Premier SHC: Avondhu and Duhallow battle for spot in next stage

Winners of preliminary divisional phase will join Imokilly, MTU Cork and UCC in next round
Premier SHC: Avondhu and Duhallow battle for spot in next stage

Avondhu's Stephen Condon scores a point against Carbery in the Co-op SuperStores Cork Premier SHC clash four weeks ago. He will be a key man for the North Cork division against Duhallow tonight. Picture: David Keane

BY the end of tonight – with extra time always a live possibility – five will have been reduced down to one in the Co-op SuperStores Cork Premier SHC unseeded divisional section.

Glantane is the venue for a 7.30pm throw-in as Avondhu do battle with Duhallow for the chance to contest the semi-finals of the divisions and colleges phase along with Imokilly, MTU Cork and UCC.

Four weeks ago, Avondhu started out against Carbery while Carrigdhoun met Muskerry, with Duhallow entering the fray seven days later as they took on Carbery, who had lost to Avondhu. A win for the north-east division there brought them to the preliminary semi-finals with Avondhu and Carrigdhoun, who had beaten Muskerry after extra time, but the Mid-Cork division availed of their second chance to eliminate Carbery and make the last four of this stage.

Last Tuesday, Avondhu were 3-18 to 0-19 winners against Muskerry in Donoughmore while Duhallow were getting the better of Carrigdhoun on a 0-22 to 0-19 scoreline down the road in Coachford. That set up this tie at the home of Kilshannig GAA Club, close to the border between the two divisions.

Both teams have played Carbery – Avondhu had a five-point win, 2-23 to 3-15, when they played in Coachford on the first night of action, while a week later Duhallow needed a late Seán Howard point to secure a 2-21 to 2-20 victory after the south-west division had wiped out a deficit of six points as the game entered injury time.

Taking those two games as benchmarks, it’s likely that there will be little to separate the two teams tonight, and something that could be a factor is the availability of key forwards who were absent last week. Colin O’Brien of Liscarroll/Churchtown Gaels, an All-Ireland U20 winner with Cork last year (2020 competition), scored 1-10 as they beat Carbery but he was absent against Muskerry. Tomás Howard (Dromtarriffe), brother of Duhallow captain Seán, landed 11 points, eight from play, as they beat Carbery but he was unavailable for the Carrigdhoun clash.

It speaks to the capabilities of the two sides that they were able to win without such talismans. Stephen Condon (Habour Rovers) had notched 1-8 for Avondhu against Carbery and he bettered that last week, helping himself to 1-10 against Muskerry, while there were also goals for Jack Twomey (Kilshannig) and James Magner (Killavullen).

If O’Brien were able to line out, it would be a big boost, while Avondhu will also be hoping that the injury that forced Cork panellist Mark Keane off in the second half is not too serious. Ballygiblin’s Keane and half-back line partners Darragh O’Reilly (Ballyhooly) and Brian Buckley (Dromina) were all impressive while Davy Jones (also Dromina) put in a great shift in the half-forward line. Jeremy Saich of Kilworth is another capable of game-changing moments for the North Cork side.

Duhallow are hoping that Tomás Howard will be available again, which would be a huge boost both in terms of scoring power and curtailing the influence of Keane for Avondhu. Without him last week, his brother was the top scorer, contributing seven points, while Cathal Browne (Newmarket) and Jason O’Callaghan (Meelin) each scored three as they had eight scorers in total.

Defender Beircheart O’Connor of Millstreet is another who could be back though Conor O’Callaghan (Dromtarriffe) remains out while goalkeeper Kevin Roche (Banteer) is back from honeymoon though Ben Newman (Newmarket) has done a good job in the two games so far.

Also tonight is the July meeting of Cork County Board, where delegates are likely to discuss the issue of the Cork senior hurling team management, with Kieran Kingston’s term having come to an end after the All-Ireland SHC quarter-final defeat to Galway.

The recent news that the county board has applied for planning permission for a strategic housing development on the northern fringes of the city is also likely to be the subject of attention, given that it should generate a significant windfall.

With the county championships set to begin later this month, ticketing for club games remains a matter of some interest, with many delegates expressing displeasure in recent times at the lack of a cash option at venues.

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