Paudie Kissane: Ballincollig remain the outsiders even if Nemo and Haven need to improve

St Finbarr's made it through directly to the Premier SFC semi-finals as top seeds
Paudie Kissane: Ballincollig remain the outsiders even if Nemo and Haven need to improve

Ballincollig's Liam O'Connell being chased by Carbery's Brian Everard at Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Sunday evening. Picture: Denis Boyle

MOST of the focus last weekend was on the Premier Senior Football quarter-finals, and rightly so, but there were also three huge relegation play-offs.

There can be small margins between different teams on any given day but over the course of three group games, there are no hard luck stories. If you are good enough you will qualify, while in contrast if performances and results are poor, relegation looms large. Éire Óg, Newmarket and Naobh Abán can be happy to win their play-off but it is a feeling of relief more than anything.

As competitive and enjoyable as the group stages are, generally the intensity, focus, and quality goes up a level once you reach the knockout stages. 

A team can recover and learn from a sub-par performance but the terms change now. A team must be able to execute on the day.

In the Premier grade, Nemo Rangers and Castlehaven were favourites while it was hard to predict a winner of the Carbery and Ballincollig game.

Back in early July, Nemo Rangers showed their intent as they comprehensively defeated Éire Óg in the league semi-final. No doubt a big collective push for honours this year been their centenary.

Since then their performances have been mixed. They were vulnerable defensively in the second half versus Castlehaven once Stephen Cronin was replaced and they did enough against Clonakilty but no more with a high wide count.

This weekend Carbery Rangers followed a similar template to Clon in dropping multiple players back in the scoring zone. This was led by the placing of the experienced John Hayes as the sweeper, limiting key forwards Mark Cronin, Luke Connolly and Barry O’Driscoll in the danger area.

DISCIPLINED

Carbery Rangers held possession for long periods at times which no doubt frustrated Nemo. Also, their defence was very disciplined for the most part. Even allowing for the concession of the first goal the game-plan was effective in limiting Nemo to 1-1 in the first half. Dropping so many players back though they found it difficult to create enough at the other end.

Reviewing the game the second goal was the difference, Barry O’Driscoll reacting to a ball back off the post quicker than anyone and clinically finishing. Nemo will know better performances will be required from here on but then again, in a semi-final, they will be hard to beat.

No doubt in the lead into the Ballincollig game, Carbery had a bit more time together creating greater cohesion and unity. Secondly, many of division’s club teams are finished which increases hunger. There was a freshness also for those not involved with their clubs on the same weekend as the Premier quarter-final. A factor that hindered Duhallow’s campaign in recent seasons.

There were still questions until they played an experienced club side. Many of the divisional games can be open affairs but the term of engagement change after that. Carbery did play some attractive football but you won’t win many knockout games conceding four goals.

Ballincollig meanwhile will be delighted to have reached the last four considering their form a few weeks back getting beaten by Mallow while only scoring 0-6. 

It will be interesting if they follow the same defensive template in two weeks that Nemo Rangers struggled to break down so far.

 Andrew Whelton, Castlehaven, handpasses the ball over the bar for a point against Mallow. Picture: Larry Cummins
Andrew Whelton, Castlehaven, handpasses the ball over the bar for a point against Mallow. Picture: Larry Cummins

In the other quarter-final, Castlehaven have tradition and results show why they are hard to beat come the knockout stages in any given year. I expected Mallow to provide a stern challenge as ultimately they had nothing to lose having gained promotion from the Senior A grade last year. They showed good form in the group stages.

The key difference was the Castlehaven forward unit. Yes, Mallow will regret some of the wides but ultimately Castlehaven created better chances and converted them.

Once Castlehaven won possession on many occasions they were able to transition more effectively.

CLINICAL

Mallow did get joy early on with direct early ball into Sean Hayes at 14 but it became less effective in the second half.

The sending-off of Damien Cahalane early in the second created a platform for Mallow to push on and eat into Castlehaven’s lead. Mallow just didn’t have the same composure in front of goal to really put the pressure on. Converting scores is such a key part of the overall performance. It’s like in any team sport, the teams winning are just more clinical.

Overall two intriguing semi-finals await in two weeks. Let’s hope the good weather continues.

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