SATURDAY: 2020 Bon Secours SAFC final: Mallow v Éire Óg, Pairc Ui Chaoimh, 7pm.
NEITHER side has played a championship match in eight months and only have three competitive games between them in the last fortnight.
And with the bookies finding it difficult to separate them — Éire Óg 8/11 and Mallow even money —who knows how it’s going to pan out?
Cork colleagues Mattie Taylor and Colm O’Callaghan will be on opposite sides with recently retired James Loughrey bringing invaluable experience to the Mallow rearguard.
Ryan Harkin is another to have played with Cork, while Cian O’Riordan is the team’s leading scorer on 2-19, seven frees and one sideline, from four outings.
There’s no escaping Daniel Goulding’s role in helping Éire Óg make it to another final, having been the premier intermediate winners in 2019.
The former Cork star heads up the scoring charts with 2-34 from five games, his tally including 13 frees, a ’45 and a sideline.
But, it’s not a one-man show because O’Callaghan has chipped in with 2-9 and more goals coming from Kevin Hallissey and Dylan Foley, as well. They'll need that help, with Ciarán Sheehan out through injury.
Éire Og’s Cork influence spreads around the team from former keeper Chris Kelly to full-back John Mullins to Ronan O’Toole at midfield and All-Ireland U20 winner, Jack Murphy, up front.
Mallow’s opening game against Kiskeam ended in a 2-11 to 1-11 defeat when they were missing Loughrey and O’Riordan.
Eoin Kelleher accounted 1-1, Kevin Sheehan 0-4 and Harkin 0-2, making their next outing against the Ovens club a must-win affair.
The north Cork’s emphatic 0-14 to 0-7 victory left little room for debate as the returning O’Riordan led the list of seven scorers with 0-4 while Loughrey’s presence at the back was also noticeable.
A 2-11 to 1-10 win over Bantry Blues booked a quarter-final spot against another west Cork club, Bandon, after goals from O’Riordan and Kelleher again proved decisive.
Mallow won that encounter by 2-16 to 2-10 with O’Riordan among the goals once more and was joined by midfielder Darragh Moynihan to set-up a semi-final against Fermoy.
Typically, it was tight with Mallow squeezing through by 0-12 to 0-9, O’Riordan contributing 0-5.
Éire Óg began with a 0-13 to 0-7 win over Bantry, when Goulding showed his class by notching 0-8, five from frees, another from a ’45 and one from a sideline.
They disappointed against Mallow next time out, but recovered to overcome Kiskeam by 2-13 to 1-10 to advance, Goulding underlining his influence by scoring 2-7, all bar 0-1 from play.
That created a quarter-final re-match with rivals St Michael’s, but nobody could have predicted Éire Óg’s stunning 3-12 to 0-4 victory, Hallissey (2) and O’Callaghan claiming the goals.
Just as impressive was Mallow’s semi-final triumph over O’Donovan Rossa, winning by 2-10 to 1-8, O’Callaghan and Dylan Foley netting as Goulding added 0-6, four from play.
It looks like being tight with fitness a factor and rain threatening, too.