Football returns to centre stage
Now that the hurling championships are down to the semi-finals in all grades, the Bon Secours Football Championships will follow suit this weekend with some enticing contests across the four grades with a number of clubs watching on with interest to see who they will face in the semi-finals.
With champions St Finbarrs getting the one semi-final spot, they can relax this weekend and keep an eye on potential opposition with 6 clubs battling to join them. All 3 quarter-finals take place in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
First up on Saturday evening is a double-header. At 5pm it’s the meeting of the Rangers, Nemo and Carbery and here the men from Rosscarbery face a tough task against the champions of 2021. They are unbeaten all season in both league and championship, a fact that manager Paul O’Donovan is very pleased with.
Nemo ground out a result against Clonakilty in the last round, on what was a difficult afternoon for football and Clon’s defensive set up made it a tough watch.
In fact it was not until the second half that Nemo eventually got on top but with the quality they have all over the field, they will, as they always seem to do, start as favourites and will be further boosted by the return of Steven Cronin to their defence.
Micheál Aodh Martin, Kieran Histon, Luke Connolly, Barry O’Driscoll, Paul Kerrigan and Kevin O’Donovan are well versed in the art of winning.
Carbery Rangers had a tough campaign last season but have bounced back and only defeat by the ‘Barr’s denied them a third win but having already been assured of qualification, it might have affected their approach to that game.
John O’Rourke, Alan Jennings, Paul Shanahan, Mark Hodnett and James Fitzpatrick will give this their best shot, and it’s probably a free one, as they are rank outsiders, but Nemo look well equipped to make it to the semi-final.
Castlehaven and Mallow meet at 7pm and this has an interesting look about it. Both are coming in with differing results last time out; the ‘Haven comfortable winners over Newcestown, Mallow with a narrow loss to Douglas, but already qualified ahead of the game.
In fact they will take encouragement from the second half of that game where they reeled in Douglas, who led at one stage by 11 points but it was only a 1 point game at the end.
Mattie Taylor, Ryan Harkin, Eoin Stanton, Shane Merritt, Sean McDonnell, James Loughrey if he starts, and Darragh Moynihan will anchor the Mallow challenge.
Even in defeat to Nemo, the ‘Haven produced some great football and with the Cahalanes fresh from their hurling exploits, and the Hurleys, Rory Maguire and Mark Collins in excellent form, they look better balanced and should win, which for the third year in a row would mean a meeting with St Finbarr’s.
Sunday night at 7pm sees the 3rd quarter-final between Ballincollig and Carbery. Having resurrected their championships ambitions with a stunning display against Valley Rovers, Ballincollig will be favoured to advance and if Cian Kiely, Cian Dorgan, Darren Murphy, Sean Kiely, Noel Galvin and Rob Noonan replicate their form of the last day, they should win, especially as the divisional side’s preparation has been limited.
The relegation play-off is between Eire Og and Newcestown in Brinny on Saturday at 4pm. The latter are severely depleted with injury and might find this game a tough one to emerge from.
After 2 successive defeats, Knocknagree were not only staring an exit from the championship in the face but a possible relegation battle, which given the success they have enjoyed in recent years would have been a strange experience for John Fintan Daly’s men.
It is to their credit that they not only won their final game and in the process, advanced to a QF meeting with Ballingeary on Saturday in Millstreet at 3.30pm and with it they have momentum.
Injuries have not helped them this season, Cork player Eoghan McSweeney has featured very little, and the depth of the squad has been tested and in that respect Michael McSweeney, Denis O’Connor, Michael Doyle, Mattew Dilworth and Fintan O’Connor have fronted up to keep their season alive.
The winners here will play Clyda Rovers in the semi-final.
Ballingeary are enjoying a good year - Senior Comortas Peil Na Gaelthachta Champions for the first time and now another big game in the offing.
Ben Shorten has been razor sharp in attack while Seamus O’Tuama, Andrew Concannon, Conor Lynch and Liam Shorten have plenty of guile and experience but it might not be enough to deny Knocknagree a semi-final spot.
Wolfe Tone Park Bantry at 2pm on Sunday should witness a cracking West Cork derby between O’Donovan Rossa and Dohenys, and expect a good crowd as well.
