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Glen bid to end Imokilly’s reign

Thursday, 17th October, 2019 8:46am

County Hurling Final day in Cork is special and next Sunday’s decider has that added spice for a number of reasons.

It features the two best teams in the championship in recent years - they have won the last four titles between them, two each - and Imokilly are bidding for a third successive title.

It is also the last final of the championship as we know it, as from next year it reverts to a group format with just 12 teams in the senior grade.

I must admit I am not a fan of the new format, and given that as with this year, the bulk of the games will not be played until August at the earliest, it will make for a frantic effort to complete it time for Munster club deadlines.

That of course is all for another day, the focus now is clearly on Sunday for both Glen Rovers and Imokilly.

The champions are hot favourites to complete the three-in-a-row, and the manner in which they have progressed to the final would suggest they deserve that tag.

In all their games they have eased to victory with a high scoring return on each occasion.

For all that manager Fergal Condon, while delighted to be back in the final, knows that the Glen will present a tough test. “Without a doubt, Glen have a marvellous tradition, have won two county finals in recent years, and have quality players, so we will need to be at our best on Sunday.”

Condon always felt the Glen would make the final having played them earlier in the year. “We met in the Glen field for a challenge game and it was a good workout for both teams and I saw enough that evening to suggest we could be seeing one another again.”

As for Glen Rovers' manager Richie Kelleher, he is thrilled that they are back in the final, even if there were a few narrow escapes along the way.

“Look it’s what this club is all about, we have been there before winning and losing finals, and it creates a great atmosphere around the club especially for our young members, but our job now is to focus on Imokilly.”

The narrow victories were achieved against Charlevillle and Newtownshandrum, but it all came right in the semi-final win over Carrigtowhill and Kelleher was pleased with that display.

“To be fair, we got a great start against a young team who were slow to settle, but we kept going and it was nice to be able to relax and give players a run in a semi-final.”

Imokilly, though will be a real test, says Kelleher: “They have been the most consistent and best team in the last few years and we are only too well aware of what they are capable of, but look, we will prepare our team as we always do and if that is good enough so be it, if not then that it is sport.”

Imokilly have eased into the final and have quality all over the field and this is the challenge for Glen Rovers, especially in their defensive set up, the match-ups needs to be spot on.

Paudie O’Sullivan, Seamus Harnedy and Declan Dalton are just three players that need to be contained, and of course the Glen defence will need to be disciplined with Dalton’s unerring free taking, just like Patrick Horgan at the other end.

Robert Downey, Stephen McDonnell and David Dooling excelled in recent games and they will need to be as good again, while goalkeeper Cathal Hickey has displayed an outstanding level of consistency, indeed he is one of the main reasons Glen are still standing.

In the games against Midleton, Charleville and especially Newtownshandrum, he made top drawer saves at vital times.

The midfield battle will, as ever, be crucial. Bill Cooper and Mark O’Keeffe are models of consistency for Imokilly, but they will get nothing soft from Adam O’Donovan and Donal Cronin who will match the champions' duo in most aspects of the game.

What of the match-ups in the Imokilly defence against a Glen attack? That area, apart from the last game, has yet to function fully (for Glen Rovers) but they are well capable of doing that with the quality that is there.

Obviously Patrick Horgan is the main threat, but Dean Brosnan, Conor Dorris and David Cunningham know what is required at this level and Kieran Histon, Colm Barry, John Cronin and Colm Barry could face a busy afternoon.

The impact from the bench could also play a part and here Imokilly might have an edge, when you consider Cork Under 20 player Shane O’Regan could be one of their options.

It has the makings of a fascinating contest, and hopefully the weather gods will be kind and play their part, with so many good players on both sides.

Which side are better equipped to succeed? Imokilly have not been tested, that’s testimony to their depth, while Glen have shown their battling qualities on a number of occasions that will stand to them.

Imokilly have also started strongly in all their games, Glen will need to curb that and not allow them build momentum.

There is no doubt Imokilly are favourites, but a Glen team in a final are a different animal as the history books will testify, and they will strive to try and deliver another county title to Blackpool.

Whatever the result, Glen will play in the Munster Club Championship, they will want to go there as champions, and I think they will.

The strength of Duhallow football is reflected in the fact that four of their clubs are involved in semi-final action over the weekend.

Kanturk came from behind to force a replay with St Michael's in the premier grade and this is a curtain raiser to the hurling final. Éire Óg await the winners in the final, and the city side might just shade this one.

A local derby and an intriguing one at that as Knocknagree and Millstreet meet in the intermediate semi-final, very little between these side as it is with all local derbies, but a nod to a better balanced Knocknagree to win.

It could very well be an all Duhallow decider as Dromtarriffe will be fancied to get the better of Gabriel Rangers in the second semi-final.

There is a distinct possibility that the final of this championship could be a repeat of the East Cork final as Carrig Na bFhear and Russell Rovers are in opposite sides of the draw in Saturday’s semi-finals.

Russell Rovers, last year’s runners-up, will be favourites in their clash with Newmarket but they would not want to underestimate the Duhallow side who were surprise but deserving winners over Brian Dillon’s in the last round.

Carrig Na bFhear came close to winning the East Cork final and have grown in confidence with good wins in the previous rounds; they face a Ballinascarthy side whose dual involvement in recent weeks might just come against them in this clash.

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