BISHOPSTOWN will set out to bounce back immediately from last season’s relegation from the Premier Senior Championship, when they meet city rivals, St Michael’s, in the opening game in the Senior A competition at Páirc Uí Rinn this evening at 7.30pm.
The Town lost their top-tier status, which they had cherished since 1975, after going down to Ilen Rovers in the play-off.
Now begins the first of what the club hopes will be half-a-dozen or so games to ensure their return from the second level.
Facing them are a club that has been agonisingly close in recent years. St Michael’s were squeezed out in three successive finals, before falling badly in last year’s quarter-finals to the eventual champions, Éire Óg.
Blackrock’s hurling success will have impacted, but there’s a strong panel of players and an impressive production line to ensure minimum damage.
Diarmuid Vaughan is the Town manager this season and both clubs know that a winning start is almost imperative, given that Duhallow rivals, Kiskeam, and newcomers, Knocknagree, complete a very competitive group.
Their meeting in Boherbue on Sunday has captured the imagination of the north-west barony and it brings together one-time Duhallow colleagues in direct opposition.
Knocknagree’s Premier intermediate success last season was remarkable on a number of fronts, notably the drubbing from Cill na Martra in the group phase and surviving subsequent, close encounters en route to the title.
Kiskeam’s Anthony Casey and Sean Meehan and Knocknagree’s Eoghan McSweeney and Daniel O’Mahony were part of the Cork scene, which adds further intrigue.
Kiskeam lost out on scoring difference in the 2020 championship, having finished on the same number of points as Mallow and Éire Óg.
It’s further evidence of the tight margins that exist between progressing to the knock-out stages and the season ending.
And the same applies to the meeting of Fermoy and Mallow in Group C, which is a repeat of their semi-final from last season, when Mallow triumphed 0-12 to 0-9.
It was a disappointing conclusion for Fermoy, who were considered one of the fancied sides, but now they’ve to start all over again in a section that also has Clyda Rovers and Bantry Blues.
Mallow’s campaign ended on a low-key note, after they were overwhelmed by Éire Óg in the final.
Cork wing-back Mattie Taylor leads their challenge, with James Loughrey’s experience and drive another important element in their make-up.
Up-front, young Sean McDonnell was part of the Cork U20 side that captured Munster, and he showcased his ability with a super individual goal against Tipperary in the final.
Tomas Clancy was a major loss to Fermoy in the semi-final and his presence would bolster any side, while Darragh O’Carroll, Padraig de Roiste, and Ruairi O’Hagan form part of the backbone of the team.
Bantry Blues survived in the grade by easily defeating St Nick’s in the relegation decider and they will want to avoid being dragged into another nerve-tingling encounter.
They meet a Clyda Rovers side missing the considerable talents of Conor Corbett, who is recovering from a cruciate knee ligament injury suffered with the Cork U20s.
Clyda completed a hat-trick of results last season, defeating Fermoy by a point in a shock outcome, losing to Bandon, and drawing with Dohenys.
Cork star Ruairi Deane is Bantry’s main player and he is sure to figure prominently in the list of scorers.
O’Donovan Rossa, semi-finalists last year after winning all three games in their section, are in Group A, along with Bandon, Ballingeary, and Dohenys.
They face Bandon in a West Cork derby tomorrow, before Ballingeary and Dohenys clash on Sunday.
The Skibbereen-Ballingeary game in round 3 will be a repeat of last year, when Rossas won 0-17 to 1-10, and tomorrow’s opener should reveal how the table will shape up.
TONIGHT: Bon Secours SAFC Group B R1: Bishopstown v St Michael’s, Páirc Uí Rinn, 7.30pm.
TOMORROW: Group A R1: O’Donovan Rossa v Bandon, Ballinascarthy, 6pm; Fermoy v Mallow, Castletownroche, 6pm.
SUNDAY: Group A R1: Ballingeary v Dohenys, Kilmichael.
Group B R1: Kiskeam v Knocknagree, Boherbue.
Group C: Clyda Rovers v Bantry Blues, Kilmurry. All 2pm.
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