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Big weekend to kick-start the season!

Wednesday, 23rd January, 2019 4:26pm

It may be only the last weekend in January, but supporters are certainly spoiled for choice with plenty of games in various codes.

Both of Cork’s senior mens teams are in Allianz National League action, Inniscarra play in the All-Ireland club camogie semi-final, and there are two Harty Cup semi-finals with Cork involvement.

There is an interesting scenario around this year’s league as it has been well flagged that the groupings are going to be altered for next year, which in effect means that there will probably be no relegation.

Will this alter the approach of some counties especially with a hectic championship schedule ahead, will managers experiment more or will they go for the knock out places that are on offer?

John Meyler and Brian Cody will approach this contest with one objective in mind, win this one and move on to the next battle.

The composition of the respective teams will be interesting especially with both sides heavily laden with players involved with the Fitzgibbon Cup, while Darragh Fitzgibbon’s injury rules him out, equally the Ballyhale-Shamrock’s contingent are not available to Cody.

Cork are likely to mix and match which should see regulars Christopher Joyce, Damien Cahalane, Bill Cooper and Patrick Horgan line out, while it is also possible that Stephen McDonnell could make his return.

A number of players that featured in the recent games may also gain inclusion to see if they can measure up to the demands of league fare.

Under Cody, Kilkenny have always approached the league with the aim of winning it, while at the same time blooding players, but with Cork in the opposite corner and in Nowlan Park, expect a strong starting 15 who will want to start with a home win.

Predicting the outcome of games this early in the season is never easy. Cork’s record at the venue is not great, and while they will be hoping to reverse that trend, the odds favour a home win.

A really tough opener for Ronan McCarthy’s side on the back of the loss to Clare in the McGrath Cup Final; equally Fermanagh did not have the most impressive of McKenna Cup campaigns.

In their three games they picked up just one point - a draw with UUJ, losing to Derry and Tyrone and in the latter game managed just a total of 0-4.

Of course, like Cork they probably used these games to test the depth of their panel and build on their success in last year’s Ulster C’ship where against all the odds they reached the final, losing to Donegal.

Similarly to Cork, they exited the championship in round 4 of the qualifiers at the hands of Kildare, who visit Cork in round 2 of the league on Sunday week.

Cork virtually played two different teams in the McGrath Cup and all players came under consideration. Sean Powter is out injured and having just returned from honeymoon Paul Kerrigan might not be considered.

They will definitely want to make a winning start as it is an extremely tough division, and while promotion is a priority, there’s a thin line between that and relegation and every point will be vital.

Experienced campaigners like Ian Maguire, Ruairi Deane, James Loughrey and Brian Hurley all start this crucial tie.

Ironically Cork’s record on the road in last year’s campaign was good; two wins out of three, but this represents a serious test and one hopefully they can pass.

There’s a real opportunity for CBC and Midleton CBS to make it an all-Cork final, and that would be a huge boost, but Thurles CBS and De Le Salle stand in the way.

Mallow is the venue for the meeting of CBC and Thurles at 2.30pm on Saturday in what has the makings of an intriguing encounter. The Cork lads showed their resolve in their quarter final win with a late goal and with the same approach and attitude could shade this one.

Last year’s runners-up Midleton head to the Fraher Field in Dungarvan at 1.30pm for their encounter with De Le Salle, surprising winners over St Colmans last time out.

De Le Salle operate with two extra defenders and that will frustrate any side, but Midleton have the capacity to get around this and in the process make it to the final.

Both games are on Saturday as is the ‘B’ Hurling semi-final, featuring Rochestown College and Charleville CBS in Mallow at 12pm.

Cork and Munster Champions Inniscarra make the trip to the WIT grounds at Carriganore on Sunday at 2pm for their All-Ireland Club semi-final with St Martin’s Wexford providing the opposition.

The Wexford girls won their second county title this year and included in their team are Mags D’Arcy, Linda Bolger, Chloe Foxe, Niamh Dunne and Amy Cardiff, who all impressed in their Leinster Final win against Thomastown, who played over 45 minutes with 14 players.

Inniscarra were beaten finalists a few years ago and with the bulk of that team still on duty they will make a serious bid to make it back to Croke Park.

Rena Buckley, Niamh McCarthy, Niamh Dilworth, Treasa McCarthy, Claudia Keane who bagged 1-1 in the Munster Final when introduced, Katie O’Mahony and Mary Buckley anchor their challenge and with a better balanced 15 they should win.

On Saturday in the Littlewoods National League, Cork on the back of their opening win over Tipperary should be too strong for Wexford when they meet in Castle Road.

Cork had a strong team on duty last week and with regulars Leanne O’Sullivan, Laura Treacy, Orla Cotter, Gemma O’Connor and Linda Collins hitting the ground running early on they look odds on to make it two from two.

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