SOME great football semi-finals to look forward to this weekend.
Hopefully the settled weather continues to ensure football is the key factor for the winners.
Training in the spring is on softer pitches and it’s always a good sign if you are still training later in the year when surfaces start to get softer again.
The present competition is like two mini championships. Part one is focusing on getting out of the groups while also avoiding the dreaded relegation scenario. Then it’s about pushing on towards a county title if you make it that far.
Starting with the premier intermediate battles; Kanturk and Cill Na Martra met in Mallow on Saturday. These teams know each other very well which can create a certain rivalry and potential dislike of each other.
Both would have been well fancied in recent seasons to progress to higher levels. Kanturk were disappointed to lose the delayed 2020 final to Knocknagree and last year’s decider to Newmarket. Cill Na Martra, meanwhile, came unstuck themselves in recent years, losing to Kanturk in the 2020 semi-final and last year to Newmarket.
It’s one thing losing, but it’s a particularly long winter if championship defeat comes after a poor performance.
The 2020 semi-final was a cracking, intense contest. Kanturk scored some excellent early points from distance, led by Ian Walsh, while at the same time Cill Martra threw the kitchen sink at Kanturk, but their defence held firm valiantly.
Kanturk will plan to start well and force Cill Na Martra to chase the game which they do not have to do too often. I have seen Cill Na Martra this year and have been impressed by their organisation, spirit, and execution. The challenge is to bring this early season form into the knockout stages.
The young Walshs are a year older so this group only has the potential to get better. Considering Kanturk are operating at premier senior hurling there would have been a big focus on that, but they’ve been able to concentrate on football recently. A great contest awaits.
The other side of the draw pairs Iveleary and Bantry in Dunmanway. Iveleary are a prime example of a team pushing on after escaping the junior ranks. Bantry are hoping to bounce back after relegation from senior A. This contest could come down to the impact of the best-known footballers on each side.
Will Iveleary have a plan to deal with Ruairí Deane’s direct running? Will Bantry cope with Iveleleary’s multiple scoring threats? Scores win games but defensive performance could be deciding factor.
Certainly, a defensive plan will be very much in Ballincollig minds this week. Conceding 1-14 to Carbery would indicate they gave up more attacking space than Nemo were allowed by Carbery Rangers.
Will Ballincollig look to create a low-scoring contest similar to Nemo’s last two games? Or will they back their forwards?
Considering the last meeting in the 2020 quarter-final where Nemo won easily, scoring five goals, I can see Ballincollig looking to frustrate Nemo early on and go from there.
Dealing with a version of ‘blanket defence’ might hinder Nemo, but this tactic is not new. However, if Nemo don’t improve from their last two games a surprise may be on the cards.
There is the expectation of another cracker between Castlehaven and St Finbarr’s, the third year in a row they meet in the semi-final. I would fancy St Finbarr’s to come through here in normal time.
It’ll be a ferocious contest, but I feel the Barrs have developed their attacking game further and are not as reliant on Steven Sherlock. Mallow created plenty of chances in the quarter-final and the champions have the ability to convert these types of chances.
Castlehaven have the ability to get a burst for multiple scores in a short space of time. That usually involves them getting goals so they can’t be ruled out either. Considering the 2020 final loss to Nemo and last year’s penalty shootout defeat to the Barrs, hunger will certainly not be an issue.
This can take energy and performance to another level so the opening quarter will tell a lot.
Using Páirc Uí Chaoimh for many of the knockout games is another plus for the club campaign, for supporters and players.