While this coming weekend represents the ‘break week’ for the clubs in the county hurling and football championships, the time will be used to produce the premier senior quarter-final representatives from the divisions/colleges sections.
The hurling semi-finals take place tonight and tomorrow night, with MTU Cork taking on Imokilly in Páirc Uí Rinn at 7.30pm tonight while UCC meet Avondhu in Mourneabbey tomorrow at the same time.
It’s MTU’s first time to compete in the county championship under the name that was adopted in 2020 – Covid-19 restrictions were behind the decision not to compete in that year or in 2021. Their last game was 0-23 to 0-13 defeat by UCC in 2019, while their last meeting with Imokilly was the year before that, a 5-14 to 0-11 loss.
Cork reserve goalkeeper Ger Collins of Ballinhassig is likely to be a key man for the college side, who are managed by Ballyhea’s John Mortell, while his fellow Carrigdhoun man William Hurley (Valley Rovers) should also feature, along with Tipperary native Aaron Browne and Stephen Keoghan from Kilkenny.
Lisgoold’s Liam O’Shea played for MTU in the Fitzgibbon Cup but he will be lining out for the opposition tonight and should be a valuable asset for Imokilly, who now have former Cork minor and U20 manager Denis Ring in charge.
The East Cork division were the team to progress to the county championship proper last year after beating UCC and Seandún and they are likely to be able to call upon many of that side again – though one notable absentee will be Shane O’Regan, whose transfer from Watergrasshill to Sarsfields has rendered him ineligible.
Last year, there was string representation from Castlemartyr (Barry Lawton, Brian Lawton, Michael Kelly and Joe Stack while Ciarán Joyce was on the panel but injured) and Castlelyons (Jack Barry, Colm Barry, Anthony Spillane and Alan Fenton) while Aghada’s Michael Russell and Lisgoold’s John Cronin bring good experience to the fray.
Tomorrow night in Mourneabbey will be the first meeting of UCC and Avondhu in the hurling championship since a 3-20 to 0-9 win for the college in 2018 at the same stage as CIT and Imokilly’s last clash.
Avondhu come into this second stage of the competition having already emerged from the first phase, which involved themselves, Carbery, Carrigdhoun, Duhallow and Muskerry.
In their opening game, the North Cork division saw off Carbery by 2-23 to 3-15 in Coachford, with Colin O’Brien scoring 1-10 while Stephen Condon notched 1-8.
Next up for them was a semi-final against Muskerry in Donoughmore – while O’Brien was absent, Condon kept up his impressive scoring ways, landing 1-10 in a 3-18 to 0-19 victory where the other goals were scored by James Magner and Jack Twomey.
O’Brien was back for the preliminary final against Duhallow in Glantane but had to line out at centre-back as they were without captain Mark Keane. The final scoreline of 1-28 to 0-22 in their favour looks comprehensive but it was only in extra time that they pulled away after a contest where the sides were level on 11 different occasions.
The time since then has been dominated with club action and so chances for the squad to gather have been limited but the games played will stand to them to some degree.
Like MTU, UCC’s squad will depend on player availability given external factors like club commitments outside of Cork, injury and summer travel abroad. Among those involved in the Fitzgibbon and not from senior Cork clubs were goalkeeper Ian Butler (Kildorrery) and inter-county defender Niall O’Leary (Castlelyons),
The winners of the two semi-finals will clash in the final on Sunday night in Páirc Ui Rinn, with the victorious side then joining the six clubs that qualify from the group stages of the Premier SHC.