ANOTHER thrilling county finals weekend is just behind us, with huge excitement having been enjoyed down the Páirc on Saturday and Sunday.
Four games played and all three results possible as we ticked into injury in all of them. Huge early winter entertainment for fans on Lesside, with the joys of victory and the dejection of defeat graphically portrayed at the end of each encounter.
Victory by a goal for Boherbue in junior football and for Courcey Rovers by a point in the Premier Intermediate Hurling Championship on Saturday. And then on Sunday a thrilling one-point win for St Finbarr's as they were crowned Premier Senior champs in the wake of Mallow edging out St Michael's with a late Sean Hayes goal.
Have we ever had so many games to enjoy in such a condensed period at the end of the championship season? Certainly, the last few weekends have provided some great memories. The new championship format has been a revelation; the concept of the super weekend of finals is the real deal. Credit to all involved for this smooth-running operation, it has certainly shortened the early days of winter.
Interestingly there is one more big double bill to look forward to in a few days time. Mitchelstown versus Iveleary in the Bon Secours Intermediate A final and the big Duhallow deby involving Newmarket and Kanturk. So much at stake for all four participants.
What about Mitchelstown? Back in the final again just a few months after losing to Rockchapel. They can take inspiration from the feats of Boherbue and Mallow over the last few days.
Boherbue were pretty dejected only a few months ago after the reversal to that talented Iveleary outfit. They rekindled and made it five titles in succession in the northwest division and last Saturday came back to savour their hour of glory with a 3-8 to 2-8 win over Ballinhassig.
Likewise Mallow, hugely disappointed after being well outplayed by Éire Óg in the 2020 final last June.
Mitchelstown will hope that they follow on a similar pathway in a season where the majority of their squad has been busy with Ballygiblin as they were crowned county hurling champions. Last Saturday's semi-final saw Martin O'Brien's team dig very deep to overcome a very good Kilshannig side.
A raft of changes before throw-in reflected the mileage some players had on the clock during their double chasing assault of recent weeks.
The North Cork team have trained as a unit with the junior side all season and the strength of the squad was about to be stretched. New heroes emerged, none more so than Greg Carroll, one of the players whose performances might have gone under the radar in this championship season. With a few of the well-known hurling names gradually filtered back into the team, they called on all their reserves to come from behind and pull off a 2-11 to 1-13 victory.
Now it's all about those vital watch-words: rest and recovery. Taking nothing away from Rockchapel but Mitchelstown now they did not do themselves justice on that late August night in Mallow as they suffered a four-point reversal.
The chance for redemption presents itself just over three months later.
O'Mahony's fitness will be a key concern this week, while Colin English's rehabilitation from injury will also be very carefully watched.
In the opposite corner are Iveleary, scaling new heights as they breezed through the season since that win over Boherbue in the summer. They will believe just like Castlemartyr and Lisgoold did in the hurling championships that they have the key component of momentum in their favour, which helped the aforementioned East Cork duo conquer all comers.
Wins over St Finbarr's, Millstreet and Kinsale were completed with +31 scoring difference. What followed in the knockout stages was even more emphatic: a five-goal winning margin over Glanworth and the exact same daylight in the win over Aghabullogue in the penultimate round. It meant after five games in their new surroundings Ivelaery have amassed a combined winning margin of 61 points.
With that form line and Mitchelstown's burning desire for redemption, Sunday at Páirc Uí Chaoimh at 1pm should signal the start of yet another fascinating county final. Then we have Newmarket v Kanturk to enjoy.
It is certainly worth braving the baltic conditions in the media seats of the last few weekends to savour this compelling county final schedule.