The Skibereen side looked set to claim a semi-final place but they lost to Clyda Rovers last time out, so this game will offer then another opportunity to progress further.
Conceding 3 goals did not help - that is an area they will surely have addressed in the interim - but they do have quality players, including roaming goalkeeper Ryan Price, Kevin Davis, Donal Og Hodnett, Niall Daly and Thomas Hegarty which gives a nice balance to their team.
For their part, Dohenys will relish the chance to claim the bragging rights and they have shown improvement with every outing. John Kelly, Mark Buckley, Fionn Herlihy, Colm O’Shea and Barry O’Donovan have been central to their cause all season but it might not be good enough to get the win here.
St Michaels await the winners in the semi-final.
The relegation game here is between Newmarket and Bandon on Saturday in Coachford at 4pm, and it could be a quick return to Premier Intermediate for the Duhallow club.
There are two Gaeltacht teams in the last 8 but both have tough looking ties if they are to progress.
Cill Na Martra recovered from a 1st round loss to Nemo Rangers and subsequent wins over Iveleary and St Vincents have propelled them back into contention, particularly their win last time out in which they played good measured football to take control early on, so the outcome was never really in doubt.
There are a lot of good players in their team among them Michael Desmond, Cian Furey and Gearoid O’Goillidhe they will hope that can maintain the form of the last round.
However this is a very competitive Aghada side as they displayed in securing the win over Castletownbere that saw them progress, helped in no small way by an important contribution from the very experienced Pearse O’Neill, still a key player for the Rostellan lads, with Cian Fleming and Danny Creedon offering good support.
This has the makings of an intriguing encounter on Saturday at 3.30pm in Ballincollig but a slight fancy for Cill Na Marta to progress to a semi-final clash with Kanturk.
Like their neighbours Cill Na Martra, Iveleary bounced back from what was for them a rare defeat in the last few years, to keep their ambitions for a 3rd successive county title at different grades still on track.
In their win over Nemo, Cathal Vaughan, Chris Og Jones - he bagged 3-2, and Ian Jones were in sparkling form and if they are as good again, then Rockchapel have a testing hour ahead of them in Banteer on Sunday at 2pm.
The Duhallow side though are a resolute group, even if they struggled to get over Naomh Aban who are having a difficult season.
Jimmy McAuliffe, Daniel O’Callaghan, Nicholas Linehan and Jack Curtin will lead their challenge but the odds favour Iveleary making it a Muskerry double at this stage of a very competitive championship and a meeting with Bantry Blues in the semi-final.
The relegation game here is St Vincent’s v Naomh Aban on Saturday in Cloughduv at 4pm, with the northside club slightly fancied to prevail.
It’s a big night with the Rebel Óg Minor hurling finals on Monday night in Páirc Uí Rinn with a very attractive double-header scheduled.
The main game is the Premier 1 Final between Midleton and Douglas at 8pm. Douglas is hoping to win the first leg of a possible double as they contest the football decider a week later.
This will be preceded by the U17 Challenge Cup Final Glen Rovers and Sarsfields at 6.30pm.
As the group stages progress, champions Mournebbey are showing just why they are once again the team to beat. They play the equally impressive Eire Og on Sunday which will decide who tops Group 1, with Kinsale playing Fermoy in the same group.
Group 2 sees Clonakilty at home to Bride Rovers, with Inch Rovers facing St Vals, all with 1pm starts.
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Disappointingly a number of walk-overs were given last week which does very little for the image of the championship which is moving nearer the knockout phase, with another round of games this weekend.
It starts tonight (Thursday) in Ovens at 7.30pm with Killeagh v Courcey Rovers. There are 2 games on Saturday. At 2pm at Castle Road, it’s Inniscarra v Douglas and in Carrigtwohill at 6pm, it’s Fr O’Neill’s v Newcestown.
It’s a busy Sunday with 3 games scheduled; Imokilly v Carbery at Castle Road at 5.15pm, at 5pm in Blarney, Ballygarvan play Sarsfields, while Cloughduv is the venue at 7.30pm for the meeting of Eire Og and Enniskeane.