TONIGHT sees an intriguing Co-op SuperStores Cork SAHC Group A clash in Mallow as Kanturk and Blarney do battle for an almost-guaranteed spot in the quarter-finals of the competition.
Both sides won their opening games last week, with Blarney overcoming Fermoy while Kanturk saw off Bandon and the winners of this clash (throw-in 8pm) will move to four points – last year, no hurling team failed to qualify with such a total from their three games.
Last Sunday, Kanturk had an 11-point win over Bandon, repeating their quarter-final victory of 12 months ago against the same opposition. Brian O’Sullivan led the scoring for the Duhallow outfit with nine points while Aidan Walsh also impressed, with five points from play and one converted sideline. Alan Walsh notched the goal for them and they will face into tonight’s clash in positive mood.
However, Blarney – last year’s premier intermediate champions – showed that they had no need for an assimilation period at the higher level, putting in a good all-round performance to see off Fermoy on a scoreline of 0-22 to 1-14. Midfield pairing Mark Coleman and 18-year-old Denis McSweeney set the tone, combining for 13 points, while any team with the attacking potential of Shane Barrett, Pádraig Power and Declan Hanlon will cause trouble for their opponents.
The winners of the game will be on four points, unlikely to be overhauled by two sides. On the flipside of that coin, Bandon and Fermoy meet knowing that the losers of their meeting in Blarney at 5.30pm are likely to be giving up hopes of progress. However, with both having footballing commitments, there may be a silver lining of sorts.
In Group C, it’s another weekend and another East Cork derby for Killeagh, who will seek to secure a place in the knockout stage when they meet Fr O’Neills in Youghal at 2pm on Sunday.
Last Saturday, goals from Seán Long and Gary Leahy – along with nine points from Eoghan Keniry – secured a 2-16 to 1-14 win over Cloyne in Castlemartyr. Having lost all three group games in 2020 (they did overcome Kilworth in a relegation clash) and endured a tough period at senior before the restructuring of the championships, it was the club’s first championship win since beating Carbery in August 2017.
The result, coupled with the draw between O’Neills and Newcestown in Páirc Uí Rinn, means that Brian Barry’s side top the group ahead of a potentially pivotal set of games. Last year’s beaten finalists Fr O’Neills – still without injured county star Ger Millerick – almost fell to defeat to Newcestown in Páirc Uí Rinn but a goal at the death from Millerick’s brother Joe helped to salvage a point for them.
If Killeagh were to maintain their momentum, they would be assured of a quarter-final spot while O’Neills would have everything riding on the final match against Cloyne. However, a victory for the Ballymacoda/Ladysbridge side would put them back in the driving seat.
As the only non-Imokilly team in the group, Newcestown are the odd ones out and that status is magnified by the fact that they compete in the Premier SFC, too – 14 players saw game-time against O’Neills and also against Castlehaven the week before.
Having come so close to the win last week, they will need to re-focus if they are to get the better of Cloyne in Ballyanly at 2pm.
Bride Rovers and Ballymartle are the pace-setters in Group B, winning last week against Ballyhea and Mallow respectively. They are in a similar situation to Blarney and Kanturk in that they clash this weekend, with Riverstown the venue at 4pm tomorrow.
Conor Barry scored 0-11 for Bride last week with Cian O'Connor netting their goals while Darren McCarthy landed 2-5 for Ballymartle. The sides met in the opening round last year, with Bride winning more comfortably than expected.
The Ballyhea-Mallow game takes place in Buttevant at 5.30pm, with the stakes raised for both sides in that victory is absolutely paramount for either to remain in with a shout of advancing.