PIFC preview: Iveleary and Cill na Martra aim to set up all-Muskerry final

Kanturk and Bantry Blues are more than capable to getting to the decider as well
PIFC preview: Iveleary and Cill na Martra aim to set up all-Muskerry final

Cill Na Martra's Gearóid Ó Goillidhe and St Vincent's Wayne Long tussle for the ball during the Bon Secours PIFC at Coachford. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

AN all-Muskerry Bons Secours Cork Premier Intermediate football county decider remains a possibility because of Iveleary and Cill na Marta’s presence in this year’s semi-finals.

Dunmanway is the venue for Bantry Blues and Iveleary’s PIFC semi-final on Saturday (4pm). At the same time, Mallow GAA grounds will host Kanturk and Cill na Martra’s last four encounter.

Each of the semi-finalists will fancy their chances of reaching the final, and with good reason.

Bantry’s attempts to rebound from last year’s relegation has seen the West Cork club enjoy a reinvigorated campaign.

It is less than a year since the two-time county senior champions were defeated 1-16 to 1-9 by Bishopstown in an SAFC relegation play-off.

Led by former Cork senior Ruairí Deane, the Blues gained automatic qualification for this year’s PIFC semi-finals by virtue of merited wins over Aghada, Castletownbere, and Na Piarsaigh.

An even spread of scores among the Bantry panel has seen the likes of Arthur Coakley, Paddy Cronin, Daniel Murray, Seth Thornton, and Kevin Coakley flourish. Accruing 7-32, Bantry’s season has been a far cry from the past two years.

For all the positivity surrounding the West Cork club, it pales into comparison when analysing Iveleary’s rise up the club ranks.

Last December, a 0-20 to 0-7 defeat of Mitchelstown cemented the Muskerry side’s second county title in quick succession. That IAFC triumph followed just four months after a delayed JAFC county success over Boherbue.

The Inchigeela club has carried that imperious run of form into this year’s premier intermediate grade. Big wins over St Vincent’s and Nemo Rangers’ second string came either side of a chastening nine-point defeat to fellow semi-finalists Cill na Martra.

A 1-16 to 0-12 quarter-final defeat of Rockchapel saw John McNulty’s team get back on track and set up a last four meeting with Bantry.

Blessed with the combined skills of Cathal Vaughan (top scorer with 0-24), Chris Óg Jones, Barry O’Leary, Ian Jones, and Liam Kearney, Iveleary will start Saturday’s semi-final as favourites.

A shock defeat to Nemo Rangers had Cill na Martra on the back foot on the opening weekend of the championship.

Yet the manner in which the Muskerry club rebounded speaks volumes for their title credentials.

Micheál Ó Deasúna scored 1-6 in an impressive 2-17 to 0-16 defeat of local rivals Iveleary before contributing 2-5 in John McNulty’s side’s next victory over St Vincent’s.

Those results set up a quarter-final meeting with Aghada. Cill na Martra utilised their previous knockout round experiences to register a seven-point win.

Ó Deasúna is the PIFC’s top scorer with 5-19, that total racked up across four county championship matches. There is plenty of experience and talent on each line of Cill na Marta’s starting 15 including Damien Ó hUrdail, Dan Ó Duinnín, Antoin Ó Cuana, Gearóid Ó Goillíidhe, Damien Ó hUrdail, and Danny Ó Conaill.

Losing semi-finalists in 2021 and 2020 plus losing quarter-finalists in 2019, Cill na Martra are used to reaching the business end of the PIFC. Qualifying for a county decider would represent a welcome boost to a Muskerry club hoping to go one step further this year.

Standing in Cill na Martra’s way of a premier intermediate county final appearance is a Kanturk side with similar ambitions.

Under Martin O’Brien’s stewardship, the dual club has every right to fancy their chances on the back of an impressive campaign.

Last July, this reporter witnessed Kanturk defeat senior A club Dohenys 1-18 to 0-5 in Dunmanway to reach the Bon Secours Cork GAA Division 2 county league final.

It was an eye-opening performance in which Kanturk’s Walsh clan were on top form. Ian weighing in with 1-10, Alan 1-2, and Paul 0-3.

That display was an ominous sign that a physically imposing and talented Kanturk team was primed to put the heartache of losing consecutive PIFC county finals behind them.

The Duhallow club won all three of their PIFC group games against Rockchapel, Macroom, and Naomh Abán to cement an automatic semi-final berth.

Amassing 8-42 along the way, Kanturk are more than capable of rebounding from last year’s county final defeat to Newmarket and 2020’s loss to Knocknagree at the same juncture.

Both PIFC semi-finals should deliver exciting and high scoring contests if the four qualifiers’ recent performances are anything to go by.

So, it is Iveleary to shade their encounter with Bantry Blues and Kanturk to overcome Cill na Martra.

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