THE clash of Austin Stacks and Duagh is the big one in Kerry hurling this week.
The County Junior Hurling Championship Final takes place in Abbeydorney this Saturday afternoon at 3pm and features a clash of town and country, a clash of hurling aristocrats – Austin Stacks, lest we forget, are the holders of three senior county titles – against newcomers to the game of hurling – the hurling club in Duagh was only established in the last decade and even now football very much rules the roost in the parish.
Even so despite Duagh's relative lack of hurling pedigree this contest has some history to it. Duagh defeated Austin Stacks in the semi-final of last year's championship – Duagh travelled to Connolly Park last year for that semi-final and came away with the victory on a scoreline of twelve points to nine – and the Rockies will be hoping to put that one right. On the other hand Duagh, led by senior and Under 21 county panelist Eoin Kelly, will be hoping to make up for the disappointment of losing last year's county final to Kilgarvan.
The Mall did gain a measure of revenge over Kilgarvan already, running out comprehensive winners over Kilgarvan in the semifinal of this competition – they won on a scoreline of 0-14 to 1-6. Kelly was in fine form that afternoon in Kilgarvan with corner-forward Shane Ahern also chipping in with a couple of scores.
Stacks, meanwhile, squeaked out a victory over Kenmare in the second semi-final in Connolly Park. From that game they would appear to have a nice spread of scorers. Joe Brennan, Danny Maguire, Ronan Doherty and John McCarthy all got on the scoreboard with Paul Daly popping over five from placed balls.
So how is this game going to go? Despite this being Duagh's second final in as many years the odds are against them winning their first ever county title in the small ball game (and just their third ever in both football and hurling). A quick glance back to a game between the two sides in the County League makes for sobering reading from Duagh's point of view. The Rockies travelled to Duagh and ran out comprehensive winners on a scoreline of 5-12 to 0-9.
As we're fond of saying here in Kerry league is league and championship is championship, nevertheless it's hard to ignore a scoreline such as that. Can Duagh turn the tables in O'Dorney on Saturday afternoon?
Sure they can, any team can do anything on any given day. It's just that the Stacks are, perhaps, better placed to win this game and take this title.
Verdict: Austin Stacks