TWO mouthwatering games take place tonight as the semi-finals of the Premier 1 minor hurling championship take centre stage.
Sarsfields are at home to Ballincollig and St Finbarr’s take on Glen Rovers, with both games difficult to call.
Sars will be favourites against Ballincollig and with home advantage it’s going to be a tough task for the Village to get the better of them. In some ways that may suit as all the pressure will be on the home side who are favourites to lift the trophy in the coming weeks.
Sars are a talented side and most have enjoyed success at underage level over the years. But they can’t afford to take the challenge of Ballincollig lightly and they can rightly travel confident in their own ability.
The Village had good wins over Douglas and Ibane Gaels to reach the semi-final and only lost out to the Barrs after extra-time in their other group game.
They include the likes of Cork minor panelists Brian Keating, David O’Sullivan, Tadhg O’Connell and James Dwyer in their side, with the latter two still U16.
You can add in others like Mark Oldham and Cian O’Driscoll to the mix and they are more than capable of upsetting the odds tonight.
Sars will need to keep on eye on them but they also have plenty of top-class players. Luke Elliott at full-back is rock-solid as are others in defence like Jake Bowen and Cathal McCarthy.
Up front they have an array of talent which includes the likes of Odhran Sheppard, Jeremy Kingston, Flynn O’Brien, David Lynch and Rory O’Brien.
Then add in Daniel Hogan, who didn’t feature in two of their group games, and the selectors' biggest headache will be who to start and leave out.
Whoever starts would trouble any defence, especially the pace of Lynch and Rory O’Brien.
They will be determined to get off to a flying start and with home advantage expect them to advance.
The other Premier 1 semi sees two old rivals clash at Togher. The Barrs and Glen have enjoyed many a battle, from U12 to senior, over the years and this one will be no different.
The Glen won’t fear going to Togher as it has been a happy hunting ground for them in the past, when they won an underage county title there a number of years ago.
Their opponents that day were Sars and a last-minute goal from Luke Horgan won the title for them and tonight he will lead them out as captain of their side.
He will be one of the players they will look to tonight, along with the likes of Dylan Long, Nathan Goulding, Eoin Downey and Gavin Marshall.
They played some magnificent hurling in their opening round robin game against Midleton and continued that against the Rockies.
They were beaten in their final group game by Sars, but there were missing a number of players that night.
They will be a far different outfit tonight and the Barrs won’t need anyone to tell them that.
Like Sars they are undefeated and topped their group with wins over Ballincollig, after extra-time; Douglas and Ibane Gaels.
They will relish the challenge of taking on the Glen and will players like Ethan Twomey, Ben Cunningham, Ben O’Connor and Jack Cahalane in their side they have every reason to.
Ironically Cahalane will then face his team-mates two weeks later in the football semi-final as he lines out with Castlehaven against the Barrs.
The Premier 2 semi-finals should be two more great ties, with Kanturk slight favourites over Kiltha Óg and St Colmans the same in the other game.
Other games that catch the eye include the likes of Bandon against Clonakilty in the West Region.
Next Saturday the East Region Division 1 and 2 finals take place. The Division 1 decider sees Whitechurch take on Carrigtwohill and the Division 2 final is between Watergrasshill and St Catherines.
TONIGHT All 6.30pm unless specified
Premier 1 MHC semi-finals: Sarsfields v Ballincollig; St Finbarr’s v Glen Rovers.
Premier 2 MHC semi-finals: St Colmans v Newcestown; Kanturk v Kiltha Óg, 8pm.
Premier 1 MHC Challenge Cup semi-finals: Blackrock v Ibane Gaels; Douglas v Midleton.
Premier 2 MHC Challenge Cup semi-finals: Killeagh/Ita’s v Valley Rovers; Na Piarsaigh v Youghal.
West Region MHC Division 1 semi-finals: Ballinhassig v Owen Gaels; St Olans v Kilbrittain, both 6.15pm.
West Region MHC Division 1 league play-off: Bandon v Clonakilty, 6.15pm.
West Region MHC Division 2: Fastnet Gaels v Courcey Rovers.
West Region MHC Division 3: Cill Mochomog v Kilbree; Western Gaels v Ahan Gaels.
SATURDAY, September 12
East Region Division 1 minor hurling final: Whitechurch v Carrigtwohill, 1.30pm.
East Region Division 2 minor hurling final: Watergrasshill v St Catherines.