FOUR Bon Secours Cork SAFC semi-finalists representing four different divisions will light up Páirc Uí Chaoimh this weekend.
St Michael’s take on O’Donovan Rossa (5pm) prior to Clyda Rovers and Knocknagree’s matchup (7pm) in an enticing Saturday evening double-header.
All four clubs have pedigree when it comes to the SAFC. That’s why it’s difficult to pick a winner from a quartet blessed with abundant attacking weaponry.
As a neutral, you’d need a heart of stone not to wish St Michael’s well considering the heartache they have experienced in recent years.
SAFC runners-up in 2021 after losing to an injury-time goal, PIFC runners-up in 2019, 2018 and 2017, Michael’s have gone close, oh so close, in four of the last five years.
Wins over Knocknagree, Bishopstown and Fermoy cemented an unblemished Group C record and the Seandún club’s place in this year’s county semi-finals.
An even spread of scorers including Adam Hennessy, Eric Hegarty, Keith Hegarty and Robbie Cotter - St Michael’s had eleven names on the scoresheet in the nine-point thumping of Bishopstown – bodes well for a club desperate to shed an unwanted bridesmaids tag.
It is two years since St Michaels’ opponents O’Donovan Rossa contested a county semi-final.
The West Cork club lost out to eventual champions Éire Óg on that occasion before a disappointing 2021 SAFC campaign delivered one draw and two defeats.
Under Gene O’Donovan, a revitalised O’Donovan Rossa secured their place in this year’s knockout stages with a 3-16 to 1-10 win over Newmarket and 2-16 to 1-9 defeat of local rivals Ilen Rovers.
The Skibbereen club’s subsequent five-point quarter-final defeat of Dohenys, in another West Cork derby, was achieved in workmanlike rather than spectacular fashion.
In Kevin Davis, Rossa’s possess one of the championship’s most lethal marksmen. The experienced forward has already amassed 0-26 so far this season.
Davis, along with Ryan Price, Donal Óg Hodnett, Dylan Hourihane, Mark Collins and Elliot Connolly have been integral to the Carbery side’s path to the penultimate round.
It is going to take something special to deny St Michael’s another county final appearance. Yet, an improving O’Donovan Rossa is capable of pulling off a surprise victory.
Clyda Rovers and Knocknagree’s Cork SAFC semi-final should prove equally fascinating.
Avondhu club, Clyda, qualified for the last four by virtue of an undefeated record and topping Group A ahead of O’Donovan Rossa, Ilen Rovers and Newmarket.
Dan O’Callaghan sits top of Rovers’ scoring charts thanks to 3-7 accrued over three group matches. 2-3 of O’Callaghan’s total came in a decisive final group victory over O’Donovan Rossa.
Having fallen at the quarter-finals stage in 2021, Clyda look better prepared for a shot at SAFC glory thanks to the aforementioned O’Callaghan, Conor Flanagan, Conor Corbett and Eoin Walsh’s combined threat.
Reaching a county final will be far from straightforward considering the quality of Clyda’s opponents.
Knocknagree’s ascension to the senior A ranks is a remarkable story. So much so, that last season’s quarter-final exit to Dohenys was deemed a huge disappointment for the 2020 Cork PIFC county champions.
John Fintan Daly’s side squeezed into the last eight for the second year running thanks to a late Denis O’Connor brace of goals in the 3-9 to 1-5 group win over Fermoy.
Yet, the Duhallow side underlined their credentials with a three-point quarter-final victory over Béal Áth’n Ghaorthaidh. Knocknagree will fancy their chances against Clyda if Fintan O’Connor, David O’Connor, and Michael McSweeney are firing on all cylinders.