum and the Avondhu side will be heading to Croke Park in two weeks time.

McGrath Cup Final

Cork v Kerry at Fitzgerald Stadium on Saturday at 2pm

A rare, especially in recent years, early season joust between these old rivals and a trip across the county bonds in January compared to the usual July trip.

There is little doubt the McGrath Cup will not sit high on the priority list of either Jack O’Connor or Keith Ricken, although judging by the teams the Kerry boss has selected to date, you would think differently.

These sides are set to meet later in the summer in the Munster Championship semi-final, so the outcome on Saturday will count for very little.

Both qualified comfortably for this final - Kerry really shot the lights out in demolishing Limerick and Tipperary while Cork saw off Clare in a tight contest but were far more efficient in seeing off Waterford.

Of course all sides were in experimental mood with one eye on the opening round of the Allianz National Football League a week after this game.

The composition of both sides will be chosen with those games in mind, while players will also have played in the Sigerson Cup midweek and that will also shape the starting fifteens.

Injuries will also be factored in as any player carrying a knock will not be picked.

Kerry look a bit more settled at this point, Cork and manager Keith Ricken’s main task is to get game time into players and he and his backroom reshape the squad on the back of the championship mauling on the very same ground last July.

On that basis Kerry will probably win, but if Cork get a decent performance it should stand them in good stead for the tricky looking trip to Dr Hyde Park and a clash with Roscommon on Sunday week.


Well done to St Finbarr’s on winning their fifth Munster club football title and they now have an All-Ireland semi-final to look forward to on Saturday week. They got a lot of their big calls right against Austin Stacks including the decision to opt for the neutral venue.

Mourneabbey showed it will take a supreme effort from Kilkerrin-Clonberne to beat them in the All-Ireland Ladies Senior Club Football Championship on 29 January. It’s a repeat of the 2019 final, which Mourneabbey won, making them defending champions as the 2020 competition was not played.

Another big week coming up in third level championships with UCC playing UCD in the Mardyke on Wednesday at 7pm while MTU face a must win game in the Sigerson Cup. Next week we will preview the Barr’s v Kilcoo, Cork v Roscommon in the NFL and the quarter-finals of the Corn Uí Mhuirí.

Did someone mention January being a quiet month, but would we want it any other way given the last two years of stop go seasons?