The finals keep on coming
A couple of weeks out from Christmas and while activity is nearly concluded, games at this time of the season are generally finals. That is the case on Sunday with Cork teams in finals at provincial and national level.
The County Board mammoth’s championship programme concluded last Sunday, but at around 6pm next Sunday the draws for the 2023 championships will take place at the Board’s Annual Convention in Páirc Uí Chaoimh and almost immediately the speculation will start on how they will pan out.
AIB Munster Junior Football Final
Kilmurry v Fossa on Sunday in Mallow at 1pm
A historic afternoon for both sides as they contest this final and whatever way you dress it up, the focus will be firmly on the best forward in the country David Clifford and his amazing capacity not only to destroy defences at all levels, but his drawing power which attracts huge crowds everywhere.
Last Sunday, a Munster Council official informed me in Mallow that even then over 2,000 tickets had been sold for this final, advice is to get there early.
Kilmurry’s joint captain is Fionn Warren and, like everyone in the club and the area are really looking forward Sunday.
“Absolutely it’s something we have been aiming for all year, obviously the county title was our first target and of course without that we would not be where we are right now.”
They had a tight battle in the semi-final, eventually getting the better of a battling Thurles Sarsfield side, where goals were crucial.
“Without a doubt we got both in the first half against a strong wind and that gave us a good platform for the 2nd half. It was a tough game but hopefully that it will stand to us on Sunday.”
As for the Clifford brothers and the fact that Fossa are overwhelming favourites is not something that Fionn is concerned about. “That is completely outside our control and all we can do and have been doing is concentrate on our own preparation and give it our best shot on Sunday and hopefully we can play to our full potential.”
Now the big question - who will be giving the formidable task of marking the Footballer of the Year? With a smile Fionn said: “We will see when the team is announced.”
Whoever is given that job will certainly have his hands full given what Clifford has done all season at the highest level and even after such a demanding year, he is still doing it at club level.
There are of course a few others chipping in, notably his brother Paudie - another top class forward. While in the semi-final win over Castlemahon, the team scored 1-20, ironically the bulk of the scoring was done by another set of brothers - Emmet and Tadgh - who between them bagged 1-10 from play, another concern for the Cork champions.
Matt Rennie, Cian O’Shea and Paddy Sheehan are other key players for Fossa.
Kilmurry know they face a big test but they were worthy winners of the Cork championship and there is a nice balanced look to their team.
James Mc Donnell is an excellent goalkeeper, while the defence is anchored by William Ronan, Brian Hinchion, Tomas Collins and Gearoid O’Mahony.
The midfield pairing are hardworking Kyle Kelleher and James O’Mullane.
Padraig Brehanu has an eye for goal in attack, with Liam Wall, Lawerence Aisling, Rory Duggan and Kevin Barrett offering good support.
The reality is though they face a huge task, no doubt they will give it their very best shot as you would only expect, but it all points to a Fossa win.
Current Account.ie Ladies Football Junior Final
Naomh Abán v Salthill-Knocknacarra in Kilmallock on Sunday at 1pm
Two weeks ago before a huge home support, Naomh Abán produced a top class display top see off the spirited challenge presented by Castleblayney-Faughs to set up a first All-Ireland Final appearance for the girls from the Gaelthacht.
Their manager Noel McDonagh in the immediate aftermath of that brilliant said: “This is beyond our wildest dreams. We have worked hard all year and today is just reward for the efforts the girls have put in all year.”
Defensively they were excellent: “Outstanding right from the off, they closed the Castleblayney danger girls and that laid the foundations for the win.”
Equally Noel was pleased at the return for his own attacking unit. “It took a while to get the scores but as they have done all year, they kept at it and in the end the scores arrived.”
As for Sunday’s opposition Noel was in the dark. “I know very little about them and I suppose they will know little about us, but we see what we can dig up and prepare as best we can, but look it’s an All-Ireland Final we will get back to training later in the week, as we have done all year and see where it takes us.”
One final word on the level of support the team are getting: “Absolutely incredible and it’s been the same for every game wherever we play, and I know that for the final we will get the same level of support and as a team on and off the field it is something we really appreciate.”
The Connacht champions had a narrow 1-7 to 1-6 win over Dwyer’s in their semi-final with top class displays from Lauren O’Donnell, Laura Kelly and Kate Thompson.
Naomh Abán will once again look to their defence as a platform for victory and in this regard, Muireann Dineen, Emma Kelly and Roisin Corkery are key players.
The attack is led by Emer Murphy, and ably supported by Colleen Phelan, Ann Maher and full-forward Lydia McDonagh who really was class in the semi-final win.
If Naomh Abán play as well as they did in the win over Castleblayney they will be very hard to beat, especially defensively as Salthill might not have the capacity to unhinge that unit which was so impressive, and on that basis the title could very well be heading back to the Gaelthacht on Sunday night.
It was a powerful display by Ballygiblin to retain their Munster Junior Hurling crown last Sunday and set up an All-Ireland semi-final against either Horsewood from Wexford or Commercials from Dublin next weekend.
Special mention also for Shane Beston who got married on Saturday, then scored 3-3 in the final. He and his wife Emma had a weekend they will never forget.
Brian Hayes’ decision to opt for the Cork hurlers over the footballers next season is an interesting one. Brian made a big impact for the ‘Barr’s in their county championship win and will be a big addition to Pat Ryan’s side and a considerable loss for John Cleary.