TWO big north Cork towns collide in the semi-final of the Bon Secours senior A football championship in Glanworth on Sunday at 3pm.
Normally, the crowds would be out in force for the meeting of Mallow and Fermoy for a place in the final against the favourites O’Donovan Rossa or Éire Óg.
But, Covid-19 has impacted all our lives and only the lucky ones will get those coveted tickets for a game in which Mallow are considered the slight favourites to advance.
That’s understandable given they’ve shown impressive and consistent form in the subsequent three games since losing their Group 2 opener to Kiskeam by 2-11 to 1-11.
It’s no co-incidence Cork defender James Loughrey and leading scorer Cian O’Riordan, who has 2-14 to his name, were missing that afternoon, but have since returned to make sizeable contributions.
Mallow duly delivered in their do-or-die engagement with Éire Óg, winning by double scores, 0-14 to 0-7.
O’Riordan planted three from play and another from a free while Kevin Sheehan hit three from play as well with Michael O’Rourke repeating the trick, including a couple of frees.
Mallow dominated all facets of play and restricting a fancied Éire Óg to just 0-7 did wonders for the team’s overall confidence.
But, in keeping with the highly competitive nature of the championship, Mallow had to dig deep to condemn Bantry Blues to a third defeat on a 2-11 to 1-10 scoreline.
It featured Cork colleagues, Mattie Taylor and Ruairí Deane, on opposite sides and the issue remained in doubt until Eoin Kelleher plundered a wonder goal late on to swing the game Mallow’s direction.
O’Riordan grabbed his first goal of the championship en route to a grand tally of 1-5 as Mallow emerged from the section to contest the quarter-finals against Bandon last weekend.
The north Cork side supplied nine scorers with O’Riordan and midfielder Darragh Moynihan claiming first-half goals for a 2-7 to 1-8 interval advantage.
Mallow managed to keep their opponents at arm’s length throughout the second-half before eventually claiming a six-point victory, 2-16 to 2-10.
Fermoy also encountered Bandon along the way in Group 3, which had little sense or meaning because only two points separated top from bottom.
All four teams, Dohenys and Clyda Rovers completed the section, lost one game apiece but the Dunmanway club drew twice.
In the end, Fermoy won the group with four points, one more than Bandon, who pipped Clyda for the quarter-final spot on scoring difference.
Fermoy looked in big trouble, when trailing Bandon by a couple of points late on in their concluding tie only for Arlen Aherne to conjure up a magical winning goal in a 2-13 to 2-11 triumph.
Cork defender Tomás Clancy made his seasonal appearance in that game, having missed earlier games because of an ankle injury, but he didn’t see out the match after suffering a leg injury, which delayed proceedings for 10 minutes.
A Brian O’Sullivan penalty helped Fermoy trail only by 2-6 to 1-7 at the interval, having been two goals adrift at one stage.
Their campaign began on a bright note with a 1-15 to 0-10 victory over Dohenys in their opening game at the end of July.
Kieran Morrison claimed the goal in an attack that featured prominent contributions from Martin Brennan, Ruairi O’Hagan and O’Sullivan.
And the north Cork side appeared to be on their way to a second win after Brennan chipped in with a couple of goals against Clyda.
But, instead of seeing the game out, Fermoy fell victim to a sucker punch from two-goal hero Conor Flanagan at the death, Clyda winning by 2-7 to 2-6, leaving their opponents stunned at the final whistle.
Apart from Brennan’s 2-1 contribution, only two other players managed to get on the scoreboard, O’Hagan and Padraig de Roiste.
The game brings together two recent premier intermediate champions.
Mallow won the title in 2017 and were replaced by Fermoy the following season.
Both had brief spells at senior level, Fermoy marking their return by defeating Castlehaven in their first game.
Neither had enough banked during their short senior existences to remain among the elite, but for one, that will remain their hope.