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Hurling takes centre stage

Wednesday, 29th July, 2020 5:39pm

After the success of the opening weekend of competitive action, with all 26 games going ahead without a hitch, it’s the turn of the hurlers this week with 30 games down for decision.

As ever there are a number of very intriguing fixtures on the programme, it’s just a pity that the limit of 200 in attendance will once again mean a surreal atmosphere at most venues.

Sarsfields vs Midleton

As opening games go, this is the best possible start for the new format in the championship, and with only two teams now advancing from the group, winning your first game makes the path to the knock-out phase that bit shorter.

Not that anything will come easy in this East Cork derby, which has the makings of a cracker.

Midleton were finalists two years ago but failed to fire against Imokilly, who also ended their interest in last year’s championship.

Ben O’Connor, who enjoyed a great stint as coach to Charleville, is now guiding the fortunes of the Magpies and the style they play will be watched with interest.

There is no doubt they have quality in their side; Conor Lehane, Luke O’Farrell, Cormac Walsh and Paul Haughney among them, and with a few of their county-winning minor teams of the last two years certain to be included they will be formidable.

It is all of six years since Sars were last crowned champions and several of those successful sides are still in situ including Daniel and William Kearney and Conor O’Sullivan, while Jack O’Connor is of the newer generation.

Local derbies are hard to call, but a hesitant vote to Sars.

Glen Rovers vs St Finbarr’s

Cork hurling’s greatest and most enduring rivalry will be played out before a meagre attendance, which hopefully will not lessen the fare these sides are capable of producing.

Irrespective of who carries the favourites tag, and in this case it is Glen Rovers, that goes out the window as form counts for little when these sides meet.

The ‘Barr’s have shown steady improvement over the years and will relish this challenge. John Neville, Billy Hennessey, Conor and Damien Cahalane, Eoin Keane and Glenn O’Connor are big players for the Togher lads.

Runners-up in last year’s championship, the Glen have been consistent in recent years and with Patrick Horgan still their talisman they will be hard to beat. Robert Downey, David Noonan, Conor Dorris, Brian Moylan and Cathal Hickey have a wealth of experience and that might be enough to get them over the line.

Blackrock vs Erin’s Own

Another intriguing contest in prospect here as the ‘Rockies, last year’s senior league and intermediate championhip winners, bid to build on those wins.

They have a lot of young talent available but getting the mix right is key, with John Cashman, Michael O’Halloran, Tadgh Deasy and Stephen Murphy important players for them.

Martin Bowen is once again at the helm of Erin’s Own and they will look to Robbie O’Flynn, Shane Murphy and prolific scorer Eoghan Murphy to get off to a winning start but Blackrock look better balanced and should win.

Na Piarsaigh vs Carrigtwohill

Carrig, despite a heavy first round loss to St Finbarr’s last year, showed commendable resolve to reach the semi-final where they lost to Glen Rovers. This is going to be a tough task for them and will need to be at their best to get a result here.

Christopher Joyce, Daire Connery and Craig Hannifin should give Na Piarsaigh the edge.

Bishopstown vs Newtownshandrum

These sides also met last year, and at the end of a great contest, Bishopstown emerged winners which should send them into this contest in confident mood.

Shane O’Neill, Pa Cronin and the Murrays, Tomas and Brian, are vital players for the ‘Town who will look to put last week’s football loss, in which several played, behind them.

Newtown will hope that Tim O’Mahoney will deliver a big game for them to avoid a second successive championship defeat to the city side.

Douglas vs Ballyhea

Hard to see anything other than a Douglas win here, even without Mark Collins, but Eoin and Alan Cadogan, Shane Kingston and Brian Turmbull will have too much firepower for the North Cork side.

Senior ‘A’ Championship

A number of games to keep an eye on in this grade, not least the repeat of last year’s Premier Intermediate Final, Fr O’Neill’s vs Kilworth, and the latter will need a big performance to reverse that result.

Newcestown, on the back of an impressive football win over Ilen Rovers, will be in a confident mood for their clash with Killeagh which they should win.

The all-North Cork encounter between Mallow and Fermoy should produce a lively hour, while Kanturk, with Lorcan Mc Loughlin, Anthony Nash and Aidan Walsh, look too strong for Cloyne. Charleville will look to Darragh Fitzgibbon and Daniel O’Flynn in their bid to get the better of Bandon.

Bride Rovers, with a young emerging team and a few very experienced hands, will be favoured to win their clash with Ballymartle.

Intermediate Grades

The stand-out fixtures in the Premier grade are the local derbies. Youghal who slipped a bit in recent years, face Aghada in Killeagh on Sunday, while Coachford is the venue for the mid-Cork clash of Blarney, with Mark Coleman leading their challenge, against Inniscarra.

There’s also a couple of south east derbies between Carrigaline and Courcey Rovers in Kinsale and Valley Rovers against Ballinhassig in Riverstick.

Blackrock make the step-up to this grade with a tough test against Castlelyons. The lower grades also have some lively clashes.

Cloughduv vs Aghabullogue in Ballincollig, Grenagh vs Dripsey in Donoughmore, while there’s a West Cork derby in Timoleague between Kilbrittain and Barryroe.

Big occasion also for Russell Rovers as they play in their first intermediate championship game against Ballygarvan in Riverstown.

Best of luck to all teams and also to the hosting venues in challenging times, if the football weekend is a guide, it will be just as successful.

Senior Camogie Championship

It’s a hectic weekend for the Camogie Board as their flagship championship gets underway with the splendid Castle Road venue hosting the majority of the matches.

Courcey Rovers and Cloughduv, with Briege Corkery still leading the charge, meet on Saturday at 2pm, but they will have their hands full against a well-balanced Courceys side.

At 6pm it’s Killeagh vs Newcestown (they meet in the hurling on Sunday) and last year’s intermediate champions might find the going tough against the East Cork girls who have Laura Treacy in their side.

On Sunday at 2.30pm it’s Douglas vs St Finbarrs where the Mackey sisters, Pamela and Catriona, and Julia White will be key for Douglas, while Gemma O’Connor remains a pivotal player for the ‘Barrs.

At 6.30pm it’s the champions Sarsfields against Glen Rovers, beaten finalists a couple of years ago; Sars will start as favourites but will get nothing easy from the Glen girls, especially Leanne O’Sullivan, Lydia Cunningham and Emma Murphy.

On Monday at 4pm, former champions St Catherine’s, now without the excellent Orla Cotter, will get a test from Ballygarvan.

All these games take place in Castle Road.

Ovens on Saturday at 5pm will see mid-Cork neighbours Inniscarra and Ballincollig go head-to-head with the former favoured to win, while Coachford at 2opm will see Éire Óg and Milford go head-to-head. The latter are not the force they once were but the presence of Ashling Thompson in their side will certainly give them a fighting chance.

Again, best of luck to all the teams and officials involved.

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