Cork GAA: Is a bye to the semi-final stage a big disadvantage for clubs?

Mark Woods looks at one of the key factors at play ahead of this weekend's football clashes
Cork GAA: Is a bye to the semi-final stage a big disadvantage for clubs?

Kanturk's Paul Walsh makes a break against Cill na Martra at a rain-lashed Millstreet. Picture John Tarrant

AT the moment the score is 1-1 in a different kind of game.

Is it more suited for teams to qualify automatically for county semi-finals or are they better served by playing a quarter-final?

There are strong arguments to be made on either side and three last-four ties in the Bon Secours county football championship this weekend will supply more statistical analysis.

Last weekend’s hurling semi-finals produced a win for both, a team directly qualified ended up losing while the other, who had to play a quarter-final, finished on the winning side.

Sarsfields emerged as top seeds in the Co-Op Superstores county premier senior group stage, but lost to Glen Rovers, who had played a quarter-final.

In senior A, Kanturk, who also avoided a quarter-final, eventually saw off the typical spirited Newcestown challenge, but only after a Herculean comeback and extra-time.

In premier senior football Douglas were the number one ranked side after qualifying and play Clonakily, who had an epic fightback against Duhallow in last week’s quarter-final, at Páirc Uí Chaoimh tomorrow at 1pm.

This time 12 months ago it was Castlehaven who were in the same position and their meeting with St Finbarr’s entered the history books because of a sudden-death penalty shoot-out.

It makes their renewal at 3pm all the more fascinating.

Today, St Michael’s and Mallow bid for a place in the senior A decider after avoiding the quarter-finals and they will have noted the fate of Fermoy and O’Donovan Rossa 12 months ago. Both lost.

The premier intermediate is even more intriguing as Kanturk once more qualified directly to the semi-finals as did Cill na Martra and they take on Aghada and Newmarket respectively.

Glantane and Mourneabbey are the venues for 3pm starts this afternoon.

A fascinating aspect of the Cill na Matra-Newmarket showdown is that both clubs were direct semi-finalists last year only to lose by the minimum margin in the two games.

Kanturk pipped the Gaeltacht outfit while Knocknagree squeezed past Duhallow neighbours Newmarket.

It has the potential to be one of the most exciting games of the weekend and while Cill na Martra have been the fancies to go all the way from the outset, Newmarket pose a serious test of their title-winning credentials.

Once again, the Muskerry club ran riot in qualifying, posting 3-16 against Nemo Rangers’ second string and 0-19 against Rockchapel before taking on St Vincent’s, having already secured their place in the knock-out phase.

They could afford the luxury of resting Cork forward Dan Ó Duinnin, who had scored 1-12 up to then, and still win handily enough by 1-12 to 1-6.

And Cill na Martra aren’t too reliant on Ó Duinnin either because Shane Ó Duinnin, Micheal Ó Deasuna, and Damien Ó hUrdal are other capable marksmen.

Cork wing-back Tadhg Corkery and former star Noel O’Leary reflect what they have to offer in defence and Cill na Martra are finely balanced with plenty of experience.

Coping with high expectations is another matter and Newmarket have the players to exploit that in their favour.

Their progress hasn’t been as impressive, drawing their opening Group C game with Aghada, 0-14 apiece, and losing to Na Piarsaigh, who also scored 14 points to win by three in a another goal-less encounter.

And Newmarket only scraped into the play-offs following a 1-9 to 1-8 win over Castletownbere to qualify on just three points.

Aghada's Diarmuid Phelan shoots his side's equalising point against Newmarket earlier this season. Picture: John Tarrant
Aghada's Diarmuid Phelan shoots his side's equalising point against Newmarket earlier this season. Picture: John Tarrant

But, they made the most of it by defeating Naomh Abán impressively in the quarter-finals by 1-16 to 0-10 with nine scorers, led by Ryan O’Keeffe with 1-4.

Conor O’Keeffe is their leading marksman with 0-22 to his name in a team containing Josh O’Keeffe in goal, Mikey Browne, and Bart Daly in defence.

Browne and Daly were joined by Paudie Allen in the Duhallow team which lost to Clon while Josh, Darren, and Conor O’Keeffe along with TJ Brosnan and Alan Ryan were also on duty.

Kanturk-Aghada is a repeat of last season’s quarter-final, which the former won convincingly by 0-17 to 0-8.

How Kanturk handle the fall-out from their gruelling hurling game is a major challenge, especially if underfoot conditions are sapping.

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