Damien Cahalane of Castlehaven, who went in goal for the penalty shoot out, celebrates after the AIB Munster GAA Football Senior Club Championship Final win over Dingle, Kerry at TUS Gaelic Grounds in Limerick last Sunday. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Cork clubs in search of All-Ireland glory

A week out from Christmas and there is no let up in the action. With the provinicial championships now complete, the focus is very much on the race for All-Ireland glory with 4 Cork clubs involved in hurling and ladies football.

Currentaccount.ie All-Ireland Intermediate Ladies Football Final

Glanmire v Sean O’Heslins Ballinamore (Leitrim) on Saturday in Croke Park at 3pm

Having come from behind to beat Na Fianna from Meath in the semi-final, Glanmire manager Vincie Barry was thrilled with the response. “We started very slow, maybe with some of our players having played in the camogie game on Saturday was a factor, but we regrouped at half-time and I thought we were outstanding in that second half.”

Vincie agreed that Orlaith Roche’s point just before the break was crucial. “We had only scored 1 point up to then, and that gave us a boost going into the dressing-room and we were clam had a quick chat and you saw how they responded in the 2nd half.”

The fact that they will have two clear weeks run into the final is also a big help. “Naturally we would have wanted the camogie team (Sars) to win but unfortunately that did not happen.”

Playing in Croke Park is also exciting. “Getting to play in the top stadium in the country you know you are doing something right, but what we will do now is focus on the opposition, which we know very little about. We will prepare accordingly and hopefully get it right on the day.”

Their opponents on Saturday won the Connacht title for the first time this year and then looked beaten in the All-Ireland semi-final against Steelstown from Derry, but hung in there, overturned possession the final play to hit a winning goal, scored by Aoibheann Flynn after good work by Laura O’Dowd.

They were in a similar situation in the Connacht Final but again did not panic held their nerve and eventually got over the line, so that is something that Glanmire will be conscious of.

Roisin McHugh, named LGFA Player of the Month for November, scored 0-8 in the semi-final, is another key operator for the Leitrim girls as are Abbi Sweeney, Lisa Maguire, Laoise Moran, Sarah McLoughlin and Leighanne Flynn.

Glanmire though themselves have shown remarkable resilience all year, juggling the dual players, and then having to travel to London for a QF but they have got through them all.

There is a nice balance to their team. Ava Carey is an excellent goalkeeper, her handling was spot on in the semi-final and Michelle Barry, Elllen Twomey and Eibhlis Dillon anchor a solid defence.

Abbie O’Mahoney and Ellen Murphy are a formidable midfield pairing, while up front Niamh McAllen, Michelle Dullea and Orlaith Roche have the capacity to unhinge the best of defences.

It should be a marvellous occasion as both clubs appearing in HQ for the very first time, word is half of Leitrim will be there; no doubt the Cork girls will also have plenty of support.

How each side handles all that goes with been in a final might be a factor, Glanmire have the capacity to win but they will want to start quickly and not allow Sean O’Heslins build up any degree of momentum, if they can achieve that, they should win.

AIB All-Ireland Intermediate Hurling SF

Castlelyons v Tooreen (Mayo) on Saturday in O’Connor Park Tullamore at 1.30pm

It’s been a hectic few weeks on the road for the Castlelyons team with all their games away from home including an extra-time win over Crotta O’Neills from Kerry. They followed that with a thrilling win in the Munster SF against Corofin that very nearly did not finish as fog descended on the Gaelic Grounds.

One player with more miles than anyone has been full-forward Anthony Spillane coming from Dubai to play a key role particularly in the semi-final hitting a hat-trick of first half goals in that win.

It’s tough but well worth it as he explained. “It is but look we have been trying for a good few years to get to this stage and while it is tiring, it’s well worth it.”

Anthony missed the QF as it was a Sunday fixture so a Saturday game is ideal: “Perfect really; fly in Friday, play and hopefully win the game, head back on Sunday in plenty of time for work as a teacher on Monday, so possibly two more trios for the semi-final and with a bit of luck the final.”

Reflecting on the semi-final win and his 3 goals: “We got lucky as Corofin could have got a goal in the 1st minute, but then it all happened so quickly, got great service from out the field and yeah 3 goals - couldn’t have started better.”

As for the fog that threatened the continuation of the match and a subsequent rally by Corofin, Anthony says: “We were well ahead at the time, went back to the dressing and stayed focussed but to fair Corofin played really well, but I never felt we were going to lose and kept our composure and got the job done.”

Tooreen are one of the strongest clubs in Mayo and are well represented on both the playing and management side of the inter-county teams, and they come into this game in confident mood, and why not? They beat Ballindereen from Galway 0-21 to 0-19 in the Connacht Final, and in the process completed a 3 in a row.

