Newmarket relish underdogs status against neighbours Kanturk

Mark Woods previews the PIFC decider set to sizzle at Páirc Uí Chaoimh this Sunday
Newmarket relish underdogs status against neighbours Kanturk

Newmarket's Conor O'Keeffe gathers the ball from Na Piarsaigh's Gordan Joyce. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

SUNDAY: Bon Secours county PIFC final: Kanturk v Newmarket, Páirc Uí Chaoimh, 3pm.

KANTURK attempt to emulate Mallow and Boherbue in winning county finals after losing the 2020 versions during the summer, when they meet neighbours Newmarket in a Duhallow derby which has whetted the appetite.

Back in early August, Kanturk lost out to Knocknagree by three points in the final, but they’ve qualified again and also have the incentive of adding to their senior A hurling success, as well.

Newmarket, though, are all out to spoil the party as they’ve a hard-luck story of their own, too, losing to Knocknagree by a point in last season’s semi-final.

There’ll be few secrets going into a game featuring clubs only five miles apart with many of them coming together for the Duhallow cause not just this season, but several others, as well.

Kanturk took the scenic route in qualifying after topping their group with wins over St Nick’s, Macroom and Naomh Abán to set up a repeat with Aghada in the semi-finals.

It was an eventful afternoon because having won last year’s encounter comfortably, Aghada forced Kanturk to dive into their vast reserves of courage and resilience to carve out a 1-8 to 1-7 victory.

Things looked bleak when Kanturk trailed 0-7 to 0-3 at half-time and had to play the second half with 14 players following the second yellow carding of Ryan Walsh.

But, they had inspirational figures all over the pitch, notably Lorcan O’Neill and Lorcán McLoughlin in the half-back line, Aidan Walsh at midfield and Ian Walsh up front.

The importance of having a strong bench also contributed significantly as Cian Clernon and Kyrle Holland, who was Duhallow’s emergency keeper in the championship but plays in the forwards with his club, made telling impacts.

Clernon’s goal helped them restore parity early in the second half only for Aghada to reply in kind and Kanturk were further weakened after black cards to O’Neill and Paul Walsh.

Holland, though, popped up with his second point to level again after 55 minutes before Clernon hit the winner in injury-time.

Kanturk manager Tim Ryan said after the semi-final that the absence of replays this year was a major influence on players.

“The biggest issue this season that makes things harder than other years is that games have to be finished on the day,” he said.

“There are no soft draws if there is such a thing. Players need to go beyond the 60 minutes every time and that can be exceptionally difficult when you go to the latter stages of competitions.” 

 Lorcan O'Neill, Kanturk works the ball out of defence as John Looney, Aghada gives chase. Picture: Larry Cummins.
Lorcan O'Neill, Kanturk works the ball out of defence as John Looney, Aghada gives chase. Picture: Larry Cummins.

Newmarket’s progress was slow, but measured, 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 another goalless 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. 

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.

Newmarket were considered rank outsiders against Cill na Martra in the semi-final, but they produced a shock result, winning by 2-7 to 0-7. The key period came in the first half when Newmarket pounced for a couple of quick-fire goals with Kevin O’Sullivan the instigator in both for Ryan O’Keeffe and Barry O’Connor to oblige.

They led by 2-6 to 0-5 at the break and while Newmarket could only add one more point on the resumption, their opponents fell into card trouble.

Newmarket manager Donal O’Sullivan said getting organised properly was central to the victory.

“We had prepared well, looked at the possibility of creating openings and the goals in quick succession helped us set out our stall. It wasn’t a great group campaign for us but we gained massive confidence from the quarter-final win over Naomh Abán.

Guys began to click and worked together which shows the benefit of championship football.” 

Just like Kanturk, Newmarket’s defence is sound with the likes of Paudie Allen, Mikey Browne and TJ Brosnan in front of keeper Josh O’Keeffe.

Conor O’Keeffe is their leading marksman with 0-25 with Ryan chipping in with 2-11.

It’s poised for yet another humdinger of a final.

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