THERE are just two more pieces to be filled to complete the jigaw for the 2021 county football championship across all four grades.
Knocknagree’s 2020 premier intermediate final victory over Kanturk completes Group 1 in the Bon Secours sponsored senior A championship.
And to extend the Duhallow link, John Fintan Daly’s first game as manager at the new level is against Kiskeam, followed by meetings with city pair, Bishopstown and St Michael’s.
It’s an incredible rise for the small club straddling the Cork-Kerry border because they’ve emerged from junior ranks, including being crowned All-Ireland club champions, through to intermediate and now premier intermediate in just four years.
Who would have thought almost 11 months ago that Knocknagree would scale such lofty heights after conceding seven goals in their concluding group game against Cill na Martra?
Only for the intervention of St Vincent’s, who surprised Naomh Aban in the other game in the section, Knocknagree wouldn’t have even qualified for the knock-out phase.
But, they scraped through as runners-up with three points, the lowest in the three groups, and clearly learned an important lesson from that bizarre afternoon in Clyda Rovers country.
In their subsequent three championship games, which stretched from September of last year to Sunday night, Knocknagree shut up shop and keeper Patrick Doyle didn’t have to reach for the ball in the back of his net once.
Neither Nemo Rangers’s second string nor Newmarket could breach their defence in the quarter-final and semi-final encounters and ditto for Kanturk in the decider.
Another inter-county player, Eoghan McSweeney, contributed 0-3 from play before injury forced him off, joining a long list of players, which includes Anthony O’Connor, who is almost ready to return.
For Kanturk, it’s a repeat game against Macroom in Group 1 in premier intermediate along with outings against St Nick’s and Naomh Aban.
They defeated Macroom by a point in the opening game last season and their meeting is sandwiched either side of the opener against the city side and Ballyvourney.
As ever, juggling the demands of senior A hurling with football will be one of their challenges in the championship season that is looming.
One of the consequences of Knocknagree’s victory is that their players are no longer eligible for Duhallow in the premier senior championship and that’s a blow for the division.
Keeper Doyle, as well as O’Mahony, Michael Mahoney, Fintan O’Connor and McSweeney played in the side that reached last year’s one-point semi-final defeat by Nemo.
Knocknagree players have always been strong supporters of the Duhallow cause and their absence weakens the combination though it does open the door for players from other clubs to step up.
There are two more county finals held over from last year to be played, starting with the junior decider between Iveleary and Boherbue in Mallow on Saturday at 5pm.
Iveleary stunned Kilmacabea in a 5-16 to 1-8 rout last weekend, when Chris Og Jones nailed 2-6, all from play, bar one ‘mark’.
Cathal Vaughan contributed 1-7, three frees, and Ian Jones bagged the other two goals.
The winners replace Mayfield in the intermediate A championship, the final of which between Mitchelstown and Rockchapel is pencilled in for the weekend after next.
The winners here join the premier intermediate ranks instead of Gabriel Rangers.
Meanwhile, St Finbarr’s, Castlehaven, Newcestown, Naomh Aban, Kilshannig and Glanmire toasted victory in the finals of the Cork Credit Union Leagues at the weekend.
The ’Barr’s defeated Clonakilty by 4-15 to 3-10 in the division 1 decider, having been 2-8 to 1-4 in front at the break and 3-12 to 2-7 clear entering the closing quarter.
Once again Steven Sherlock continued to show impressive form as he was among the goal-scorers and kicked a clutch of points from play and frees.
The Hurley brothers, Brian and Michael, along with captain Mark Collins, helped clinch the division 2 title for the Haven in a 4-15 to 1-14 win over Newmarket.
Brian accounted for 2-6, including one from a penalty, as Collins and Shane Nolan also found the net.