LAST year’s runners-up, two losing semi-finalists and JAFC champions make up a formidable final four in this weekend’s Bon Secours IAFC penultimate round.
Two eagerly anticipated IAFC semi-finals take place on Saturday afternoon.
First up is a mouth-watering Avondhu derby and repeat of the 2021 last-four clash between Kilshannig and Mitchelstown in Fermoy (2pm).
That will be followed by last year’s junior A county champions Boherbue taking on 2021 IAFC losing semi-finalists Aghabullogue in Millstreet (4pm).
If Kilshannig and Mitchelstown’s second successive county semi-final is half as good as last year’s encounter then supporters are in for a treat.
Kildorrery was the venue for the Avondhu clubs previous meeting last November. That was a game in which Mitchelstown dug deep to overcome a six-point deficit and reach the county decider thanks to a 2-11 to 1-13 win.
The depth of Mitchelstown’s panel was apparent that afternoon. Cathail O’Mahony retired injured at half time and fellow Cork senior Mark Keane was in Australia.
Having lost the 2020 decider to Rockchapel, Mitchelstown fell to Iveleary in following year’s final but rebounded positively to reach the IAFC county semi-finals for a third successive season.
Averaging 2-13 a game, Mitchelstown have seen off Millstreet, Glanmire and Dromtarriffe en route to this year’s penultimate round.
Cork senior Cathail O’Mahony is his club’s and the IAFC’s top scorer with 4-22. Shane Beston, David Dineen and Seán Walsh have also chipped in with important scores for an Avondhu club desperate to avoid, provided they get there, a third consecutive county final defeat.
Kilshannig’s path to this year’s semi-finals began with a win over Ballydesmond and a one-point loss to eventual Group A winners Adrigole.
A 0-11 to 0-10 defeat of Gabriel Rangers saw the latter play the majority of the game with fourteen players after Keith O’Driscoll’s early sending off.
The Avondhu men leaned heavily on Kieran Twomey and Eanna Hanlon for scores that afternoon before facing Glanworth in the quarter-finals. A much-improved display saw substitute Tom Cunningham’s three points and 0-4 from O’Hanlon cement a 1-12 to 1-8 victory.
An underdogs tag will suit Kilshannig but Mitchelstown should have too much firepower up front and edge a close semi-final.
Boherbue’s juggernaut continues its journey on Saturday afternoon. The reigning JAFC county champions are looking to make it through to a second county final in as many years.
The Duhallow club joined Mitchelstown in the last eight following two wins and a draw during the opening phase.
Showing why they belong at the IAFC grade, Boherbue went toe-to-toe with Adrigole in a marvellous quarter-final that went to extra-time in Ballingeary. Jerry O’Connor proved Boherbue’s hero, scoring the winning point deep into injury-time in a cracking 1-15 to 1-14 triumph.
Aghabullogue return to the IAFC semi-finals for a third successive time having lost to 2021’s eventual champions Iveleary last November and Mitchelstown the year before.
In 2022, maximum points from their three group encounters against Dromtarriffe, Ballinora and St Finbarr’s preceded the Muskerry club’s excellent 3-9 to 1-10 quarter-final defeat of Kildorrery.
Top scorer, David Thompson (5-18) is enjoying a stellar season for an Aghabullogue side in which Brian Dineen, Cialan O’Sullivan and Evan O’Sullivan have featured prominently.
This should be another close semi-final but the momentum behind Boherbue cannot be ignored. True, Aghabullogue have improved with each passing game but their Duhallow opponents are likely to prove too strong and reach this year’s IAFC decider.