Hurling takes centre stage
After the opening round of games in the football championship, the majority of clubs now turn their attention for the next 2 weeks, as the Co-Op Superstore’s County Hurling Championship in all 5 grades gets underway.
There are some great games in prospect as clubs bid to make the best possible start and ease the pressure ahead of the 2nd round a week later. The irony of the split season is that if a club loses their 1st 2 games, their championship ambitions are to all intents and purposes over.
Okay it has happened that you could lose 2 and progress but it’s been rare, and then the next objective is to avoid been dragged into a relegation battle, but for now let’s concentrate on a bumper weekend coming up.
The blue riband of the 5 Championships with some fascinating match up’s on and off the field. Several clubs have new coaches among them Blackrock, Glen Rovers, St Finbarr’s and champions Midleton.
And it’s the holders who open the Championship with a tricky encounter against Douglas, Friday in Páirc Uí Rinn at7.30pm, beaten semi-finalists last year but could be without Alan Cadogan who picked up an injury recently and he would be a huge loss, while Brian Turnbull and Brian Hartnett are also out of the equation. James O’Connor is the new coach in Midleton and while their league campaign did not go as planned, the focus has always been on the retention of the Sean Óg Murphy Cup. Conor Lehane, Tommy O’Connell, Sean O’Leary Hayes, Ross O’Regan and Paul Haughney remain key players for the holders but they will be without Cormac Walsh. Douglas started with a bang last year being comfortable winners over Glen Rovers and once again they will hope that Shane Kingston among others can deliver big games, if not Midleton will win. On Saturday in Charleville at 7pm, an intriguing encounter between Kanturk and Newtownshandrum, hard to call this one, but a slight nudge for Kanturk.
Beaten finalists last year, in fact for the past 3 years, Glen Rovers are under new management and open their campaign against Erin’s Own 5pm Saturday in Páirc Uí Rinn and many see these 2 progressing from the group, something Bishopstown and Na Piarsaigh will have something to say about. There’s been very little between these sides over the years and Erin’s Own have the capacity to beat any side on a given day as they showed with their win over Blackrock, the then champions, in round 1 last year. Robbie Flynn is their main threat and if he is contained, they might struggle for scores. As for Glen, as ever Patrick Horgan is their go to man and with Dean Brosnan, Brian Moylan and the Downey’s Eoin and Robert in top form, Glen should win, but you underestimate Erin’s Own at your peril. Bishopstown and Na Piarsaigh meet in Páirc Uí Rinn on Sunday at 2pm, neither side had good league campaigns and Daire Connery could be an absentee for Na Piarsaigh, a draw maybe.
This has been dubbed the group of death and it is easy to see why given the quality of the 4 teams involved. It gets underway on Friday in Mallow at 7.30pm with the meeting of St Finbarr’s and Charleville. Ger Cunningham could not have asked for a tougher opening tie in his 1st Championship match as be begins another stint at the helm in Togher, the ‘Barr’s have failed to get out of the group since the new format was introduced and they will need to win here if they are to rectify that statistic.
Mixed league campaign and with a number of dual players, preparation has been fractured but they do have quality players in the Cahalane’s, Brian Hayes, Eoin Keane and Ben O’Connor. Charleville will as ever look to Darragh Fitzgibbon who for the most part was very good for Cork, If he produces what we know he is capable of, the Barr’s might find the North Cork side a tough nut to crack. The game of the round would appear to be the clash of Blackrock and, for some, the championship favourites Sarsfields in Páirc Uí Rinn at 7pm on Saturday. Shane O’Regan’s acquisition has added a new dimension to the Sars attack that already had the talented Jack O’Connor in it. Throw in Daniel Kearney, Conor O’Sullivan and Luke Hackett into the mix and it’s easy to see why they are favourites. Louis Mulqueen is now guiding the fortunes of the ‘Rockie’s who will be keen to avoid a 1st round defeat for the 2nd year in a row. The bulk of the team that were champions 2 years ago are still playing and are that bit more experienced, especially Alan Connolly, and with the Cashman’s, Tadgh Deasy, Jamie Ryan and Michael O’Halloran all good players they will relish this challenge. Picking a winner from this game is very hard. Sars look better balanced and should win, but Blackrock always play well when faced by the men from Riverstown and that might be enough for them to spring a surprise and change the opinions of many.
