It’s somewhat fitting that two sets of Magpies will vie for the first county hurling piece of silverware in Cork GAA in 2021, with Midleton and Ballyhea doing battle for the 2020 Co-op SuperStores JBHC inter-divisional title.
Sunday in Páirc Uí Rinn (1pm) sees the meeting of the two sides who usually play in black and white hoops – when they do encounter each other, it tends to be Midleton in all-black with Ballyhea in all-white.
The North Cork side will look to carry with them the momentum of last week’s semi-final victory over Belgooly. Despite not having played since the divisional final victory over Kilworth last October – while their opponents had the Carrigdhoun semi-final and final under their belts – Ballyhea triumphed on a scoreline of 4-19 to 1-9.
Former Cork star Neil Ronan led the way for the winners, scoring 11 points, four from play, while James Horgan plundered two goals with John Horgan and Ryan Hanley also raising green flags while goalkeeper Gearóid O’Shea made some important saves. Prior to beating Kilworth, Ballyhea had also seen off Newtownshandrum in North Cork, and they will hope to draw upon the experience of Stephen Dennehy and the O’Sullivan brothers, Owen and Trevor.
In contrast to Ballyhea, Midleton have had two games in this championship since the return to action as well as the East Cork final. After beating Castlelyons in the divisional semi-final at the end of September last year, they had to wait until June 12 to face Youghal in the decider, with Youghal having come through a semi-final replay against Erin’s Own just five days beforehand.
Midleton took the honours there on a 1-17 to 1-13 scoreline and then built on that platform as they saw off Blarney in the county quarter-final before facing city champions Delany Rovers in the semi on June 27. In that clash in Páirc Uí Rinn, they were triumphant by 1-21 to 0-10, with Delanys’ cause not helped by having four players sent off.
Mark O’Keeffe accounted for ten of the Midleton points, half from play and half from frees, while Cillian Hurley got the goal and a point. Captain Billy O’Shea is another influential figure with Pádraig O’Shea brings valuable senior experience.
In addition to this final, there are two ties down for decision in the first round of the 2020 county-wide junior B hurling championship, which is limited to clubs’ first teams. Tomorrow evening in Coachford (5pm), Freemount do battle with Randal Óg while on Sunday Bantry Blues take on Rathpeacon in Newcestown (3pm).