Rebel Óg minor hurling semi-finals will feature a host of cracking clashes

Rory Noonan looks back at the final round of group games in the U17 championship, with Douglas, Midleton, Valley Rovers and Ballincollig left standing at P1
Rebel Óg minor hurling semi-finals will feature a host of cracking clashes

Fermoy's Christopher Ring tackling Ballincollig's Sean O'Neill in their Premier 1 MHC draw. Picture: Denis Boyle

IF you wanted excitement, action, and plenty of entertainment then any venue hosting minor hurling and football championship games was the place to be over the last six weeks.

Aside from some great games, there was plenty at stake right up to the final round-robin games in the Premier 1 and 2 groups, before the semi-finalists were eventually known.

Just take last Friday night as an example of what was going on over the last few weeks and look at the group containing Ballincollig, Douglas, Na Piarsaigh, and Fermoy.

Going into the final round all four sides still had a chance of making the semi-finals and at different stages over the 60 minutes the combination of who was going to go through changed several times.

Douglas were expected to advance as they had four points with the others behind them. However, they knew they couldn’t take it easy as a loss would open the door for possibly Na Piarsaigh and Ballincollig to pip them at the post.

 Luis Fogarty and Cathal Hallahan, Douglas, put pressure on Ross O'Sullivan, Na Piarsaigh, last Friday night. Picture: Jim Coughlan.
Luis Fogarty and Cathal Hallahan, Douglas, put pressure on Ross O'Sullivan, Na Piarsaigh, last Friday night. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

And at one point that possibility was on the cards as Na Piarsaigh rattled Douglas in the opening four minutes. Ross O’Sullivan nailed a free after four minutes but a minute later the home side were rocked again with a quality Na Piarsaigh goal. After a high ball was dropped into the square Conor Meaney got in behind the Douglas defence to drill a low shot to the corner.

This was just the lift the famed northside club needed and when word came through that Fermoy were ahead of Ballincollig the group was opened up.

Eventually, Douglas came back to beat Na Piarsaigh and Ballincollig needed that to ensure they went safely through. 

The Village knew a Douglas win would see them into the semis, but to Ballincollig’s credit, they battled back to earn a draw which was enough for them to qualify on their own merit.

This will be a boost to their young players who lost out on scoring averages in the football championship a week earlier, the second time in three years this has happened to them.

The other group was just as exciting with an injury-time goal enough to see Midleton get the better of Valley Rovers, which saw both sides advance at the expense of the defending champions Glen Rovers and Sarsfields. That game ended in a draw which wasn’t enough for the Glen who needed Valleys to win and a win for themselves to qualify.

That’s how tight it was all throughout both championships with no side able to relax until the final ball was struck in round three of the round-robin series.

A number of years ago the round-robin series of games at this and some other age levels was brought in by Rebel Og and it has been a concept that clubs have bought into and seem to be happy with. The results this year, bar one or two games, show that the gradings were fairly accurate with few games seeing sides getting well beaten.

Of course, you will get the odd game that happens which can be down to injuries, holidays, or other reasons, but overall the results would show that groups were fairly competitive.

At least with three games sides has the chance to recover from a first-round loss and most often two wins is enough to qualify for the semi-finals.

PAIRINGS

So in the Premier 1 hurling the semi-final line-up is Midleton v Ballincollig and Valley Rovers v Douglas. To keep all players involved in games there is also a Challenge Cup which will see Na Piarsaigh take on Sarsfields and Glen face Fermoy in the semi-finals.

While these sides will be disappointed to exit the championship they will regroup and often ties in the Challenge Cup are every bit as good, if not better, than the championship.

The Premier 2 MHC had more teams in it so quarter-finals are needed in this competition. Shandrum and Killeagh, on scoring averages, are straight into the semis, with Aghada taking on Bride Rovers and Erin's Own facing St Finbarr’s in the quarter-finals.

In the Challenge Cup at P2 level, Ballinhassig and Inniscarra are into the semis, with St Catherine’s facing Bishopstown and Carrigtwohill playing Mallow to join them.

These ties are due to be played on Friday, September 2 with the football semis a week later. So an exciting hurling round-robin series comes to a conclusion but there is still plenty to play for in the coming weeks.

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