Premier SFC: Mallow the only ones to buck the trend

Four opening-round ties were repeats of league meetings, with Mallow-Ballincollig the only reversal
Premier SFC: Mallow the only ones to buck the trend

Mallow's Sam Copps breaks clear of Ballincollig's Darren Murphy in the Bon Secours Cork PSFC at Mourneabbey on Saturday. Picture Denis Minihane

League is league and championship is championship.

It’s a statement that is obviously true in its most basic sense but, to anyone with an understanding of the GAA, those seven words carry quite a lot of weight. When it comes down to it, you can beat all-comers in the spring but that will count for nothing if you can’t back it up when the real action starts.

This year, as preparation for a streamlined competition in 2023, there were 20 teams in Division 1 of the Cork Credit Unions FL, split into two groups. Of the six Bons Secours Hospital Premier SFC games played last weekend, four were repeats of league fixtures. How closely did the formlines travel the same path?

Mallow were certainly an example of the discord between the two competitions – their only victory in the Division 1 Group A came against Fermoy, meaning they finished bottom of their section, condemning them to the third tier of the revamped league for 2023. However, on Saturday night, they had a 0-10 to 0-6 championship win over a Ballincollig side that had a league record of four wins, three draws and two losses.

But was their experience a deviation from the norm or did most teams show that the league was misleading?

The Haven themselves won six of their nine matches in the league, good enough for a third-placed finish in Group A, but the campaign included defeats to St Michael’s and Éire Óg. Their opponents Clonakilty had a 2-0-7 league record and, while it was a close game, the form was ultimately reflected in Rosscarbery on Sunday.

Similarly, few in Brinny on Saturday would have expected anything other than a Nemo Rangers win when they faced Newcestown. Nemo, having won the 2020 final the week before beginning the 2021 championship, failed to make it out of the group stages and so have the motivation to bounce back from that as well as the fact that this year is their centenary so they’re keener than ever to bring the Andy Scannell Cup back to Trabeg.

They showed that with a record of nine wins from nine in the round-robin section of the league and then followed it with a 3-20 to 0-4 semi-final victory over Éire Óg.

The Ovens side had done well overall in the league, winning five and drawing three with just one defeat, to county champions St Finbarr’s in the opening round. That game was played early as the sides were due to meet in the opening game of the championship and that too went the way of the Barrs, who triumphed by 1-12 to 0-9.

In the same group on Saturday, Carbery Rangers beat Carrigaline by 2-10 to 1-9, following on from the pair finishing fourth and sixth respectively in Group B in the league – their spring clash was a draw. Third and fifth in that section were Valley Rovers and Douglas – the Innishannon side edged their city opponents in Ballygarvan on Friday night, having had four points to spare when the sides clashed in the league.

So, while the league can never be taken as a reliable benchmark, not least because the sides with inter-county players suffer the most as they are unavailable, it would appear that there was some link in terms of form.

It will be interesting to see if this weekend’s Co-op SuperStores Premier SHC games back up that assertion or if they display a divergence to illustrate the difference in intensity between the competitions.

Douglas topped Group A, only losing one game and that after their semi-final place was secured. They face champions Midleton, whom they beat by six points in March. The Magpies finished sixth in the section, meaning they will be in Division 2 next year.

Blackrock were second to Douglas and they meet Sarsfields, who were top of Group B with eight wins and a draw. The sides were due to meet in the league semi-final and that will double up with the championship game.

Na Piarsaigh take on Bishopstown on Sunday, having finished fifth and ninth respectively in Group A, while on Friday St Finbarr’s meet a Charleville side to whom they lost in April – the Barrs finished seventh in Group B as the North Cork side took third.

The Erin’s Own-Glen Rovers game on Saturday is between teams who came fourth and sixth in Group A, Erin’s Own winning by a point in the league opener. The other game Saturday is between Kanturk and Newtownshandrum – they were in opposite league groups but Kanturk came second in Group B with Newtown seventh in Group A so this will be a test of the senior A champions’ credentials.

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