THE fact that only two clubs are guaranteed knock-out places in the Bon Secours county senior A football championship reflects how competitive the new competition has become.
The second tier of the big-ball championship is guaranteed to finish its league phase in a welter of excitement and drama in a fortnight with only O’Donovon Rossa and St Michael’s from Group 1 certain of progressing.
The other two sections won’t be decided until the concluding games with all eight teams in the hunt for those coveted four places.
Group 2 contains Kiskeam, Mallow, Éire Óg and Bantry Blues and before a ball was kicked, this was labelled the hardest.
The Duhallow club lead on four points followed by Mallow and Éire Óg on two with Bantry pointless but not without hope.
The final games are Mallow-Bantry and Kiskeam-Éire Óg with lots of permutations possible.
“Bantry will be looking to beat us and Kiskeam win their game to top the group, leaving three teams on two points,” said Mallow manager Keith Moynihan.
He was speaking after his side’s 0-14 to 0-7 victory over Éire Óg, just hours after watching Kiskeam pip Bantry by a point.
“Again, it showed there is very little in it in this senior A championship and we really have a tough group.”
Mallow had to win after losing their opening game against Kiskeam which left a bitter taste.
“We were very disappointed with the performance because we had plenty of possession and did well in some areas of the game only to give away so much ball in the process.
“Kiskeam were smart in that they hurt us all the time by getting a lot of scores after we either gave the ball away or kicked it away.
“They counter-attacked at pace and we didn’t work hard enough, simple as that.
“We had three weeks to prepare and we knew we had to respond and perform.
“And to be fair the lads did though we’re still not converting possession and chances into scores.
“It happened a couple of times during the first half and again at the start of the second, but it’s something to work on.”
The critical period came just before half-time, when Mallow got a run on their opponents, scoring five points on the spin.
“It had been 0-4 each at that stage, but the lads had the bit between their teeth and the big difference was that we converted chances into scores.”
This was Éire Óg’s first taste of senior football against a Mallow side which had been in the top tier in recent years.
What is it a factor? Not so, according to Moynihan, who had Cork defender James Loughrey and key forward Cian O’Riordan back from injury.
“Psychologically, some people might think it is, but maybe we’ve become more used to these kind of games.
“Yet, I think it would be disrespectful to Éire Óg to suggest they are not at this level because they certainly are, having coped with all the pressure of a county final last year.
“They won that game and they also won their first round game this season, so we were meeting a club on the up and playing some fine football.
“When we came up two or three years ago I wouldn’t have said that was a factor why we shouldn’t perform.
“I think if you allow those things to be an issue in your head they will be.
“We had a lot of desire and that was because it really hurt against Kiskeam.
“We weren’t beaten in the manner befitting all the work that the lads have put in.
“If you go out and perform to 70-80 percent of your maximum and are beaten by better opposition, that’s fine, but we made so many mistakes ourselves.
“Fair play to Kiskeam, though, they choked out the game very and didn’t allow us back in,” Moynihan added.
In Group 3 only two points separate leaders Bandon from Dohenys at the foot of the ball with Fermoy and Clyda Rovers in between, just a point adrift after Clyda stunned Fermoy with a couple of late goals recently.