Cork Hurling: Rating the Intermediate A and Lower Intermediate contenders

Third and fourth tier group stages will conclude on Saturday, with quarter-final and semi-final spots up for grabs
Cork Hurling: Rating the Intermediate A and Lower Intermediate contenders

Dave O'Leary, Cloughduv, clears from Glen Kenefick, Glen Rovers, in the IAHC last season. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

THREE of the six knockout spots in the Co-op SuperStores Cork Intermediate A Hurling Championship are already accounted for ahead of this Saturday’s final round of group fixtures (all 4pm throw-ins).

In Group A, Sarsfields have secured top spot with a game to spare while Castlemartyr and Mayfield each have four points in Group B, so that trio will be focused on trying to secure the two automatic semi-final places. However, there is still much to play for as the grade whittles down.

Sars have beaten both Dungourney and Aghabullogue, while that pair have enjoyed victories against Glen Rovers. It means that, even if Sars were to lose to the Glen in Blarney, they would have the head-to-head advantage against the winners of the other match in Páirc Uí Rinn, which is a play-off for second place. The Riverstown side have a scoring difference of seven points, so they will be looking to bump that up in the hope of taking one of the top two seeds and a semi spot, though the Glen have an incentive to try to avoid the relegation play-off.

The top two and bottom two in Group B are already known after two rounds, but the important matter of determining the final spots must still be teased out. Castlemartyr, who won the 2020 lower IHC title in August, have taken to intermediate A with aplomb, beating Blackrock and Douglas by an aggregate of 22 points. 

 Mike Cosgrave of Castlemartyr in action against Russell Rovers' Daniel Moynihan in the 2020 Co-op SuperStores Cork Lower IHC final in August of this year. Castlemartyr have carried their momentum into the intermediate A grade but Rovers cannot qualify for the LIHC knockout stages. Picture: Jim Coughlan
Mike Cosgrave of Castlemartyr in action against Russell Rovers' Daniel Moynihan in the 2020 Co-op SuperStores Cork Lower IHC final in August of this year. Castlemartyr have carried their momentum into the intermediate A grade but Rovers cannot qualify for the LIHC knockout stages. Picture: Jim Coughlan

Mayfield have overcome their city rivals too, though their scoring difference of 10 points means that a draw against Castlemartyr in Caherlag would give the East Cork top spot in the final reckoning. The Douglas-Blackrock game in Ballinlough is sure to be keenly contested, as both sides currently have worse scoring differences than the bottom sides in the other two groups so the losers are likely to be in the relegation play-off.

Group 3 is far from settled. Cloughduv and Kildorrery are level on three points having drawn with each other, Cloughduv currently one point ahead in terms of scoring difference. They face Meelin in Millstreet, with the Duhallow side unable to qualify, while Kildorrery are up against Midleton in Fermoy. The Magpies have two points so the winners of that game will advance, though a draw would suffice for Kildorrery.

In the lower intermediate grade, Kilbrittain are in the nice position of knowing that they can’t be caught at the top of Group A but they will nevertheless be keen to overcome Grenagh in Ballinora to try to lockdown qualification for the semi-finals.

Jamie Wall’s side have had strong second halves as they have seen off Argideen Rangers and Dripsey to move to four points, while Grenagh have lost to both of them, ending their hopes of advancement. Currently possessing the best scoring difference in the grade of 24 points, Kilbrittain – beaten semi-finalists against eventual champions Castlemartyr last year – will almost certainly make the last four with a third straight victory.

With Kilbrittain having the benefit of the superior head-to-head record against Argideen and Dripsey, the meeting of those two in Ballinhassig is a play-off for second place in the group. All of the LIHC games have throw-in times of 2pm on Saturday.

Lisgoold and Tracton will clash in Páirc Uí Rinn with both sides assured of at least a quarter-final spot after wins against Russell Rovers and St Finbarr’s but there is the significant carrot of a probable semi-final place for the winners.

Lisgoold, who won the 2020 junior A title earlier this year, have a scoring difference of 17 points compared to nine for Tracton so they would finish top if the match were to end in a draw.

In the other game, with Watergrasshill the venue, the 2020 beaten finalists Russell Rovers meet the Barrs with the avoidance of the relegation play-off the motivation for winning.

Group C is finely poised, with all four sides still capable of qualifying. As things stand, St Catherine’s top the table after wins over Milford and Barryroe but it’s possible that a loss to Ballygarvan in Rathcormac could eliminate them.

The Ballynoe side’s scoring difference is four points while Milford’s – like Ballygarvan, currently on two points – is seven. Ballygarvan’s is minus-four, so they would need to beat Catherine’s by five and hope that Milford overcome Barryroe in the other game in Ovens. In that scenario, three teams – Catherine’s, Ballygarvan and Milford – would be level on four points, with scoring difference the decider.

By a similar token, if Catherine’s were to beat Ballygarvan and Barryroe overcame Milford, Catherine’s would be top on six points and the other three teams would be in a three-way tie for second on two points. However, as they start off with a scoring difference of minus-seven, Barryroe need to win by at least eight points to have any hope of advancing.

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