All Ireland Doubles Handball champions Michael Hedigan and Dan Relihan pictured with John Hedigan, Chairman Handball Board; Kieran McGeary CE Cork 96FM/C103; Finbarr McCarthy 96FM; Tom Tobin, GM RPH; Ken Perrott 96FM and Noel O’Callaghan, Chairman County GAA Board. Photo: Tony O’Connell

Lots still to play for despite last Sunday’s narrow loss

At around 3.45pm last Sunday, the view among most, myself included, was that the Cork senior hurling team’s season will end on 18 May.

In fact it could be confirmed the week before on 11 May, when All-Ireland champions Limerick come to town.

Two defeats represents the worst possible start and while they were narrow losses, even if we win our next 2 games results elsewhere might need to go our way, if we are to avoid failing to get out of the group stages for the 2nd year in a row.

All that at the end of a week where they were some positive and encouraging results and hopefully more to come.

Munster Under 20 Hurling Championship

Cork v Tipperary in Semple Stadium Thurles on Friday at 7.30pm

Ben O’Connor’s side with 3 wins from 3 head up the motorway content in the knowledge that they are already assured of at the very least a place in the semi-final, but as we found out last year, Ben does not like to lose.

A similar scenario presented itself before they played their 4th game against Limerick in the Gaelic Grounds, Cork went up and won and in the process ended their reign as champions.

Tipperary are also unbeaten after 2 games and with Limerick and Waterford pointless, the destination of the title would appear to rest between Cork, Tipp and Clare.

While Cork have been winning their games, it’s fair to say there has been a lack of consistency at times. That said, when they need was greatest they have responded well.

In the Limerick game last week they conceded a goal and hit back immediately scoring 1-5 to effectively win the game, but I am sure the management team will be looking for a more balanced 60 minutes as the business end of the championship gets ever nearer. Tipperary under Brendan Cummins have shown enough to suggest that especially at home, they will really test Cork and both counties will be looking for a boost after their seniors’ defeats.

Darragh McCarthy, a Harty Cup star with Nenagh CBS bagged 1-9 in the win over Limerick, while others to impress were Oisin O’Donoghue, Senan Butler, Paddy McCormack and Cathal English.

Cork for their part are well balanced, Paudie O’Sullivan has done little wrong in goal, while Kevin Lyons, Darragh O’Sullivan and Cillian Tobin anchor a solid defence.

Mikey Finn and Ben Walsh work hard in midfield while the attack can be lethal. Jack Leahy, and Diarmuid Healy are effective scorers with the excellent William Buckley who has been their most consistent player in all 3 games to date, his quality point sparked the comeback against Limerick.

Cork have had the edge over this group in recent years and the desire to get to the final and remain unbeaten might be enough to get them over the line.

Munster Ladies Football Senior Championship

Cork v Tipperary on Saturday in Mallow at 2.30pm

“A defeat never tasted so good” - the words of Cork manager Shane Roynane after their 4 point loss to Kerry last Saturday.

It is easy to understand his thoughts because a short few weeks ago against the same opposition in the league they were well and truly hammered and things looked bleak.

Okay they were relegated to Division 2, but with a few players coming back from injury and a good block of training done, things might be turning for the better.

This game on Saturday is the last in the group phase and it is to all intents and purposes a semi-final, Kerry with 2 wins are already into the final, Waterford who play Kerry are pointless, so a lot is at stake in Mallow.

Tipperary bagged 4 goals in beating Waterford and will fancy their chances of reaching the final, especially if the goal scorers Emma Morrissey, Emer McCarthy and Anna Rose Kennedy with 2-1 to her name are not kept in check.

Cork more than matched Kerry for long periods in their game but the home side started the 2nd half much better and put them in a winning position.

All credit to Cork, a much changed team it must be said, battled back and the return of Aoife Healy a boost and with Lydia McDonagh, Mellissa Duggan, Abigail Ring and Libby Coppinger showing good form, Cork should have enough to win and in the process set up a rematch with their neighbours from across the county bounds.

In the Senior B Championship, Cork play Limerick also in Mallow on Saturday at 4.30pm, while the County Under 21 Finals are both on Monday. In Cloughduv at 12pm it’s the A decider featuring St Vals’ v Eire Og while Cobh is the venue for the B Final with Kinsale v Glanmire at 4.15pm.

