O'Keeffe has the Barrs primed to take down Ballincollig in Cork SFC opener

O'Keeffe has the Barrs primed to take down Ballincollig in Cork SFC opener
St Finbarr's Sam Ryan is back from injury to face Ballincollig in the opening round of the championship. Picture Eddie O'Hare

ST FINBARR’S manager Paul O’Keeffe is better placed than most to describe the impact Covid-19 has on the community.

As a medical doctor, he has first-hand experience of seeing the virus’s devastating effects.

“I’ve seen some patients with it and it’s not pretty, put it that way,” he said.

“I have a lot of respect for the virus at the moment.”

This evening O’Keeffe deflects attention the way of the footballers, who meet Ballincollig at Páirc Uí Rinn in a battle of the 2018 and 2014 champions.

“We’re definitely in a better place than the Nemo game last season, when we were missing a lot.

“Cillian Myers Murray is back from a cruciate. Sam Ryan had a tough year, but he’s back, as well. Dylan Quinn, though, had an operation and won’t be around until the business end, if we get there.

“He’s had ongoing groin issues and is massively frustrated by it.

“Ian Maguire is flying. It’s great to have him around because he’s such a powerful influence on the team.”

O’Keeffe is happy enough with the preparation even if it means the dual players miss a week’s football in two.

Whittling the panel to 24 is another headache, but the Barrs are playing and that’s the main thing.

Ballincollig reached the quarter-finals last season, losing to O’Donovan Rossa, but rebounding to defeat Clyda Rovers and Kiskeam before Douglas ended their campaign.

Cian Kiely impressed with Cork in the league and there’s great experience in Pa Kelly, Noel Galvin and Cian Dorgan to help the youngsters.

Paul O'Keeffe, St Finbarr's manager. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Paul O'Keeffe, St Finbarr's manager. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Valley Rovers won’t lack incentive against Nemo after losing by 3-14 to 1-6 at the same stage last season, when they renew rivalry at Cloughduv at 7.30pm.

The champions are missing players through injury while the Innishannon club’s build-up has offered encouragement.

Fiachra Lynch, John Cottrell and Chris O’Leary are some of the big players in a side hoping to spring a surprise.

There are three games tomorrow, including Douglas and Bishopstown locking horns for the third consecutive season at Páirc Uí Rinn at 7pm with the score standing at 1-1.

The Town came from six points in arrears with eight minutes remaining to almost snatch a draw in 2019 after a Brian O’Callaghan goal re-ignited their challenge. Points from Eoin Byrne and keeper Ken O’Halloran from placed balls left Douglas living on their nerves in an exciting climax.

Clonakilty and Carrigaline clash in Bandon at 3.30 with the west Cork parading an impressive array of talent.

They can call on three Cork defenders, Tom Clancy, Liam O’Donovan and Maurice Shanley in front of keeper Mark White, whose brother Sean, a fourth county player, is likely to lead the line up front.

Clon managed 3-14 from play in their extra-time win over O’Donovan Rossa before being outgunned by Duhallow in the quarter-finals.

Carrigaline lost to the division in the round before, having advanced via Brian Kelleher’s last-gasp goal against Bishopstown, when Jack McCarthy, Steve Dwane and Kevin Kavanagh showed up well.

The opening shots in the all-west Cork group will be fired in Dunmanway tomorrow evening with the meeting of Newcestown and Ilen Rovers.

It’s a quarter-final repeat from last season, when Newcestown progressed to an historic first semi-final thanks to a 0-9 to 0-4 triumph with David Buckley and Daniel Twomey combining for half-a-dozen points.

Ilen’s Peter O’Driscoll captained Cork to All-Ireland U20 glory last year.

The big game of the weekend is Castlehaven-Carbery Rangers in Clon on Sunday at 2.30, live on TG4.

If it provides even a fraction of the drama and excitement of last season’s encounter then it’s a must for viewers.

Ross won by 2-17 to 1-18 after extra-time with John Hayes on fire, scoring 1-9.

John O’Rourke, Brian Shanahan, James Fitzpatrick, Brian Hodnett and Jerry O’Riordan are other notables.

For the Haven, Cork’s Mark Collins, the Hurleys, Brian and Michael, along with Damien Cahalane and Cathal Maguire are obvious key players in what’s sure to be a belter.

FIXTURES

TODAY

SFC Group 1: St Finbarr’s v Ballincollig, Pairc Ui Rinn, 7.30. Group 3: Nemo Rangers v Valley Rovers, Cloughduv, 7.30.

TOMORROW

Group 1: Clonakilty v Carrigaline, Bandon, 3.30; Group 3: Douglas v Bishopstown, Pairc Ui Rinn, 7pm; Group 2: Newcestown v Ilen Rovers, Dunmanway, 7pm.

SUNDAY

Group 2: Carbery Rangers v Castlehaven, Clonakilty, 2.30.

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