IT’S hard to argue with the position of Cill na Martra and Newmarket as favourites to contest the Bon Secours Premier Intermediate Football Championship final.
Both swept through their qualifying groups with impressive 100 percent records and kept scoreboard operators busy each time.
Today, they can afford to sit back and cast an eye over their semi-final opponents.
The Gaeltacht club await the winners of the Kanturk-Aghada tie in Ovens and the Duhallow side are popular fancies here to progress.
It’s the other quarter-final, though, which carries greater appeal because of the damage inflicted by Cill na Martra in their seven-goal drubbing of former All-Ireland junior champions, Knocknagree, last time out.
Now, Knocknagree have a chance of redemption against high-scoring Nemo Rangers’ second string in Donoughmore, both games throwing in at 2pm.
Manager John Fintan Daly offered no excuses in the aftermath of the Cill na Martra game but did put the shock result in context.
“Knocknagree treats the league like championship because we’re building our players and giving them experience,” he said.
“Cill na Martra have been in Division 1 for the past three years and were in the final last season.
“They’re a tremendous team and Cill na Martra are where we would like to be going.
“Clearly, though, we have a lot to learn and a bit of work to do.
“However we haven’t lost faith in the group and we’re not making any apology to anyone.
“This is a work in progress. We always knew it was. We’ll just go to the next game.
“Did we deserve the chance to go again? It doesn’t really matter because that’s how it went.
“We did get three points from six and it was enough to get us through.
“Cill na Martra are odds-on favourites to win it out, but the game might stand to us yet.”
Despite the obvious disappointment in the result and concession of seven goals, Daly was full of praise for the new structures in place for the first time.
Senior has two grades, premier and A, as has intermediate with premier and A.
“What it does show and this is where Kevin O’Donovan has to take plaudits.
“There is a huge difference between the intermediate grade and premier. Before, they were all lumped into together and you didn’t have an even standard as a result.
“Now, though, there is a jump up. We will circle the wagons. We’ve done it before and we’ve a very committed group of lads.
“They are very honest and there’s nobody blaming anyone. We’ll just go out and try and fix it.
“This happened to us two years ago, as well. The only defeat we suffered in the past two or three seasons was against a very strong Barrs side.
“We were listening all winter to people saying that we’d go no further and when it came to it we weren’t good enough.
“We had six guys out injured the last day, but I’m not even going to talk about that.
“I think what has happened to us in 2020 is the county league. We had been consistently getting better..
“And we were leading Division 3, when it was dropped in March.
“But, I think it’s a big setback for us because our momentum was interrupted,” Daly added.
His Cill na Martra counterpart Kevin O’Sullivan believes Knocknagree haven’t gone away and could still provide a sting in the tail.
“Before the game I was saying to the selectors I wouldn’t like to be coming here looking to beat Knocknagree to stay in the competition,” he said after watching his charges rip their opponent’s defence apart.
“That was our goal. It was basically a county quarter-final for us. Win it and we’re in the semi-final.
“The cushion of those early goals certainly helped take some of the nerves off us,” O’Sullivan added.