IT WAS almost inevitable that St Michael’s and Éire Óg would meet along the way in the new Bon Secours county senior A football championship given their recent history.
The pair know each other inside and out at this stage following their series of games in the premier intermediate championship, culminating in the final last season.
And even the introduction of a new grade couldn’t separate them as the rivals go head-to-head once more for a place in the semi-final in Ballyanly on Sunday at 2pm.
Eire Og bucked the trend by claiming the title on a 0-14 to 0-12 score line, adding to their opponents’ wretched run of results in premier intermediate finals, having overcome the Ovens club in the previous two campaigns.
Now, they go at it again with the prize a last-four joust with the 5/4 favourites O’Donovan Rossa, who edged St Michael’s by a point in a gripping group game to determine the final placings.
Up to that the city club had again shown impressive form in the 3-16 to 0-14 win over Ballingeary and the 2-15 to 1-5 success against St Nick’s.
And while they were disappointed to concede a late point to Skibbereen, who won by 3-13 to 3-12, St Michael’s had already booked their knock-out place.
It’s a well-balanced team featuring a variety of recognised finishers, supplying nine in all last time out, including goal scorers Eric Hegarty, Adam Hennessy and Andy O’Connell.
Throw in others like Eoghan Buckley, Tadhg Deasy and Liam Grainger and you can see why St Michael’s compile big scores.
On paper Eire Og possess a formidable team with a strong core, starting with keeper Chris Kelly, John Mullins and John Cooper in front of him through to Ronan O’Toole and Liam Sheehan at midfield as well as Ciaran Sheeha, Colm O’Callaghan, Jack Murphy and captain Daniel Goulding in attack.
The skipper has been leading by example with 2-19 to his name from three games, including 2-7, all bar a point from play, in the 2-13 to 1-10 must-win over Kiskeam in their recent outing.
Eire Og don’t have the same spread of scorers as their opponents which makes it all the more fascinating in a game in which there will be few surprises.
The other quarter-final involves Mallow and Bandon in Coachford also on Sunday at 4pm with Fermoy awaiting the outcome in the semis.
Mallow, who have Cork defenders James Loughrey and Mattie Taylor in their ranks, bounced back from a potentially disastrous opening day defeat to Kiskeam, going down by 2-11 to 1-11.
It meant they were under pressure in their remaining games against Eire Og and Bantry Blues, but they coped with the burden, winning by 0-14 to 0-7 and 2-11 to 1-10 respectively.
The return of the experienced Cian O’Riordan to the forward division helped no end as he contributed 1-9 in the two games though the north Cork side are not overly reliant on any one individual.
He was one of eight scorers against Bantry with even Loughrey bombing forward from full-back to plant a point.
Group 3 was the most competitive with Bandon progressing despite only winning once as three points sufficed to edge Clyda Rovers on scoring difference. Fermoy topped the group on four.
Bandon’s lone success was the 1-12 to 0-6 win over Clyda, when Mark Sugrue contributed 0-7, four from frees, Mark O’Regan 1-2 while Peter Murphy and David Crowley were also prominent.
They drew with Dohenys 0-12 apiece and even a 2-13 to 2-11 loss to Fermoy couldn’t deny Bandon a place in the play-offs. Barry Collins figured prominently by scoring 2-4.
Tonight, there’s the relegation play-off between St Nick’s and Bantry Blues in Dunmanway at 7.30pm.
It’s not unknown territory for the city club, who have a very good record in these do-or-die games.
Despite losing all three games, Nick’s will take a lot of heart from the display in the 1-15 to 1-13 defeat by Ballingeary, when they had eight scorers, including Simon Kennefick with 1-2.
Bantry will depend a lot on Cork star Ruairi Deane, who claimed 1-5 in the defeat by Mallow, a performance which also provides encouragement.