THERE’S no mystery surrounding the appearances of Kilshannig and St James, the respective Avondhu and Carbery champions, in the county junior football final at Páirc Uí Rinn on Sunday at 3.15pm.
In quite an amazing feat of obvious sound defending by the pair, the finalists have conceded just one goal between them from 14 games, which must represent some kind of record.
Kilshannig, who would have been one of the fancied sides from the outset on the basis of their fine blend of experience and youth, went five games without leaking a goal until Iveleary, another one of the strong contenders, eventually managed a way through in the semi-final.
St James’s record of going eight games without conceding a goal is even more remarkable, not only because they’ve played a couple of games more, but that the Carbery championship is the most competitive of all the divisions.
While erecting protection barriers in front of their respective goals has clearly reaped a rich dividend, their ability to translate chances into goals at the other end has been equally impressive.
Kilshannig have scored goals in all six games, hitting city runners-up, Passage, for four in a 4-17 to 0-4 county first-round rout and bagging three on two occasions during their just as eye-catching march to the north Cork title.
They opened with a 3-24 to 0-4 win over Ballyclough and then accounted for 3-16 to 0-7 victory over Kilworth in the final. In between Kilshannig overcame Kilavullen by 1-16 to 0-8.
The goals continued in the quarter-final of the county against Ballinhassig, 2-10 to 0-4, before Iveleary asked the most serious questions of the whole campaign in a tight semi-final, Kilshannig squeezing through by 1-11 to 1-9.
In all, they’ve scored 14 goals and 94 points which averages 2-19 per outing while conceding just 1-36, roughly 0-8 for every game.
Their best-known players are the O’Hanlon brothers, captain Killian, a Cork senior, and Eanna, who was midfield on the Cork All-Ireland U20 winning side.
Then there are the three Twomeys, midfielder Jack and forwards Dermot and Kieran, while there is a strong overlap to the club’s U21 side, who are in the county semi-final.
Defender Conor Murphy is the skipper of that side and he is joined in at the back by Colm O’Shea and corner-forward Conor McMahon.
Few in the St James club from Ardfield outside Clonakilty would have had any notions of a Carbery final never mind a county decider following their 0-7 to 0-6 opening round win over St Oliver Plunketts.
By a quirk of the third-round draw the sides squared up again, but St James romped to a 3-14 to 0-8 victory to set-up a quarter-final with Tadhg MacCarthaighs.
It was tight, St James surviving by a point, 3-6 to 0-14, and the trend continued in the next two games as well.
For the third time in the division, St James only had the minimum margin separating them from Argideen Rangers in the semi-final, 0-9 to 0-8.
And the final against Ballinascarthy was the third goal-less game in the championship, St James emerging 0-11 to 0-9 winners to bag their first title amid memorable scenes.
In the county section, they easily disposed of the Cobh challenge, 2-17 to 0-2, though it was tougher against Boherbue and St Michael’s, 1-11 to 0-12 and 1-12 to 0-9 respectively.
Their eight games have yielded 10 goals and 87 points, averaging 1-11, and St James have conceded 0-68, again an average of 0-8, the same as Kilshannig.
St James are an older and probably more cunning side with a lot of physicality, too, and they were ‘B’ champions as far back as 2005 with a fair sprinkling of the same players.
Meanwhile, Nemo Rangers get their Munster club campaign underway with a round 1 tie against Newcastle West in Mallow on Sunday at 1.30pm.
The Limerick champions defeated Oola by 1-11 to 0-8 in the final, reversing an earlier group game defeat, their only loss in eight outings.
Their best-known players are captain Iain Corbett and Jamie Lee who played against Cork in the Munster championship, while other notables include keeper Mike Quilligan, full-back Darren O’Doherty, centre-back Seamus Hurley and Eoin Hurley up front.
Nemo manager Paul O’Donovan saw Newcastle West in their Limerick semi-final and final and is expecting a tough game.
“They are a good side, very physical and very big. I understand there are players who double up from rugby so they look quite strong, especially around the middle.
“I believe we’ll have to play well to beat them, certainly better than we played in the second-half against Duhallow.
“We can’t take anything for granted. Newcastle West only lost by two few points away to Clonmel Commercials, who went on to beat us in the final in 2015.
“We will have to be on our guard. They don’t concede a lot and are difficult to break down.
“On the other side, Newcastle West don’t get a lot of big scores either and they appear to dominate teams without running out the gate.
“They are a bit like ourselves in that they build up a lead and hold onto it.
Neighbours Éire Óg and Ballincollig get to play their county U21A football semi-final over five months after its original date.
The non-appearance of the appointed referee meant the game didn’t take place, but it does tomorrow at Páirc Uí Rinn at 2.30.
The landscape has changed much since and it’s not just a physical difference either.
While Ballincollig bowed out tamely in the senior quarter-final, Éire Óg captured a brilliant premier intermediate title and look forward to representing Cork in Munster on Sunday week.
Jack Murphy and Colm O’Callaghan, who won All-Ireland U20 medals, played major roles in the premier intermediate success and will be important figures as will Dylan Foley. Ballincollig are led by Darren Murphy with Dara Dorgan a scoring threat.