SURPRISE results from the opening rounds of the Cork Credit Unions' County Football Leagues have provided an entertaining start to the 2021 campaign.
As form guides go, the opening rounds of the competition have provided an interesting insight into possible contenders for county championship honours later this year.
Yes, it is early days and clubs are without their inter-county players but any momentum gained in the early rounds of the league should carry into the county championships.
Considering clubs have been out of action for so long, the high scoring rate and quality of league matches, in general, spoke volumes for the work put in by individual players during lockdown.
The 2020 Bon Secours Premier SFC county decider has yet to be played but Castlehaven and Nemo Rangers, without their Cork contingent, have been busily stepping up preparations for that eagerly anticipated matchup.
Castlehaven were surprised in their opening league fixture at home to Valley Rovers.
A high-scoring encounter, won 4-14 to 2-18 by Rovers preceded the Haven earning a late draw away to local rivals O’Donovan Rossa in Skibbereen.
Cathal Maguire was prominent in that opening joust by contributing 0-8 of Castlehaven’s total.
The Haven may have yet to register a league victory but don’t be fooled by those opening two league results.
Mark Collins, Brian Hurley, Michael Hurley, Damien and Conor Cahalane’s absences has seen the likes of Cathal Maguire, David Whelton, Kevin O’Donovan, Darragh Cahalane and Conor O’Driscoll step up their performances.
An upcoming Group 2A clash with Mallow gives Castlehaven an opportunity to register a maiden league win but, overall, the west Cork club is in decent shape and will be all the stronger once their inter-county players return.
As first league matches of the new campaign go, St Finbarr’s and Nemo Rangers’s Group 1A clash delivered plenty of drama and a victory for the former.
Cork PSFC top scorer Steven Sherlock (3-36 in 2020) reminded everyone why he remains St Finbarr’s primary threat. Sherlock’s six points in that victory over Nemo and the talented forward’s form will be key to the Blues challenging for honours this year.
Even though both sides were without a host of first-team regulars, the Barrs and Nemo league game was played at a championship intensity. Make no mistake, both will be amongst the PSFC title-challengers once again this term.
As with Castlehaven, Nemo’s subsequent league loss to an Éire Óg team preparing for and eventually winning a county SAFC final should not cause any alarm bells to ring. Rangers will be primed for their Bon Secours PSFC county decider before turning their attention to a 2021 county championship qualifying group that contains Valley Rovers, Douglas and Carrigaline.
St Finbarr’s will line out against Clonakilty and Ballincollig for the second year in a row in this year’s county PSFC. Another west Cork club, Ilen Rovers, completes Group C but the Barrs will be favourites to emerge top of that quartet and feature at the business end of the championship once again.
Outside of the usual suspects, there have been plenty of eye-catching early league performances by clubs hoping for an improved showing in 2021.
Éire Óg’s county SAFC final victory over Mallow was richly deserved. Now, the Ovens club enter their first ever Premier Senior championship on a high and with the benefit of being underdogs amid an experienced west Cork group.
Castlehaven, Newcestown and Carbery Rangers will test Éire Óg’s PSFC credentials in Group C but the latter have nothing to lose. Any team that can call upon the combined talents of Daniel Goulding, Dylan Foley, Joe Cooper and Colm O’Callaghan is capable of taking a scalp or two. Éire Óg will not be underestimated by their Carbery division opponents. That group will make for fascinating viewing with three west Cork clubs plus the reigning county SAFC champions involved.
Ballincollig are another club looking to improve on last season’s quarter-final exit to Nemo. A quick glance at the Muskerry club’s early league results bodes well for the remainder of the year.
Wins over Beál Áthan Ghaorthaidh and Fermoy may not have attracted many headlines but Ballincollig will know all about St Finbarr’s and Clonakity having faced them in last year’s PSFC. Another club to watch out for as the year progresses.