AT the close of play on Sunday there will be just two teams still standing in the Cork County SAHC.
However, selecting two from Newcestown, Charleville, Kanturk and Fr O’Neill’s is an immensely difficult task.
SUNDAY, SAHC semi-final: Charleville v Kanturk, Mallow, 2pm
Although they operate in two different divisions, Charleville in Avondhu and Kanturk in Duhallow, this is a local derby.
Both sides have more than earned their right to contest this semi-final and one can be certain that no quarter will be asked or given.
Charleville went through the group stage with a 100% record.
As a result of their supremacy in the group they went straight through to this semi-final game and will start here as slight favourites.
Last year, in their first season up in senior ranks, they really put the frighteners on the Glen down in Mallow before the city side just shaded it.
So, despite that loss and with the new format being introduced this season, they were going to be one of the more fancied sides to be involved at this juncture.
This is a fairly battle-hardened unit that has played a lot of good hurling and throughout the field there is a lot of quality.
Darragh Fitzgibbon is their standout player and his qualities have been evident throughout this campaign.
Curbing him will be prioritised by Kanturk.
This was a very tough group to finish top of with Fermoy, Mallow and Bandon also involved. But Charleville have answered all the questions up to now and in players like defenders Alan Dennehy, Finbarr Cagney and Darren Butler, there is a lot of quality.
Further afield you have Danny O’Flynn, Mark Kavanagh, Andrew Cagney, Jack O’Callaghan and Gavin Kelleher Kanturk had a great win last weekend against Bandon, early goals laying down a solid base and there are a lot of very seasoned hurlers in their ranks.
Anthony Nash kept another clean sheet while in Lorcan and John McLoughlin, John Browne, Aidan Walsh, Liam O’Keeffe and Lorcan O’Neill you have players with a winning mentality.
Ronan Curran has done a splendid job since taking over the coaching of the side and they’ll be fired up to the last here.
Charleville have done everything right thus far and it’s hard to go against them but it will be a battle.
SUNDAY: SAHC semi-final: Fr O’Neill’s v Newcestown, 2pm
Since their elevation to senior ranks after winning last season’s premier intermediate crown, O’Neill’s have done nothing wrong and, in fact, if anything have got better.
Similar to Charleville, they swept through the group stage and went right through to the semi-final.
The team is without key defender Ger Millerick but is still coping very well with the likes of Podge Butler, Tom Millerick, Mark O’Keeffe, Mike Millerick, Kevin O’Sullivan and ace attackers, Deccie Dalton and Billy Dunne producing the goods.
In their final group game they put 6-19 past an experienced Ballymartle side and that illustrated what they are capable of.
Success has bred success in Ahavine and confidence is everything in a championship like this.
They have been regarded as contenders from the outset and nothing has changed to alter that viewpoint.
They had a fine win over Cloyne in the group stage and there’s a lot of experience in this unit.
Jack and Luke Meade, Tadgh Twomey, Dan Twomey, Cian Healy, Fionn Keane and Sean O’Donovan will backbone the side again and it’s a well-documented fact how difficult a proposition any Newcestown side is. They are renowned for their grit and battling qualities and they have combined both codes in the club very well this season.
It’s very hard to call this and Newcestown have that bit more experience at this level.
But O’Neill’s are on a roll and have been for some time and we’ll stick by them.
But this will be their toughest task since their emergence.
Verdict: Fr O’Neill’s.