THE final of the Co-Op Superstores Lower Intermediate Hurling Championship has all the makings of a really tight affair, between east Cork neighbours Castlemartyr and Russell Rovers.
The prize at Páirc Uí Chaoimh is significant and it also ensures the winner doesn’t secure their place away from junior hurling, with the two intermediate grades are amalgamated after 2021.
The game was supposed to take place this Friday night, and would have been a highlight in what was another bumper weekend of Cork club GAA. Well until the GAA preempted the government's Level 3 restrictions by calling off all club games.
Castlemartyr brought home the county junior crown in 2014 with Rovers replicating that feat last year, before adding a Munster crown. Despite the cloud of Covid-19 and crowd restrictions, local supporters have not been shy in flying the club’s favours in their parish this week.
“We are just glad to be there,” said Castlemartyr selector Tony Barrett. “It’s just going to be treated as another game and from our point of view we will be doing our best not to be involved in any of the hype that develops. We just hope we can do our talking on the field of play.
“It was great to come through a really tough encounter, winning by a goal against Kilbrittain in the semi-final. That game was just all about getting the right result.”
Castlemartyr have former Waterford player Eoin Murphy as their team coach, while Russell Rovers can call on the expertise of Carrigtwohill’s Noel Furlong — two very knowledgeable hurling men who will have their own tactical plans ready.
Interestingly the Shanagarry side also encountered Kilbrittain in their passage to the final, with the sides finishing all square in their group encounter back in early August. The closeness of both finalist’s encounters against the West Cork side is another hint that nobody will be leaving early from the Páirc on Friday night.
“These are just magic hurling times for the area,” comments Rovers selector Eoin Ivers.
“With ourselves and Castlemartyr in the final and O’Neill’s having been in the senior decider against Charleville, it’s a great reflection of the game in this part of east Cork. I think it will be a great game on Friday between two very good traditional type hurling teams. From our point of view, we are where we set out to be and delighted to be in the final.”
While the sides have scored 22 goals between them so far, equally significant was the ability of both sets of backs to keep the door shut tight when the need was greatest in the penultimate round, as both finalists conceded just 13 points in their respective semi-finals.
The feeling abides that two well prepared defences will again have their homework done on the exciting potential that exists in the opposition’s forwards lines.