CORK Premier Intermediate champions, Newmarket, break new ground, when they bid for a place in the provincial final with the winners facing either Na Gaeil from Kerry or Tipperary’s Drom-and-Inch who meet in Templetuohy, also on Sunday.
It’s back to terra firma for the Duhallow club following their sensational late burst to snatch the Cork title from Kanturk’s grasp in a memorable decider, which took an unexpected twist in injury-time. Trailing by two points in a Kanturk-dominated second-half, Newmarket hit three points on the spin in a nerve-tingling 0-12 to 0-11 victory.
Newmarket are a difficult team to break down with captain TJ Brosnan and Bart Daly, two seasoned warriors for club and division, manning the wing-back roles either side of Gavin Forde.
Keeper Josh O’Keeffe marshals a full-back line of Mikey Browne, Alan Ryan and Paudie Allen, scorer of a crucial point in the final, and between the lot of them, Newmarket possess one of the tightest defences around.
In six games, they’ve conceded just one goal to Castletownbere in qualifying from the group phase and while they struggled initially, Newmarket have gradually developed a lot of momentum.
It started with the unexpected nine-point victory over Naomh Abán in the quarter-finals and their stock rose appreciably in their two-goal semi-final success against the favourites Cill na Martra.
Newmarket have overcome all sorts of obstacles to remain active a week before Christmas with Conor O’Keeffe, their main go-to-man in attack, as reflected in his 0-7 against Kanturk. The hard-working Kevin O’Sullivan and Barry O’Connor are two other key components in side that’s itching for a place in a Munster final.
Corofin have a quarter-final to bolster their challenge and while they had seven points to spare over Kildimo-Pallaskenry at the finish, the Limerick champions gave them a much tougher battle than the 1-13 to 1-6 scoreline might otherwise suggest.
This was particularly true in the opening half when Corofin had to do the bulk of the chasing after Kildimo- Pallaskenry scored a goal before the first water-break.
But, a goal of their own in first-half stoppage time changed the complexion of the tie. Despite losing a player, Corofin dominated thereafter thanks in the main to the influence of Jamie Malone and Diarmuid Kelly.
Malone, an All-Star nominee last year, scored a timely point, but it was Kelly’s overall 1-6 contribution from play, as well a point from free, which made the difference.
Malone is Corofin’s best-known player, having been plagued with a serious ankle injury. He can play in either the half-back or half-forward line and represents an obvious threat to Newmarket’s prospects, as does Kelly’s scoring prowess.
Corofin’s forward power is supplemented by the Cahill brothers, Diarmuid, who won a Dr Harty Cup medal with St Flannan’s, and Gearoid, while full-forward Cillian McGroary represented Clare U20s this year.
Corofin have a young side in the main. Last year they were favourites in Clare, but lost in the final and they appeared to be heading for the same fate this season when they trailed by five points in injury-time only to snatch the title with two quick goals.
Na Gaeil are hotly fancied to reach the final with a team that includes Kerry pair Diarmuid O’Connor and Jack Barry.
They captured the county intermediate title following a 0-13 to 1-7 win over Beaufort in the final having captured the junior title the season before and will now play senior in 2022.
Barry missed the final due to illness but is expected to return to a team that includes Stefan Okunbar in the middle.
Drom-and-Inch had five points to spare from Portlaw of Waterford in the quarter-final, an early goal from David Butler the decisive score in a 1-8 to 0-6 triumph.
But, it came at a cost, though, because an injury to county player Emmett Moloney makes him doubtful to start.