There was mixed fortunes for Newcestown and Mallow in football last week so they both go into this game with differing moods. Newcetown are a resolute bunch and have the capacity to bounce back and could win this one in Coachford on Saturday at 3pm. At the same time in Dungourney, Cloyne after a few poor results in recent years will look to get back to winning ways but face a tough test against a youthful Fermoy side.
An intriguing quartet of teams here. On Sunday in Caherlag at 2pm you’ll see 2 big hitters in Blarney and Fr O’Neill’s - Mark Coleman, Padraig Power and Shane Barrett for Blarney, Ger Millerick, Declan Dalton for O’Neill’s. The winners here will go along towards winning the group. In Ovens its Courcey Rovers and Killeagh with the former fancied to shade this one.
An East Cork derby on Sunday at 2pm in Midleton between Carrigtowhill relegated last year against and emerging Bride Rovers side with the Roche brothers Eoin and Brian anchoring their challenge enough to get them the win. Grenagh is the venue on Saturday at 4pm for the clash of Ballyhea and Ballymartle where the latter will be fancied to win.
Premier Junior Hurling
This has replaced the Lower Intermediate Grade and should prove to be ultra competitive.
Kilbrittain were beaten in last year’s final and will hope to build on that and might prove too good for Milford in Coachford on Sunday at 4pm. While depending on how many players the seniors use on Friday, St Finbarr’s will be expected to get the better of Barryroe in Ballinhassig 4pm on Saturday.
A big day for Ballygiblin as they make their championship debut at this level following their outstanding season in 2021 and with Joseph O’Sullivan and Mark Keane in good form and Ronan Dwane still guiding their fortunes, Ballygarvan will be really tested when they meet in Blarney on Saturday at 2pm. Bandon is the venue on Sunday at 2pm for the meeting of Argideen Rangers and Dripsey where the West Cork outfit should be good enough to claim the points on.
Glen Rovers were relegated last year which was a major disappointment and they will be determined to bounce back but it will not be easy. Their team for the opener against Tracton in Ballinora on Sunday at 4pm will be shaped by their seniors outing on Saturday but they might just shade this encounter. There’s an East Cork derby in the other game on Friday in Killeagh at 7.30pm. Russell Rover’s had a litany of injuries during last year’s campaign but the odds favour St Catherine’s who only lost out on scoring difference in last year’s group stages.
This grade has produced some fascinating clashes in recent years and this season should maintain that trend with a number of top class sides in contention for ultimate honours.
Castlelyons have been very consistent over the years without actually getting over the line. Injuries to key players hampered their progress. They open their campaign against Carrigaline now trained by former Glen Rovers player Eoghan Cronin, and they will be expected to make a winning start in Lisgoold on Saturday at 3pm. The meeting of Éire Óg and Watergrashill who will look to Daire O’Leary, in Blarney on Saturday at 4p, and with Shane O’Regan now a notable absentee from the ‘Hill side their scoring prowess is reduced and that should tilt the tie Éire Óg’s way.
A local derby of sorts as near neighbours Bandon and Valley Rovers meet on Friday at 7.30pm in Newcestown and the latter on the back off a good win in football last weekend might with a bit of momentum shade this one. Inniscarra with Sean O’Donoghue leading their challenge should get the better of Youghal who have struggled in recent years, Riverstown Saturday 2pm.
Castlemartyr having won back to back championships will be in confident mood as they face Ballincollig on Sunday at 2pm. Ciaran Joyce has really developed into a top class player and with the bulk of their winning teams still playing key roles this is a game they will be fancied to win.
At the same time in Watergrasshill with the Collin’s brothers being important players for Ballinhassig, they will get a very stern test from a resolute Kilworth side who are well capable of winning this game.
Lisgoold v Blackrock Sunday in Cobh 3pm - verdict Lisgoold
Aghada v Midleton Saturday in Castlemartyr 4pm - verdict Midleton
Cloughduv v Aghabullogue Friday in Ballyanley 7.30pm - verdict Aghabullogue
Dungourney v Douglas Sunday in Pairc Ui Rinn 4pm - verdict Dungourney
Kildorrery v Meelin Sunday in Buttevant at 3.30pm - verdict Kildorrery
Sarsfields v Mayfield Sunday in Whitechurch at 3.30pm - verdict Sarsfields
It’s a great weekend in store. Best of luck to all teams.