March award for All-Ireland handball champions

Daniel Herlihy and Michael Hedigan are the latest recipients of the 96FM/C103 Sports Star award in association with the Rochestown Park Hotel in recognition their success in the All-Ireland Doubles Handball Championship.

In a thrilling final played in Croke Park, they beat the Clare champions and it was the culmination of a lot of hard graft and training over the year to achieve their ultimate goal.

Daniel said: “It was a cracking final and we had to pull out all the stops to get over the line but it would not have been achieved without the support of so many in the club at Liscarroll who have backed us all the way.”

As for Michael it completed a unique family double as his brother Shane was a previous monthly winner for his success at the same sport.

“Delighted to be here today accepting this award and coming after with the All-Ireland, it caps a great few weeks, and for the next couple of months now we are gearing up for the World Championships and really looking forward to that.” Noel O’Callaghan Vice-Chairman of the Cork County Board in congratulating the winners said it is also very pleasing to see handball, an integral part of our association being acknowledged and he thanked 96FM/C103 and the Rochestown Park Hotel for their continued support of these awards.

Family and friends were in attendance to honour two outstanding All-Ireland champions while also present was long-standing official Peter Dennehy whose contribution to the promotion of handball was also acknowledged.

Both lads play hurling and football with Churchtown-Liscarrol Gaels, the same club as the February winner Mary I Fitzgibbon Cup winning captain Colin O’Brien.

Munster minor football semi-final

Cork v Clare on Tuesday at 7pm (Clare venue)

Having lost to Kerry by 2 points on Tuesday night, Cork are back on the road again next Tuesday when they head to Clare for what will be a season defining game.

The format has come in for criticism with the Cork v Kerry game billed as a quarter-final, with both going to the semi-final and like Cork, Kerry are away to Tipperary.

The question been why play the Cork v Kerry game at all, but I suppose it’s a championship game and one they both will have been glad of because they are after all playing teams who are now about to play their 5th game, an advantage surely.

A similar format was used in the U20 grade and you still end up with a Cork v Kerry final, what odds the same happening at this grade?

Cork manager Michael Sullivan was not too downbeat after the loss. “We weren’t good enough on the night, missed a few chances, struggled on our own kicks out but look we still have another chance and we will get back at it on Friday and focus now on Clare.”

Michael also revealed that a few lads that were out injured would come into the equation for this game.

Kerry looked that bit sharper and while Cork on a number of occasions cut the gap to the bare minimum, the home side replied with points to edge the win.

Cork’s tally of 1-7 was poor and they will need a better return if they are to make the final while they will also need to convert the goal chances, at least 3, that they created.

Joe Mouret, Cathal McCarthy and Oisin Harrington were solid in defence, Harry Cogan and Ben O’Shea are the midfielders while in attack Sean Whelton, Danny Miskella and Dylan O’Neill looked dangerous.

Clare had a comfortable win over Tipperary in the Phase 1 final with Shane O’Connell and Conor Burke with the vital goals, and with home advantage will fancy their chances.

Apart from a place in the Munster Final, there is also a spot in the All-Ireland series for the winners of this game, let’s hope Cork will have learned enough to achieve their objective.

Sam Maguire Cup draw

So the draw was made for the group phase and John Cleary’s side know their fate, or almost!

Kerry or Clare, expect that to be Clare, Donegal or Armagh - hard to call that one and Tyrone.

Three teams from each group will advance the winners will go direct to the QFs with 2nd and 3rd in the preliminary QFs.

The key game will be the opener on the 18 May; Cork hurlers are playing on 19, with the expectation that it will be Clare in Ennis.

Cork will be mindful of what happened there last year, and will not want a repeat, win that game and they will be almost certain to at least make the preliminary quarter-final.

The 2nd round will be at home to the Ulster champions, this will be played in Páirc Uí Rinn as SuperValu Páirc Uí Chaoimh will be recovering from the Bruce Springsteen concert, and with the Cork City Marathon on the Sunday, Saturday 1 June is the likely date.

Tyrone will be the final game and that will be at a neutral venue on the weekend of 15/16 June.

A tough draw whatever way you look at it but it will be an exciting period for the team and the 2 week gap between each game is ideal.

Let’s hope the injury situation has improved although word is both Maurice Shanley and Paul Walsh are doubtful, but Rory Maguire, Killian O’Hanlon and possibly Cathal O’Mahony could all be available.