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Make or break weekend of hurling

Wednesday, 26th August, 2020 3:11pm

After a hectic period of intense activity, especially for dual clubs, the rest of the season will be shaped on how results of this weekend’s fixtures pan out.

For some clubs there is very little to play for, because irrespective of how they fare, they cannot advance and are consigned to compete in a relegation play-off.

For others, of course, there is the incentive to prolong their season by advancing to the quarter-finals, while for some the prospect of making the semi-final remains a live one. In all there are 30 games scheduled for the weekend.

Sarsfields vs Ballyhea

Sars are safely through to at least the quarter-final, and with Ballyhea out of the running, they will see this as an opportunity to build up a big score and give them a shot at the one semi-final spot on offer.

It’s hard to see any other outcome than a win for Sarsfields, especially if Jack O’Connor, Conor O’Sullivan, Daniel Hogan, Cian Darcy and the engine room of their team, Daniel Kearney, maintain the form they have displayed in their two previous games.

Douglas vs Midleton

Páirc Uí Chaoimh is the setting for this knockout clash and a real championship encounter is on the cards between two sides laced with quality players. Both, however, have shown inconsistency to date.

Midleton will have a slight advantage in the fact that they have had more or less three weeks to prepare for this must-win game, while Douglas had a big football match two weeks ago - the joys of dual club status.

Douglas did rack up a big score in their loss to Sars, 1-22, but conceding 4-15 is the other side of that coin and it’s hard to win a game on the back of such a concession.

Midleton looked very good in the first half against Sars, but were outplayed in the second period, however they did put Ballyhea to the sword and that will help.

Both sides could see players return from injury, Brian Hartnett for Douglas and Paul Haughney for Midleton.

Conor Lehane, 3-11 against Ballyhea, Luke O’Farrell, Sam Quirke, Sean O’Leary Hayes and Tommy O’Connell are key players for the East Cork side. The Cadogans - Eoin and Alan, Shane Kingston, Stephen Moylan and Mark Harrington will anchor the Douglas challenge.

Hard one to call, but a slight fancy for Midleton to join Sars from the group to make it to the quarter-finals.

Blackrock vs Bishopstown
Erin's Own vs Newtownshandrum

Blackrock, with two wins, have secured their place in the last eight and will be bidding to shorten the route by aiming for a semi-final spot.

Bishopstown are out but will have serious regrets as, in their losses, they were in winning positions in both games but failure to finish proved costly, and it looks like a third successive defeat is on the cards.

The meeting of Erin’s Own and Newtownshandrum will determine the runners up in this group and the latter are coming in on the back of a heavy defeat to the ‘Rockies, while Erin’s Own showed commendable spirit in coming behind to defeat Bishopstown.

Jamie Coughlan and Tim O’Mahoney are big players for Newtown, while as ever, the Murphys, Shay Bowen and Robbie O’Flynn will lead the Erin’s Own challenge, who get the nod to advance.

Glen Rovers vs Na Piarsaigh
St Finbarr's vs Carrigtwohill

Two intriguing games here, for different reasons. Glen are already through and Na Piarsaigh need to win if they are to join them.

In the second game, there’s a lot at stake for both teams, especially for the ‘Barrs who have endured a torrid few weeks. On the back of the loss to Na Piarsaigh, the management team stepped down and now John Cremin and Ger Cunningham are among those guiding their fortunes in this must win game.

Carrigtwohill, by virtue of a draw with Na Piarsaigh and a narrow loss to Glen Rovers, can still make the quarter-final, but they need to win this game, and on the evidence of their games to date they are capable of doing just that.

The ‘Barrs were semi-finalists last year and Eoin Keane, Damien Cahalane, Shane Hurley and Brian Hayes are all good players, and while it has not been easy for them, I expect a big game from them and enough to salvage something from a disastrous campaign to date.

There are many permutations surrounding the northside derby with Na Piarsaigh, who have won the last three meetings against their neighbours, having more to play for.

A Glen win and a Carrigtowhill win could see Na Piarsaigh lose out, although their scoring difference is much better.

Shane Forde, Daire Connery, Evan Sheehan, Craig Hannifin and the experienced Christopher Joyce will be keen to maintain their winning run against their local rivals.

The Glen have displayed mixed form, they very impressive in demolishing the ‘Barrs, and while they never looked like losing to Carrigtowhill, they lacked the verve shown in the first game.

With the big score they racked up against the ‘Barrs a semi-final spot is within touching distance if they can register a first win in four over their neighbours.

Cathal Hickey, Adam O’Donovan, Conor Dorris, Robert Downey, Simon Kennefick and David Dooling have impressed to date, and if Patrick Horgan hits form, the odds favour a Glen win.

So my picks to join UCC and those already qualified, Blackrock, Glen Rovers and Sarsfields in the knockout phase are Na Piarsaigh, Erin’s Own and Midleton.

Senior A

A number of issues to be sorted in this competitive championship, with all games having a 4pm start on Saturday afternoon.

In Group A, Kanturk have already qualified and should beat Killeagh to go through unbeaten; the second place rests between Cloyne and Newcestown, with the latter having a slight egde.

Group B sees Charleville topping the table ahead of their clash with Fermoy who must win if they are to be in with a chance of advancing. Bandon and Mallow are also in contention; it’s very tight for the second spot, with Bandon best placed to secure it if they can overcome Mallow, but they will be hoping Charleville maintain their unbeaten run to help them out.

Fr O’Neills have impressively eased to top spot in Group C and will be confident of making it three from three against Ballymartle, which would mean that the winners of Kilworth vs Bride Rovers will then advance.

Premier Intermediate

Carrigaline, Castlelyons and Watergrasshill are topping their respective groups and looking forward to knockout hurling in the weeks ahead. Who will join them is hard to tell but Blarney and Agahda look good bets while the big clash looks to be between Ballincollig and Ballinhassig. The winners will progress, while Inniscarra have an outside chance but will need to beat unbeaten Castlelyons for that to happen.

Intermediate and Lower Intermediate

Sunday afternoon between 4pm and 6pm will determine the fate of many participants in both these grades.

Kildorrery, Éire Óg, Aghabullogue, Castlemartyr and St Catherines have already secured their places in the knockout phase.

Mayfield and Sarsfields look set to join them, with Cloughduv looking for their Muskerry neighbours Aghabullogue to beat Midleton, and they need to defeat Glen Rovers to keep their ambitions alive.

In the Lower grade, a St Finbarrs win over Milford will see then progress, Tracton must beat Grenagh if they are to qualify, while in the final group any one of the four teams involved, Barryroe, Russell Rovers, Kilbrittain and Ballygarvan, could make the playoffs with the latter best placed of the four to see their season continue.

An interesting and dramatic weekend ahead, best of luck to all teams.

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