NORTH SLIGO rivals Calry/St. Joseph's and Coolera/Strandhill come face to face in what promises to be a pulsating county senior hurling championship final at Markievicz Park on Sunday next.
Calry, the defending champions, will start as favourites to lift the coveted title for the second year in a row but they will have to be at their best to overcome the challenge of a youthful Coolera side who are bidding to create their own peice of history by winning the Championship for the first time.
Calry, who have assumed Tubbercurry's mantle as the dominant force in club hurling, have been down this road on several occasions in recent years and that vital level of experience could give them the edge in what has the makings of a tight and tense encounter.
If the defending champions can rely on years of big match experience, Coolera will be hoping that youthful exuberance comes up trumps for them.
And so it will be a fascinating clash between youth and experience in Sunday's final and the prospect of carving out a special place in hurling history is bound to be an added motivational factor for the young Coolera boys. And they can also take heart from the fact that they beat Calry by a point in the Dermot Molloy League final this season.
Beaten in the final two years ago by Western Gaels, Coolera are returning to the decider with a more settled team on this occasion and their thrilling one point victory over a strong Tubbercurry side in the semi-final last month will serve as perfect preparation for the big day.There was much to admire about Coolera's effort that day but they will probably have to find further improvement if they are to topple a Calry team which was in devastating form in the semi-final, trouncing Western Gaels by 3-20 to 0-5.
Calry possess great strength and power in every line of the team and once they get into their stride they are very difficult to contain. After last year's final victory over Tubbercurry, they clearly haven't lost any of their hunger or desire and the fact that they are favourites to land the title again will hardly detract them from their ultimate objective.
Keith Raymond, the most accomplished hurler in the county, is Calry's talisman, able to drift between midfield and the forward line to lethal effect, and his scoring ability from play and from frees gives the side a dynamic dimension.
Liam Reidy at centre-back is a forceful figure for Calry while Fiachra Coyne and Michael Gilmartin are other resolute defenders. The talented Eamon Kelly is likely to partner Raymond at midfield with David Collery, Damien Burke, Kevin Gilmartin and Ronan Cox carrying plenty of threat in the forwards.
Coolera possess plenty of scoring power throughout their team - wing back, Gary Cadden chipped in with four points in the semi-final - and Michael and Sean O'Rourke ensure that there is plenty of solid defensive cover as well. The midfield engine room is manned effectively by Niall Cadden and Martin O'Reilly
Up front, the likes of Conor O'Mahoney, Larry Cadden and top scorer, Errol Flanagan, have match-winning potential.