Hurling dominates the weekend
It may very well be the second last weekend of November but that does not curtail the action with five big hurling games down for decision; 2 county finals and 3 Munster club semi-finals with 3 Cork teams bidding to extend their season.
AIB Munster Senior
St Finbarr’s v Ballyea on Sunday in Cusack Park Ennis at 1.15pm
“It’s a game we are really looking forward to and after enjoying the celebrations, we got back to training, gave the footballers an extra few days off after their disappointment but other than that we are ready to go,” St Finbarr’s coach Ger Cunningham said ahead of Sunday’s game.
As part of their preparation, they played Kilmacud-Crokes last week in Abbotstown and it was a good workout. “Everyone on the panel got a run apart from a few lads with niggles but we were pleased with it.”
Ger acknowledges that this is a tough test: “well we are playing a team that have been very competitive at this level for a few years, were champions in 2016 and in Tony Kelly they have one of the best players in the country, so we know the task ahead.”
As for the venue, “again they will be familiar with it, teams, even at inter-county level find it hard to win there, but look we are really looking forward to it, a new journey and one we are glad to be part of.”
Ger also make the point that the club has a proud tradition in this championship. “We have and one we would like to continue. It’s been too long since have played in it, so we will give it our best shot and all are fit and raring to go.”
Ballyea are a seasoned outfit at this level and they have Tony Kelly. Even though he was not at his best in the county final win, how the ‘Barr’s cope with him could very well shape this intriguing looking encounter.
There is more to this side than Kelly though. Barry Coote, Aaron Griffin, Oran Cahill, Niall Deasy and Jack Browne had good campaigns and are key men for the Clare champions.
This is a big game for the ‘Barr’s and if they can play with the same determination they showed in the county final, they are well capable of getting a result.
Shane Hurley is an excellent goalkeeper, while the defence excelled in dreadful conditions in the win over Blackrock, none more so then Damien Cahalane, Cian Walsh, Eoin Keane and team captain Billy Hennessey.
It was an all round team performance that ensured they were comfortable winners in that game with Ben O’Connor, Conor Cahalane, Ethan Twomey, Brian Hayes and man of the match Ben Cunningham. Can they repeat and cause what would be considered an upset?
All the indications point to a win for Ballyea, especially if Kelly is not contained, but this ‘Barr’s side have confounded everyone since they defeated Sars in round 2 of the county championship. Can they do so again? Don’t write them off!
Intermediate Hurling semi-final
Inniscarra v Roscrea on Saturday in Semple Stadium Thurles at 1.15pm
Having won the Cork title in dramatic circumstances and duly celebrated in style, the Mid-Cork side have now put that behind them and are fully focussed on this tough looking task.
Roscrea were relegated in Tipperary last year but bounced back in style and impressed in seeing off the challenge of Ballysaggart comfortably in the quarter-final recently and their familiarity with the Thurles venue will give them an extra edge.
That said, Inniscarra have displayed remarkable resilience in the majority of their games in the county championship and that spirit has got them over the line which in any team is a great trait to have.
The Tipperary champions are well balanced and strong in most areas, with key players in Darragh Ryan, Luke Cashin scored 1-6 in the last game, Sam Conlon, Jason Fitzgerald and Darren O’Connor and with a game behind them at this level will be up to championship pace - important at this time of the year.
Inniscarra themselves have quality in their side as well, newly appointed Cork captain Sean O’Donoghue has been a revelation throughout the championship, as has Colm Casey - his match winning goal will live long in the memory of this group; Owen McCarthy, a captain who leads by example, Liam Ryan and David O’Keeffe.
Cork clubs have an excellent record in this competition and Inniscarra will be determined to maintain that sequence and they will as they have been hard to beat all year, but this one could just be a bridge to far, but maybe they can prove us all wrong again, hopefully they will.
AIB Munster Junior
Ballygiblin v Colligan (Waterford) on Sunday in Páirc Uí Rinn at 1.15pm
Having overcome the stern challenge they received from Grangemockler in the quarter-final, the reigning champions will feel confident approaching this game and Ballygiblin are in a good position to once again make into yet another final.
Colligan bridged a 38 year gap in winning the Waterford championship and are backboned by a number of very experienced players who have played at the highest level.
Foremost among them is Colin Dunford and Johnny Wall whose injury time free led to Gavin Whelan hitting his second match-winning goal. Joe Booth, Ross Brown and Reece string are other important players for the Waterford champions.
Ballygiblin are now a very seasoned outfit at this level, and while coach Ronan Dwane was disappointed with the start in the quarter-final, he was delighted how they responded. “We played ourselves into the game against a good side and it showed what we can achieve and it’s something we need to do from the start next time out.”
It’s been a rollercoaster 12 months for Ballygiblin: “It’s brilliant for the area, the flags and buntings have been up all year round and we really appreciate the support we get which is important in tight games.”
Darragh Flynn’s injury-free run this year has added another dimension to the team as he is a very good player, add in Mark Keane, Cathal O’Mahoney, Shane Beston, Kieran Duggan, and the O’Sullivans Sean and Joseph and the depth in this team gives them a decided advantage.
Ballygiblin came very close to winning the All-Ireland title last year and are keen to make amends. They look well equipped to take another step in that journey by winning this game.
Co-Op Super Stores County Junior Hurling Final
Erin’s Own v Kilshannig on Sunday in Páirc Uí Chaoimh at 3pm
A club in search of a double against a club’s 2nd team - a unique pairing in this year’s decider and for the first time, the winners will not get the opportunity to contest the Munster championship as that now goes to the Premier Junior champions.
That though will not deter double seeking Kilshannig or Erin’s Own giving this game their very best shot in what is sure to be a very competitive final.
The East Cork champions are a team laced with very experienced players, many who have played and won at the very highest level with this vibrant club, among them Pat Fitzgerald, Shane Murphy and ace forward Mark Collins whose scoring exploits have been central to their march to the final.
Kilshannig have caused a few upsets getting to this point of the season, not least their win over a highly rated Dromtarrife side, and with a football title safely tucked away with many of the same players, 10 of the football team, they will enter this game in confident mood and with a winning momentum behind them.
Diarmuid O’Sullivan, Dermot Twomey, Jack Twomey, Killian O’Hanlon, Darragh O’Sullivan and Eanna O’Hanlon were central to their football success and will be vital again if they are to complete the double, which they may very well achieve.
Co-Op Super Stores
Junior B Final
St Finbarr’s v Ballyhea on Saturday in Páirc Uí Rinn on Saturday at 3pm
An interesting final here, it’s the ‘Barr’s fourth team against Ballyhea’s second with experienced players on both sides.
Niall Ronan will line out with the North Cork side, while Michael Ryan and Robert O’Mahoney featuring for the Togher club who could get the weekend off to a good start by winning this final.
Interesting developments at last Tuesday night’s board meeting, Kevin Walsh is the new Coach to the Cork football team and it is generally accepted that this is a positive development.
A two time All-Ireland medal winner with his native Galway whom he also managed to 2 Connacht titles, while also having a spell as Sligo manager, he is regarded as an exceptional coach and it is understood he has already met the players. We wish him luck in his new role.
Cork are in a very competitive Division 2 of the Allianz National League, which where they finish could determine their C’ship fate, if they fail to make the Munster Final, playing Clare in Ennis in a quarter-final.
Both Cork teams will play in Munster pre-season competitions, McGrath Cup in football and Senior League in hurling likely to be in two groups of 3, guaranteeing each team 2 games.
Good development also to see that Sean Og Ó hAilpin will be involved as Coach to the Cork minor hurlers with manager Kieran Murphy.