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Let the games begin!

Wednesday, 22nd July, 2020 4:39pm

Fingers crossed that this weekend will finally see competitive action on the field of play with the opening rounds of the Bon Secours County Football Championship. In total, there is 26 matches scheduled at venues dotted around the county.

The downside is that only 200 people, including players and officials, can attend. The expectation was that it would be at 500 by now, but that all changed last week, much to the dismay of club and board officials.

The distribution of these tickets is bound to cause grief in some clubs, but these are exceptional times and anyone that fails to get a ticket should appreciate the difficult circumstances club officials find themselves in.

Clubs will be delighted to get into competitive action, but it is strange that the first serious game of the season is a championship encounter, and how teams adapt to this will be interesting.

Nemo Rangers vs Valley Rovers

A tough opener for Valleys against the reigning champions who, with no intercounty distractions, will be fully focussed as they always are. Nemo can call on the bulk of last season’s successful side and with Paul Kerrigan, Michael Aodh Martin, Colin O’Brien, Luke Connolly and Barry O’Driscoll all in good form, it’s a tough test for the Innishannon lads.

Fiachra Lynch and Chris O’Leary are key players for Valleys but it’s hard to look beyond a Nemo win.

Douglas vs Bishopstown

This all-city clash represents one of those hard to call encounters, and with Nemo in the group, the winners will be in a good position, although word is a number of Douglas’ dual players may not be available for this game.

If such is the case a greater onus will fall on Brian Hartnett, Kevin Flahive and Sean Powter, all quality players.

Bishopstown have a nice blend of youth and experience with Ken O’Halloran and Jamie O’Sullivan still vital players for them and that might just give them the edge in what should be a lively contest.

St Finbarr’s vs Ballincollig

The champions of two years ago against the winners in 2014, who I believe are going well in recent challenge games, while the ‘Barr’s have also shown good form in the lead up to this opener. Barr’s had a catalogue of injuries that hampered their defence of the title last year, they will be hoping to avoid a repeat this year, but this is no easy task and could very well be one of the games of the weekend.

There are top class players on both sides: Ian Maguire, Stephen Sherlock, Sam Ryan and Michael Shields for St Finbarr’s, Cian Kiely and Cian Dorgan are important players for Ballincollig.

Hard to call, but a hesitant nod to the ‘Barrs.

Clonakilty vs Carrigaline

Clon suffered a blow in recent weeks with a long term injury to excellent defender Liam O’Donovan, but they can still call on Tom Clancy, Mark and Sean White, and with a bit more experience in their side, they will be fancied to win.

Castlehaven vs Carbery Rangers

The game of the weekend, in the West Cork group of death; Newcestown and Ilen Rovers are the other two clubs in this group. With a new management team at the helm, the ‘Haven will enter this game as favourites.

With Brian and Michael Hurley, Mark Collins and a few Cahalanes, including Damien, in their side, it’s hard to disagree with that tag. ‘Ross, though, have quality of their own with John O’Rourke, John and Seamus Hayes and the experienced James Fitzpatrick, they will relish the challenge from their near neighbours. Local derbies generally take on a life of their own, especially in West Cork, but it’s hard to go against the ‘Haven and they should prevail.

Newcestown vs Ilen Rovers

This game is somewhat overshadowed by the other local derby in this group, but should not lessen its appeal by two very committed sides.

Newcestown are the perfect role model for dual clubs in the way they go their business and are very competitive in both codes. Luke Meade and the Keanes remain important players for them while Dan MacEoin, Tim O’Regan and Stephen Leonard will anchor Ilen’s challenge, who might just shade this clash.

Senior ‘A’ Championship

Some intriguing games in this newly created grade as clubs bid to get back into the top tier of county football.

Clyda Rovers will be fancied in their clash with Bandon, Éire Óg and Bantry should produce another lively clash, Daniel Goulding and Ciarán Sheehan will line out with Éire Óg while the possible absence of Ruairí Deane will hinder Bantry.

There’s a North Cork derby of sorts in Kanturk where Mattie Taylor and Cian O’Riordan will give Mallow the edge over Kiskeam, St Nick’s have a few injury worries ahead of their meeting with O’Donovan Rossa which will make their task that bit harder, while Ballingeary and St Michael’s renew their rivalry in Ovens.

Fermoy are somewhat unlucky to be in this grade, and will want to make a winning start and should do so against Dohenys, especially if Tomas Clancy, Padraig De Roiste and Brian O’Sullivan hit top form.

Keep an eye on

In the Premier Intermediate grade, Knocknagree will be keen to maintain their winning sequence of recent years and should get the better of St Vincent’s. Equally Newmarket should have a real tough battle with Na Piarsaigh, while the meeting of Macroom and Kanturk in Cullen has plenty of promise about it.

There is also another local derby in Mallow where Glanworth get their campaign underway against Mitchelstown.

One stand out fixture is the all Gaeltacht clash of Naomh Abán and Cill Na Martra in Macroom on Sunday. Noel O’Leary continues to impress for the latter and they will need little motivation to put one over on their neighbours and keenest of rivals. In all, a lot of games to look forward to in what is the start of a hectic period for all, not least the referees who will certainly be busy over the coming weeks.

Kieran O’Connor RIP

Kieran’s passing last week after a lengthy illness evoked great sadness all over the county and beyond as GAA people and sportspeople in general paid tribute to a warrior on and off the field, who battled this illness with all the spirit and determination that he displayed on the field.

The turnout in his home place by his friends and colleagues of his club Aghada, whom he served with distinction, and also his former Cork football team mates led by the All-Ireland winning team of 2010, reflected the esteem in which he was held.

Over the years I had the pleasure of speaking to Kieran and he was always courteous and respectful irrespective of the circumstances. My last meeting with Kieran was in Dungarvan in December on the day Fr O’Neill’s were crowned Munster Champions and he was in great form - that and how he performed on the field will remain my memories of a fine young man who was taken much too soon. The Aghada club did him proud, as did his family to whom we extend our sincere sympathy.

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