Huge weekend of knockout ties
In all there are 10 semi-finals across the 5 grades in the Co-Op Superstores County Hurling Championships and for good measure a few East Cork derbies thrown into the mix, add in camogie, Ladies Football and Rebel Óg Finals on Monday night and it really is the business end of the season.
There’s a cracking double-header in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, and full commentary on both games on C103, beginning with the meeting of Blackrock and Erin’s Own at 2pm.
These sides met in the group stages last year and Erin’s Own won a cracker and it effectively derailed the ‘Rockies bid to retain their title, so even though they are favourites to win, they will be conscious that you write off the Caherlag team at your peril.
Erin’s Own continue to defy the odds principally because they have a very committed group of players, even though many of them are a long time on the road, and have had good and bad days.
Blackrock are living on the edge; they lost a big lead to the ‘Barrs, edged out both Sars and Charleville and then survived a dramatic penalty shoot out against Imokilly, all of which means they have had all manner of emotion in this championship.
Martin Bowen’s men topped their group and in the process secured the one semi-final spot on offer, have had a few weeks to prepare and in the process had a very competitive challenge game against Clare side Ballyea, which they played very well in.
There are njury concerns about Shay Bowen and Stephen Cronin but both are expected to play, and with Eoghan and Kieran Murphy, Cian O’Connor, captain Robbie O’Flynn, Sean Kelly and Colm Coakley vastly experienced, they will test the ‘Rockies.
As for Blackrock the bulk of the team were on winning side of two years ago, and in Gavin Connolly, Robbie Cotter, John Cashman, Stephen Murphy, Alan Connolly and Michael O’Halloran they have quality in every line, even if they have yet to produce a consistent sixty minutes.
Not easy picking a winner, but a tentative vote for Blackrock, but it could take more than the 60 minutes.
When the draws were made and the ‘Barrs were placed in the so called ‘group of death’ very few myself included, gave them very little chance of progressing, based on the previous two years when they made no impact on the championship at all.
That they came out of the group is testimony to their resilience and new found resolve and it is my contention that they have been the team of the championship to date, evidenced by their demolition of hot favourites Sars in their final group game.
Equally Newtownshandrum have also been very good and the manner in which they beat Douglas and then Glen Rovers is a sign that are a side on the up and will relish this opportunity to add a third city scalp in as many games.
In the win over Glen, they built up an early lead and when Glen did go ahead, they did not panic continued to play with confidence and eventually got over the line and that will boost them.
Both sides possess exciting players and in the ‘Barr’s case the younger lads are coming of age and making vital contributions, especially Ben O’Connor, Ethan Twomey and William Buckley while the experienced Brian Hayes, Billy Hennessey, Eoin Keane, Ben Cunningham and the Cahalanes are also playing with a consistency you need at this level.
Tim O’Mahoney is main man for Newtown, with Matthew Ryan, Jack Herlihy, Cormac O’Brien, Ronan Geary and the experienced duo of Cathal Naughton and Jamie Coughlan have been there and done that with the successful Newtown teams of the recent past.
Again a hard one to call, but given the way the Barr’s have improved with every outing, they get the nod to win.
Páirc Uí Chaoimh will host both games; the first on Friday night at 7.30pm is the meeting of Fermoy and Courcey Rovers who like so many of last year’s champions are maintaining that winning run which make them hard to beat.
They got a real test in their last outing from Ballyhea where a late pint gave them victory; a worry from that encounter they did not score from play in the 2nd half an area they will want to rectify.
Sean Twomey remains their big player with excellent back up from Richard Sweetnam, Jerry O’Neill and excellent goalkeeper Stephen Nyhan.
Fermoy’s win over Mallow put them directly into the last four and with the sole focus on this game they should be well prepared, and in Jake Carr, Liam Coleman, Shane Aherne and Darragh Daly they have good players, but Courcey’s big match temperament might see them edge this one.
On Saturday at 7.30pm, it’s another Imokilly derby and this one has the makings of a cracker between Fr O’Neill’s and Bride Rovers, live commentary on C103.
O’Neill’s eased through their group and have been there or thereabouts in recent years with a well balanced side led by Ger Millerick, Declan Dalton, Sean O’Connor, Mike Milerick, Jason Hankard and Mark O’Keeffe.
