Monday 18 November 2019

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Cork Independent

Game On

Finals continue this weekend

Wednesday, 30th October, 2019 4:44pm

We're heading into November and there's still a lot of championship games to be decided. In fact, in the updated programme it looks like the Under 21 grade in both hurling and football won’t be completed until mid December, which is a pity as these games can usually produce excellent fare.

Intercounty commitments meant the summer was devoid of championship games and surely something needs to be done to keep clubs active during those months, instead of having club players playing in what are usually the worst months of the season.

That, however, is for another day and this weekend hopefully, weather permitting, progress will be made in all grades.

The measure and standard of football in Duhallow is reflected in that three of the four semi-finalists in the intermediate grade were from that Division. Knocknagree absolutely hammered Millstreet in their game, racking up an impressive 3-21 in the process, while Gabriels were narrow one point winners over Dromtarriffe.

On that basis Knocknagree will start as favourites but, as manager John Fintan Daly pointed out, one of their rare defeats in recent years came at the hands of Gabriels, so he is well aware of the task facing his side.

The fact that several of his players were involved in Sunday’s senior final, John will have to get them refocused: “These guys have been brilliant all year, and while they are very disappointed, what better way to put it behind you then to play and hopefully win on Sunday.”

Gabriels are an excellent side, Mark Cronin is their most experienced player and he gets excellent support from Darren O’Mahoney, Liam Hegarty, Jordie O’Brien, Killian O’Sullivan and Kieran Roycroft, in a side that is a mixture of youth and experience.

Eoghan McSweeney, Matthew Dilworth, Anthony and Fintan O’Connor, Danny Cooper, Michael Mahoney and John Fintan Daly Junior have all huge big match experience and that gives them a vital edge.

Irrespective of the result both teams will be promoted to premier intermediate next season, but the odds favour Knockngaree going up as champions, especially given the firepower they possess in attack.

The game takes place in Páirc Uí Rinn on Saturday night at 7pm and it will be broadcast live on C103.

Since the structure of the junior championships was changed a few years ago, repeat pairings have been rare, Nemo Rangers vs Brian Dillons last year was one, but this is the first time that we have a repeat of a divisional final in the county final, which should make it a very unique occasion.

In the East Cork Final, Russell Rovers emerged winners in a tense decider, and they also have the advantage of last year’s county final where they came up just short against Cloughduv.

Local derbies, especially in finals, are difficult to predict and both sides have some excellent players. In the final, Bud Hartnett and Josh Beausang between them, bagged 0-14 while Luke Duggan-Murray got the crucial goal in injury time that divided the teams. I fact they were the only three scorers for them which would be a concern.

John Forde, Brendan Murphy, David Sweeney and captain Tim Geaney will lead the challenge for Carrig who will be keen to reverse the result of the divisional decider, but it’s a big ask and a nod to Russell Rovers to win.

Fresh from their emphatic win in the county final, and also on the back of a quartet of their players being crucial to Imokilly’s retention of the senior title, O’Neills embark on a campaign with an eye on it concluding in Croke Park. First up it’s the Limerick version of the ‘Rockies who won a replay last Sunday so maybe the celebrations may take their toll.

Cork clubs have an excellent record in this championship, Charleville won it last year, in contrast to Limerick sides who have made little impact, although playing the game in the tight confines of their home field in Kilfinane (Sunday 1.30pm) will give them an advantage.

O’Neill’s have quality all over the field, the Mellericks, all three, anchor a solid defence, while Mark O’Keeffe, Jason Hankard, Billy Dunne and ace marksman Declan Dalton, are formidable forwards that few teams can match.

The Cork side are well equipped to win and it will be a surprise if they don’t.

St Michael's who, once again, had to endure the heartbreak of a county final defeat have two more big games this weekend. On Saturday they face Goleen in the County Junior ‘B’ Final in Páirc Uí Rinn and will be fancied to win, then on Sunday in Ovens their ‘A’ team play St James in the semi-final and this will be much tougher. The odds favour the Carbery champions with Kilshannig awaiting the winners in the final.

There are a number of interesting games in Under 21 hurling, not least the all northside clash of Glen Rovers and Na Piarsaigh, Midleton should get the better of Ballincollig, while Blarney will be fancied in their encounter with Duhallow.

It's a big day too for the Junior B hurlers of Ballyhea and Aghabullogue who meet in the county final in Páirc Uí Rinn on Sunday at 2pm.

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