Football semi-finals down for decision
With the hurling finalists in all 5 grades now decided, the football semi-finals dominate this weekend and there are some intriguing encounters with a number of dual clubs still in contention which will give them momentum and added incentive.
Premier Senior Football at Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Sunday
Nemo Rangers v Ballincollig at 2pm
In their last two outings, Nemo may not have been at their best confronted by opposition that set up defensively but they got the job done.
By contrast, Ballincollig threw off the shackles and racked up big, impressive tallies and will relish this game against a side they have a good record against in recent years.
Podsy O’Mahoney’s side looked like heading out of the championship before their final group game against Valley Rovers but the manner in which they won that match and subsequently their quarter-final win over Carbery will fill them with confidence in what is essentially a young team backed by a few very experienced players. Cian Kiely, Liam Jennings, Noel Galvin and Paddy Kelly fit into that category while Luke Fahy, Darren Murphy, Cian Dorgan and Sean Kiely have impressed especially Murphy even though he did miss a few in the last game. He kept at it and was rewarded with a few lovely scores, Nemo will need to keep this lad quiet.
Nemo’s tally of 2-4 in their win over Carbery Rangers was as low a return as they recorded over the years and they missed a few opportunities that they would normally convert.
The champions of two years ago were unbeaten in the group, in fact they are unbeaten in all competitions this year. Defensively Nemo are solid, concede very little - the Castlehaven game the exception. Micheál Aodh Martin is fronted by Kevin O’Donovan, Kieran Histon and Stephen Cronin, and the attack has quality in Paul Kerrigan, Luke Connolly, Barry O’Driscoll and Mark Cronin.
This has the makings of a lively encounter; Ballincollig will not be defensive, they will come to play, that might actually suit Nemo, who look that bit better balanced and that might just give them the edge.
St Finbarrs v Castlehaven at 4pm
It’s the 3rd year in a row that these sides meet at this stage and the last two not only went to extra-time, it took penalties to separate very evenly matched teams with 1 win each.
The ‘Barrs are Cork and Munster champions and have been playing like that all year, very impressive in the group comfortably claiming the semi-final spot, which given their dual commitments certainly made life that bit easier.
There is also an added ingredient with the Cahalane brothers - Damien cleared to play after his sending off against Mallow - Conor and Jack all key players for the ‘Barr’s hurlers in their march to the final; now they line out against some of the lads they helped to win last week.
That said, it’s a situation they are well used to.
The ‘Haven very impressive in the win over Mallow. Even when reduced to 14, they were always in control playing a very nice brand of football, with Rory Maguire, Mark Collins, Michael and Brian Hurley carry a huge threat up front.
Ian Maguire has been exceptional for the champions all season and with Sam Ryan, Eoin Comyns, Billy Hennessey, Cillian Myers Murray and scoring ace Steven Sherlock maintaining incredible form despite a niggling injury that kept him sidelined briefly.
There is so much quality in both sides so this is a very hard game to call with little between them. It couldn’t go to extra-time and penalties again could it? It might, but I have a very slight fancy for the ‘Barr’s to win and in the process keep their double aspirations alive. Both games will be live on C103.
Senior A semi-finals on Saturday at Páirc Uí Chaoimh
St Michaels v O’Donovan Rossa at 5pm
It’s fair to say that St Michael’s have been the nearly team of this championship contesting several finals, but just unable to close the deal. Will this be their year, can they turn their consistency in the group stages into a winning one when it really matters?
Or will O’Donovan Rossa who produced a very efficient quarter-final display in their quarter-final win over Doheny’s once again deny them the opportunity at that elusive prize?
The sides met in a cracking group game a couple of years ago when the Skibb lads edged it by a single point and if Saturday’s encounter is as good, few will complain.
There is a nice balance in their team with Dylan Hourihane, Kevin Davis, Dylan O’Donovan, Donal Og Hodnett, Kevin Hurley all making important contributions.
St Michaels went direct to the semi-final and with a number of players involved with Blackrock, that will have helped and they’ve been boosted further by their juniors winning the city championship.
Unbeaten in the group, the manner in which they dismissed Bishopstown in the final game will make them favourites for this clash and if Adam Hennessy, Peter Cunningham, Robbie Cotter, Mark O’Keeffe, Daniel Meaney and Eric Hegarty produce the form of the group stages they will be hard to beat.
Knocknagree v Clyda Rovers at 7pm
Having lost their opening two games in the group, Knocknagree were on the verge of elimination and facing the possibility of a relegation play-off, but here they are now just 60 minutes away from another final appearance.
That is a tribute to a resilient group of players, who have endured a string of injuries.
Clyda are a young and upcoming side and by topping their group, they avoided a quarter-final and with a clear few weeks of preparation, will be well geared up for this challenge.
Conor Corbett even though only returning from injury has been excellent all season for the North Cork side and with Conor Flanagan, Daniel O’Callaghan, David Cooney and the vastly experienced Paudie Kissane offering excellent support they will be tough opposition for JF Daly’s side.
However having resurrected their season, Knocknagree will come into this game buoyed and confident and if Eoghan McSweeney, Matthew Dilworth, Donagh Moynihan, John F Daly (Jr) and Patrick Doyle play to their full potential they get the nod to make the final. Both games are live on C103.
This very competitive championship could see an all-Gaelthacht final if Cill Na Martra and Iveleary come through their respective semi-finals on Saturday, but Kanturk and Bantry Blues will be determined to spoil that party.
Dunmanway is the venue for the clash of Bantry and Iveleary with the latter on an incredible run and bidding to reach another county final. They have concerns about Cathal Vaughan, bur Chris Og Jones is in good form, Ruairi Deane is a key play for Bantry who might have a bit more experience.
Kanturk with their hurling season over, will have a fully focussed on one code and that will help them when they play Cill Na Martra in Mallow, but this is a seasoned Kanturk side led by the Walshs and McLoughlins who were denied late on in last year’s final - they should make it back to this year’s decider.
4pm starts for both games on Saturday.
Mitchelstown and Kilshannig meet in Fermoy on Saturday at 2pm and despite not playing to their potential Mitchelstown with Cathal O’Mahoney and Mark Keane leading their challenge, they will be favoured to win. At 4pm in Millstreet last year’s junior champions Boherbue who survived a tough test against Adrigole in the quarter-final should prevail against Aghabullogue.
It’s finals weekend in the county championships, along with a big relegation game from the senior grade, the splendid MTU complex will host all the games.
It gets underway on Saturday at 12 midday with the Junior final of Naomh Aban v O’Donovan Rossa and at 2pm in the Intermediate decider, it’s Castlehaven v Glanmire - two sides that have really progressed in the last few years and should deliver a quality decider.
The big one is at 4pm between two really top class teams, reigning Cork and Munster champions Mourneabbey and Eire Og. The odds clearly favour the champions to retain their title and it’s hard to argue against that given the experience they have in their team.
Eire Og also have a lot of good players as well, but they might have to wait to finally land the ultimate prize.
There are two more games then on Sunday.
At 12pm it’s a big relegation clash between Valley Rovers and Inch Rovers with the Innishannon girls favoured to retain their status.
At 2pm it’s the Senior B Final between Clonakilty and Fermoy with Clon fancied to take the title.
For the 3rd Monday in a row, there’s a double header of finals in Páirc Uí Rinn - hurling this week. At 6.30pm, it’s the Premier 2 Challenge Cup Final between Inniscarra and Mallow, then at 8pm an interesting Premier 2 Championship final with an all East Cork clash of Killeagh and Erin’s Own.