Just one team – the 2020 junior A champions, Iveleary – are guaranteed a knockout place in the Bons Secours Hospital Cork Intermediate A Football Championship ahead of Saturday’s final round of group games.
With four groups (compared to three in every other hurling and football grade), the IAFC is straightforward to process in that the top two sides in each section will go through to the quarter-finals: group winners on one side and runners-up on the other, with no repeat pairings.
Whatever happens, Iveleary are guaranteed top spot in Group C. They face Kinsale in Brinny on Saturday (all games in the grade take place at 4pm on Saturday) with four points on the board after beating St Finbarr’s and Millstreet. At the beginning of August, the Inchigeela side claimed 2020 county junior A honours with a superb performance to beat Boherbue in the delayed county final and they carried that momentum into the intermediate ranks, securing the quarter-final spot as Millstreet were beaten by 0-25 to 1-13, with Cathal Vaughan and Chris Óg Jones scoring 11 and ten points respectively. Brian Coughlan and Gearóid Finn are Kinsale’s main marksmen.
Narrow defeats against the city and Duhallow sides mean that Kinsale’s scoring difference is only minus-five, but they will nevertheless be keen to get points on the board to avoid ending up in the relegation play-off. Initially in 2020, it had been envisaged that the four sides finishing bottom of their groups would play a round-robin to determine which team dropped to junior A level but instead, as with other grades, it is now a straight play-off between the two lowest-ranked sides.
The Barrs and Millstreet meet in Macroom in what is a battle for second place. Even if Iveleary were to lose, they would have the head-to-head advantage over whoever wins the other game and also finishes on four points. Neil Flahive and Colm O’Leary were to the fore for Millstreet as they saw off Kinsale.
Group D is wide open after two rounds of games, with all four of Gabriel Rangers, Ballydesmond, Ballinora and Dromtarriffe on two points each after a win and a loss. That makes the terms of engagement simpler in many ways as the two fixtures are effectively knockout ties, though of course a draw in one or both games would see scoring difference come into play to determine qualification.
On Saturday, Kilmichael is the venue as Gabriels take on Dromtarriffe. The West Cork side, relegated from premier intermediate last year, will look to Mark Cronin, James O’Regan and Ger Cronin to propel them towards the last eight while Dromtarriffe – coming off a loss to Ballinora – will seek to harness the attacking talents of Evan Murphy and Daniel O’Keeffe.
Ballinora and Ballydesmond meet in Donoughmore. The evergreen Donncha O’Connor, now 40, was to the fore as Ballydesmond held off Gabriels’ late fightback last time out, with Darragh Moynihan on song as well. Darragh Holmes and Neil Lordan are likely to be key if Ballinora emerge with the spoils.
Aghabullogue are in a strong position after two rounds in Group A. The Coachford outfit have beaten Mitchelstown and Kildorrery and so sit on four points with a scoring difference of 26 points – the best of any team in the grade.
They will look to make it three from three when they take on Glanmire in Ballyanly and will hope that Matthew Bradley and David Thompson can make their presence felt in attack. Glanmire beat Kildorrery but then lost to Mitchelstown and they would need a big win to force a three-way play-off if Mitchelstown beat Kildorrery. Daniel Molden and Luke Hackett will be central to their hopes.
Cork star Cathail O’Mahony excelled in that Mitchelstown win over Glanmire, aided by Michael Walsh and Shane Cahill, and the 2020 beaten finalists will be strong favourites in their local derby with Kildorrery in Araglen.
Having won the 2019 junior A title, Kilshannig enjoyed a good first campaign at intermediate A, reaching the quarter-finals, and they have been in good form so far, beating Glanworth (who eliminated them last year) and Glenville to sit atop Group B with one round of games left.
Castletownkenneigh is the venue for their meeting with Adrigole – 116km separate the two parishes – with the Beara side on two points after beating Glenville and losing to Glanworth. With Cork player Cillian O’Hanlon being unavailable through injury, Kilshannig have had impressive displays from his brother Éanna, Tom Cunningham and Darragh O’Sullivan. Adrigole will look to David Harrington to inspire them from an attacking viewpoint.
Glanworth and Glenville meet in Fermoy, with last year’s semi-finalists Glanworth knowing that victory will send them through as long as Adrigole don’t overcome Kilshannig. Shane O’Riordan and Mikie Sheehan were excellent in their win against Adrigole.
Glenville will feel unlucky that they couldn’t hold on against Adrigole – they lost by 0-10 to 0-9 – but, while their chances of progressing are slim, all hope is not yet lost.
If Kilshannig beat Adrigole, then a Glenville win of eight points or more would see three teams tied on two points and the Imokilly club having the best scoring difference.