Eoin Delaney, Shane Boland and Sean Kenny were big players in that win - 0-15 between them - while others to impress were Liam Lavin, Brian Morley, Michael Morley, Joe Boyle and Bobby Douglas in a team that came very close to winning this title last year.

In the final they ran Monaleen from Limerick very close and there is a view that they are well equipped to go the distance.

Castlelyons’ backroom will have covered all the angles in preparation for what could very well be a tough hour for them, but they have been down this road before.

The lessons of heartbreaking defeats are behind them and they have quality and experience in every line.

Jack Barry is a top class goalkeeper fronted by among others Niall O’Leary, Colm Barry and Colm Spillane.

Peter Roche and James Kearney are an effective midfield pairing while in attack, Alan Fenton, Leon Doocey, David Morrisson and the man with all the miles and goals Anthony Spillane are formidable scorers.

In some quarters Tooreen are favourites to win and while I respect that view, it’s hard to believe, with all due respect, that a team from Mayo could beat a team from Cork in a big hurling game.

For me it’s Castlelyons to win and get to Croke Park.

AIB All-Ireland Junior Hurling SF

St Catherine’s v Easkey (Sligo) on Saturday in Duggan Park Ballinasloe at 1.30pm

“The first call now will be to Ronan Dwane to get the lowdown on Easkey,” said St Catherine’s manager Denis Walsh after holding off a tough Feenagh-Kilmeedy side in the Munster Final.

Ronan coached Ballygiblin to the All-Ireland title in January beating Easkey in the final; that they are back in the semi-final is testimony to the spirit that this small club in Sligo possess.

Word also is that a number of their players were due to head Down Under for a period but in the belief that they were capable of winning the All-Ireland with this group they were prevailed upon to stay and they duly did.

Having beaten Ballinasloe in the Connacht Final, selector Enda Moloney said: “There is now a level of maturity in the team and that showed today when Ballinasloe came at us late in the game, and that helped us get over the line.”

Enda also said they were looking forward to the semi-final and hoping to get back to Croke Park. “It’s brilliant to be still hurling at this time of the year, we had the experience of Croke Park last year and even though we didn’t win, we would love to get back there again, but we know any team from Cork will be hard to beat as we found out last year.”

Equally Denis Walsh is thrilled how their season is panning out. “Ah sure you couldn’t ask for better. To be still playing into December is great.”

Denis was delighted with the win over the Limerick side: “It was a very tough game and we had to dig it out but all credit to the lads, they showed commendable spirit and got the result which is fantastic for our club.”

Easkey have a solid and experienced look to their side particularly up the middle in the key positions.

Gavin Connolly, Rory McHugh, Finian Cawley, Joe McHugh and Andrew Kilcullen they have been central to their success in the last few years.

You can only admire what Catherine’s have achieved since the County Final defeat, the big one was the victory over Ardmore first day out and now they are just 60 minutes away from an All-Ireland appearance.

When the need was greatest their big players delivered - Eoin Davis, Eoghan O’Riordan, Kieran Neville, Kyle Wallace, Shane Cotter, Sean O’Donoghue and the Mulcahy brothers Matthew and Brian.

A Cork v Sligo hurling game has in the past produced only one outcome, the expectation is that the same could happen on Saturday but Catherine’s will be wary of falling into the trap of complacency.

If the attitude and application is right and I have no doubt it will be, Catherine’s can book a place in Croke Park early in the new year.

Currentaccount.ie All-Ireland Junior Ladies Football Final

O’Donovan Rossa v Claremorris (Mayo) on Sunday in Parnell Park at 2pm

It’s an awful pity that this game is not been played with the other 2 finals in Croke Park on Saturday and it would have been just reward for the efforts of all the players, which for the Skibereen girls included a trip to Scotland for their QF.

That was a game they won easily and followed that with an equally impressive semi-final win 2-12 to 0-6 over Gusserane from Wexford, so they are certainly heading to Dublin in good form. Now can they maintain it and conclude the season in style?

Claremorris themselves were in goal scoring from in their semi-final hitting 5-4 while conceding 2-11 in beating Lavey.

Nina Wallace had 2 that day, Laura Kelly, Bree Hession, and Ashleigh Sammon all contributing while Rebecca Kean and Alana Fitzpatrick also impressed.

Rossa will look to Cork senior Laura O’Mahony, Eabha O’Donovan, Emer McCarthy, Allie Tobin, Emma Hurley, Fionnuala O’Driscoll and Katie O’Connell.

Ladies football in Mayo is quite strong and they have produced some excellent club teams as well, it’s a tough ask for O’Donovan Rossa but they are well capable of lifting the title.