ON THE basis of what happened last season someone better bring a bunch of change for the floodlights for the Bon Secours Premier SFC semi-final between St Finbarr’s and Castlehaven at Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Sunday at 3pm.
A couple of hours earlier the other semi-final between Douglas and Clonakilty is also expected to be a tight affair and extra-time couldn’t be ruled out in either tie.
It took a sudden-death penalty shoot-out to separate the Barrs and the Haven last season with skipper Mark Collins holding his nerve to slot the winner.
Now, the pair lock horns again in a game that’s impossible to predict and could well be decided by a moment of magic.
For that to happen enter Steven Sherlock for the city club and Brian Hurley for the west’s finest.
They’ve been on fire throughout, Sherlock tallying 1-24 from four outings, comprising nine frees and four ’45s with Hurley only a point behind on 2-20, including 2-13 from play.
It’s a reflection of how there’s precious little between the rivals and further evidence of the tiny margins involved.
Both won all three games in qualifying, the Barrs overcoming Ballincollig, Ilen Rovers and Clon before Éire Óg tested them big time in the quarter-finals.
The Togher club know to rack up scores and they’re not only overly reliant on Sherlock, but they do concede, also, witness Ballincollig’s 1-17, having a tendency to switch off at times.
The Haven are in the same boat, defeating Newcestown, Éire Óg and Carbery Rangers before needing a big second-half to deny Valley Rovers.
They also have major scoring power, highlighted by 2-19 against Éire Óg, whose 2-16 poses obvious questions at the back.
The match-ups will be interesting as will the roles of Cork players like Ian Maguire, Collins, the Hurleys, Brian and Michael, and three Cahalane brothers.
Last year’s game played out in a hurricane and it’s hoped conditions will be more favourable this time.
“For us, we don’t seem to do championship games in good weather,” said Barrs manager Paul O’Keeffe.
“You hope for a reasonable day where you can have a good game of football and the players can enjoy it. I think if we get a dry day we’ll have a great game which will be ideal for spectators, but maybe not for us on the sideline.”
While they know each other inside and out, there’s little history of note between Douglas and Clon apart from a first round game in 2008 which the city club won en route to their only final appearance.
Douglas emerged top seeds in qualifying, defeating Carrigaline, Valley Rovers and champions Nemo Rangers to move directly to the last four.
Their strengths are in defence and midfield with Cork players Sean Powter, Kevin Flahive, Nathan Walsh and Brian Hartnett while Conor Russell is the leading scorer with 0-14, half from frees.
Douglas had the joint best defence along with Valleys, who were the only side to breach their rearguard for the lone goal conceded.
Shutting out Nemo testifies to their capabilities at the back and while Douglas don’t possess a marquee finisher as such there are others who can keep the scoreboard ticking along, like Hartnett’s 0-3 from play last time out.
Clon qualified from the same group as the Barrs, losing to them in a dead-rubber after defeating Ilen and Ballincollig.
But, it was their dynamic finish against Duhallow in the quarter-final which stands out and provides them with plenty of encouragement and confidence.
Dara Ó Sé is their go-to man up front, posting 2-19, 14 frees, while Cork defenders Tom Clancy, Sean White, Liam O’Donovan and Maurice Shanley reflect their potential. Joe Grimes is a workhorse around the middle.
“Both teams play a similar sort of way and have similar sorts of strengths,” said Douglas manager Ray Keating.
“They’ll go at it hammer and tongs with a huge desire and I think there will be a fierce hunger from the two teams.
“I reckon the one thing you can be sure of is that the game will still be alive for both sides approaching the end.”