RENOWNED strongholds of Cork football feature prominently in the quarter-finals of the Bon Secours SAFC over the weekend.
First up is the meeting of Ballingeary and Knocknagree in Millstreet this afternoon at 3.30pm and Bantry’s Wolfe Tone Park is sure to packed for tomorrow’s west Cork derby between O’Donovan Rossa and Dohenys at 2pm.
Ballingeary enter the contest as the All-Ireland Gaeltacht champions and that success has clearly inspired them because they just about emerged from a very competitive Group B containing Dohenys, Kiskeam and Bandon.
Indeed, there were tiny margins all the way through the qualifying portion of the championship as Ballingeary pipped Dohenys for section toppers by just a point, finishing on five points from two wins and a draw with the Dunmanway club.
But the Gaeltacht’s push for an automatic semi-final berth came up agonisingly short after losing to Group A winners Clyda Rovers, who also finished with five points, though with a scoring difference of +4 to Ballingeary’s +3.
St Michael’s also steered clear of the quarter-finals by winning all three games in Group C and now await the identity of their next opponents.
Ballingeary, indeed, had to battle all the way in their concluding game with relegation-threatened Bandon, scraping a 1-13 to 1-12 victory with seven players registering scores.
They’re averaging around 1-12 per outing, but concede almost as much and there’s no better side around than Knocknagree to take advantage even if they were fortunate to emerge ahead of Bishopstown and Fermoy as they all ended with just two points, but Knocknagree’s +3 scoring difference was appreciably better than their rivals, who were both in the red.
After losing to Michael’s and then stunned by the Town, the Duhallow club needed a big win over Fermoy to have any chance of progressing and a 3-9 to 1-5 victory ticked all the right boxes.
Injuries have hurt Knocknagree badly but the O’Connors, Denis and Fintan, contributed 2-5 between them and they still have the nucleus of a talented side capable of extending their season.
There’ll be an exodus from Skibbereen and Dunmanway to the scenic Bantry venue for a west Cork derby that is throbbing with excitement and anticipation.
Yet, Skibb will wonder why they’re even involved tomorrow because they were rightly fancied to complete a clean sweep in Group A after impressive wins over Newmarket and Ilen Rovers only to be stung by Clyda, who won by 3-7 to 1-10.
Instead of planning for a semi-final, Rossas now face a showdown with Dohenys who’ve drawn twice, Ballingeary and Kiskeam, and scoring 0-20 against Bandon.
The game pits the evergreen Kevin Davis for Skibbereen, their leading scorer with 0-20, contributing 0-5 from frees in all three games, against the more youthful Mark Buckley and Fionn Herlihy, the Dohenys pair lending 1-15 between them to the cause.
It's also quarter-final time in the PIFC with Cill na Martra facing Aghada in Ballincollig this afternoon at 3.30 and Iveleary meeting Rockchapel in Banteer tomorrow at 3pm.
Bantry Blues and Kanturk await the winners in the semi-finals in a championship that is also shaping up for a thrilling climax.
Cill na Martra and Iveleary qualified from Group A, edging Nemo Rangers’ second string on scoring difference, while Aghada and Rockchapel were runners-up to Bantry and Kanturk respectively.
Micheal O Deasuna’s 3-17 makes him the stand-out figure for Cill na Martra with Cork’s Dan O Duinnin also in a high-scoring forward sector.
Aghada did well to pip Castletownbere with Fintan Cody contributing 2-10 so far but face a major challenge here.
It’s the same the Rock, who managed 4-9 against Kanturk, but still lost by five points though Mickey McAullife’s 5-3 is noteworthy.
Iveleary are all the rage, however, especially with Chris Óg Jones and Cathal Vaughan in scintillating form.
Two IAFC quarter-finals take place this afternoon at 3.30 with Glanworth and Kilshannig meeting in Kildorrery having squared up in the group stage in 2021, when Kilshannig won well.
Mitchelstown, last season’s beaten finalists, will be fancied against Dromtarriffe in Kanturk.
Tomorrow, Boherbue have momentum against Adrigole in Ballingeary at 3pm the same time Aghabullogue, the only qualifiers with a 100% record, play Kildorrery, in Mallow.