Bride Rovers demolished Cloyne in the QF and were really impressive with an array of different scorers, among them Brian Roche and Cillian Tobin, while Eoin Roche, Patrick O’Flynn, Adam Walsh and Jason Pratt have really shone in the campaign to date.
There’s is an emerging team while their opponents are a bit more experienced and in a tight game that could be crucial and just enough to get O’Neill’s into the final.
Both of these are on Saturday - Cloughduv is the venue for Inniscarra and Ballinhassig with a 4pm start.
Inniscarra went direct to the semi-final and were impressive enough in the group with Sean O’Donoghue very effective in all their games, by contrast Ballinhassig were really tested in their QF win over Bandon on an emotionally charged afternoon in Brinny.
That they came through should stand to them and if Darragh O’Sullivan, the Collins brothers Ger and Patrick along with Evan Cullinane and Conor Desmond play to form, they could get the better of the Mid-Cork side.
It’s an all East Cork encounter in Páirc Uí Chaoimh at 5.45pm between Castlemarytr and Castlelyons, there is also live commentary on C103, and this is hard to call, even though injury and other factors have stretched Castlelyon’s resources, but they do have quality in Colm Spillane, Alan Fenton, James Kearney and Niall O’Leary.
Castlemartyr were involved in, and lost the East Cork football final last Sunday, and the dual involvement might hinder them but they are a very balanced side with Ciaran Joyce their key player with Brian and Barry Lawton, Mikey Kelly, Darragh Moran and Joe Stack all well versed in the art of winning and that trait could get them over the line.
Ballygiblin’s remarkable run continues and they will face Russell Rovers on Saturday at 3.30pm in Ballynoe in confident mood hoping that Mark Keane and Joseph O’Sullivan can guide them to another final. That said the East Cork side are showing enough resolve to test them and in Josh Beausang they have a quality player, but a slight nod to Ballygiblin. Tracton and Kilbrittain contest the 2nd semi-final in Ballinspittle also on Saturday at 4pm and the Jamie Wall-trained side look better balanced and should prevail.
The first of these goes ahead on Friday night in Riverstown at 7.30pm and Lisgoold are certainly maintaining their winning sequence of recent championships and with John Cronin and Liam O’Shea impressing, they might get the better of Cloughduv.
It’s an all East Cork semi-final in Carrigtwohill on Saturday at 3.30pm. It’s Sars v Dungourney who put out Midleton’s 2nd team in the last round. With Ryan Denny, Jack Leahy and Shane Hegarty in good form, they could repeat that feat.
It’s quarter-final time in the SE Systems Senior Championship and the first of these is on Friday night as MTU hosts the meeting of Muskerry rivals Cloughduv and Inniscarra at 8pm with the latter strongly fancied to progress.
There’s a double-header in Castle Road on Saturday at 2.45pm, it’s Killeagh v St Finbarrs with the latter favoured to win but they have sailed through their group untested. By contrast Killeagh emerged from a very competitive group battled hardened and if Laura Treacy, Hannah Looney and Chloe Sigerson play to their full potential, they could cause an upset.
Sars and Courcey Rovers follow at 5.30pm and this is hard to call but Sars are unbeaten and should remain so.
The last QF is on Monday night (venue tbc) and the expectation here is that champions Seandun will be too strong for Eire Og.
The semi-finals of the Senior Championship are fixed for Sunday both at 1pm. Cork and Munster champions Mourneabbey make the trip to Rostellan for their clash with Aghada and it will constitute a major shock if they are beaten.
Eire Og similarly will be favoured to get the better of Bride Rovers when they meet in Ovens.
All 3 finals: Junior, Intermediate and Senior are scheduled for Saturday week in MTU.
For the 2nd week in a row, Rebel Og will host the Minors On Monday Finals night in Páirc Uí Rinn beginning with the Challenge Cup decider at 6.30pm - Glanmire against Ballincollig.
The Premier 1 Final is at 8pm and having collected the hurling title last week, Douglas will chase a historic double when they play Valley Rovers. 10 players started the hurling final and that gives them a huge incentive, but the Innishannon lads are a big physical side and should not be dismissed and they will be keen to spoil the city club’s party.