IT may be three days before Christmas, but the hurlers of Midleton and Sarsfields will have nothing only winning on their minds, when the East Cork rivals collide in the county U21 premier final at on Sunday at 2pm.
Midleton are aiming to atone for last season’s defeat by another divisional rival, Fr O’Neill’s, who triumphed in an epic contest that required extra-time.
They qualified for the final over a month ago after overcoming Shandrum by 3-14 to 0-12, when Garan Manley, Paudie O’Brien and Kevin Finn pounced for goals, having defeated Ballincollig by 2-25 to 1-10 in the quarter-final.
Their team is back-boned by centre-back Sean O’Leary-Hayes and midfielder Tommy O’Connell who were part of the Cork team which reached the All-Ireland U20 final, losing to Tipperary.
Midleton lead the roll-of-honour with six titles, the most recent coming in 2013 and they’ve been in the last three minor finals, as well, winning twice.
Having not played since mid-November might be an issue considering Sars have been playing regularly of late, easily dismissing the Douglas challenge by 1-21 to 0-7 in the quarter-final.
That set-up a first round repeat against Blackrock in the semis and this proved to be a totally different encounter after Sars won emphatically the first day.
This time, Sars found themselves six points adrift at the interval but dominated the second half to win by 2-18 to 2-17 with Liam Healy their stand-out performer.
He contributed 10 points from play and another four from frees in a brilliant individual display with Cian Darcy and Daniel Hogan claiming important goals.
Jack O’Connor, in the half-forward line, is another key weapon in attack while Killian Roche mans the centre-back role.
Sars are searching for a fifth title, their last coming in 2017. It promises to be a cracker.
Meanwhile, recently crowned U21 B football champions, Newcestown, are on the hunt for a double, when they meet Éire Óg in the quarter-final of the A hurling championship on the 4G pitch at Páirc Uí Chaoimh tonight at 7.30pm.
It’s a quick turn-around from last Sunday’s extra-time win over Aghabullogue in the football and should they win Newcestown will have to re-group immediately because the final against Fermoy is on Sunday at the same venue at 6pm.
St Finbarr’s are another busy club. Fresh from their Premier 2 U21 hurling success against Bride Rovers last weekend, the Togher club turn their attentions to football tomorrow.
They renew rivalry with St Michael’s in the quarter-final of the premier1 football championship on the 4G pitch at 3pm with Kilshannig awaiting the outcome in the semi-final. Ballincollig are in the final on January 5.