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Massive weekend of senior hurling awaits us



Kieran Lane, Kilworth in action Colm Casey, Inniscarra during last year’s County PIHC semi-final in Páirc Uí Rinn. Photo by Jim Coughlan

Kieran Lane, Kilworth in action Colm Casey, Inniscarra during last year’s County PIHC semi-final in Páirc Uí Rinn. Photo by Jim Coughlan

Kieran Lane, Kilworth in action Colm Casey, Inniscarra during last year’s County PIHC semi-final in Páirc Uí Rinn. Photo by Jim Coughlan

SAHC Round 1: Fr O'Neills v Kilworth, Friday July 31, Ballynoe 7.30pm - The reigning County and Provincial Intermediate hurling champions are back in championship action this Friday night when they take on Kilworth at Ballynoe.

Fr O'Neills will have had plenty time to get over the heart-breaking loss of losing out in the All Ireland Final earlier in the year and will now be looking to get life as a senior club off to the best possible start.

There will be a real sense of Déjà vu for both sides here as this was the pairing that faced off in the Premier Final last October - O'Neills taking the spoils by 3-23 to 1-20.

Declan Dalton should again be the main man for Fr O'Neills with the Cork star likely to be the talisman once more.

Billy Dunne is another that could be key subject to getting the nod to play. Cork's Ger Mellerick is obviously another to watch for the boys in green.

For Kilworth, Noel McNamara is likely to again be their go to guy, particularly from frees with Eoin Carey another looking for revenge this weekend.

The easy money says Fr O'Neills here. A club that really has been on the march over the last few years will see the lover tier of senior hurling as another stepping stone to the top flight of county hurling.

Kilworth, for their part, showed last season that they are not too far off the mark and will look to take advantage of this late start to club championship hurling.

If I had to bet id go Fr O'Neills by three or four - but beware of the wounded animal waiting for their chance to strike back.

Bandon v Charleville

Saturday August 1

Mourneabbey 5pm

If I had to pick one game this weekend that should define just what championship hurling is all about then this would definitely be that game.

Bandon and Charleville, two teams that secured their elevation to senior status before the restructuring was ever muted. Two teams that have impressed at intermediate, made strides at senior and now will fancy their chances of going all the way this time round.

Charleville are the team that just keep on giving. 10 years of excitement and drama and this club continue to play the game the way it should be played. Players of the calibre of Darragh Fitzgibbon and Danny O'Flynn drive this side on and would make the starting 15 anywhere in the county.

Charleville beat Erins Own last season in Round 1 and should have beaten Glen Rovers in Round 3 - losing out by the minimum after extra time. Charleville were at home as a senior club last time round.

Charleville have individual starts but this is a collective effort and with former player and manager Claude Gough returning for another spell at the helm prepare to strap in and enjoy the ride.

For their part, Bandon have all the credentials required to go a long way in this competition but they may suffer from being a serious dual club - not something that really troubles the likes of Charleville to any great degree.

This will be a great occasion for both clubs that will be affected by the lack of a crowd but not destroyed by it. Long range scores a plenty with a couple of goals likely to be served up. Fitzgibbon could well be the difference here - unfortunately for Bandon that could be a sizable difference.

Charleville by four if the conditions suit expansive, running hurling.

Inniscarra v Blarney

Throw in: Saturday August 1

Coachford 5pm

Mark Coleman's Blarney will take on neighbours Inniscarra in Coachford this Saturday afternoon with the winners catapulting themselves into pole position for a place in the knockout stages of this season's SAHC.

After the long summer shut-down both sides will be keen to get their seasons off to the best possible start and while local knowledge and rivalries will be key, the lack of an ideal preparation for both will surely hurt the respective teams display.

Inniscarra will look to counter Blarney's main talent, Coleman, with their very own inter-county star Seán O'Donoghue, but when the dust settles this one will be won by the collective and not any one name - regardless of how good that name is.

Inniscarra made it all the way to the semi-finals at the intermediate grade last year and showed along the way just how competitive they can be. Blarney also made it to the last four only to meet up with a Fr O'Neills side destined for greater things.

Both sides showed last summer that they have all the credentials to go a long way. Obviously, it didn't work out in the last campaign however three solid years of competitive fare means both sides went up to senior and now both camps will look to make the most of the promotion.

Inniscarra will be hard to beat here but Blarney have what it takes to do it. Extra time may well be the order of the day this weekend.

Mallow v Fermoy

Sunday August 2

Castletownroche 2pm

Two sides in the "Group of Death" go head to head this weekend as both Mallow and Fermoy look to start their respective seasons off in the best possible light.

Despite these sides competing at similar grades for the last number of years it may be surprising to many that there is very little history between the pair however that will all change this weekend as the duo square up at Castletownroche this Sunday afternoon.

Both squads have tasted defeat in premier finals in recent years however both did get promoted to the senior ranks at the start of this season thanks to a series of very impressive campaigns.

Mallow will line up with players of the quality of Paul Lyons, Cormac Murphy, Sean Hayes, Pa Herlihy and Ronan Sheehan.

Fermoy will be without Cork footballer Tomas Clancy however they will have a host of players back from football duties with players of the quality of Pádraig De Róiste, Daniel O'Flynn; and Ruairi O'Hagan all involved.

Fermoy are a genuine dual club with well over half of their starting line-ups in the two codes pulling from the same pool.

2019 was a disastrous campaign for both these sides with Mallow going out to Inniscarra and Fermoy falling to Fr O'Neills - both in Round three.

This season has to be better for both and despite the challenge of being drawn against each other as well as Charleville and Bandon both Fermoy and Mallow will have credible expectations of pushing this one close.

Mallow have less dual players which should help this Sunday while Fermoy have more players coming in on a high. If I must stick my head on the block - head says Mallow - heart says Mallow. This one will go all the way to the final whistle.

Kanturk v Cloyne

Sunday, August 2

Killavullen, 2pm

Former Cork great Ronan Curran is at the helm in Kanturk, that's sure to generate a positive response for the St. Finbarrs stalwart. Mixed form for Kanturk from last season, as they face life in the new Senior A grade.

Though they seldom threatened to make sufficient inroads against Sarsfields first time out in the SHC, Kanturk regrouped for a season defining test, they combined physical power and accuracy to surprise Erins Own.

That set up a clash against Ballyhea where Kanturk relented to a single goal defeat. Kanturk dictated much of the opening half yet at times, wayward shooting hindered the Duhallow outfit from emphasising their superiority and a goal shyness saw them second best on that occasion.

Sunday's outing recalls a first round engagement between Kanturk and Cloyne going back to the 2016 Premier IHC with Cloyne claiming a five point victory.

After a tentative opening half, Kanturk enjoyed an interval lead that should had been of greater proportions.

However the second half was a different affair with Cloyne bossing affairs, denying Kanturk space, gaining turnover ball to stamp their authority with the game's all important goal from county player Paudie O'Sullivan deciding the outcome.

Kanturk endured a relegation fight to remain in the grade but what a complete transformation within a short time space culminating on All Ireland Intermediate glory in early 2018.

With a new County Premier Senior grade in operation this season based on results at senior level over a number of years, Kanturk short time at the upper limit failed to accumulate sufficient points to maintain their position at the top grade.

Still Kanturk are capable of creating an impression though injuries are a concern. Out of contention is Daniel O'Connell with Aidan and Ryan Walsh hopeful of playing after missing out on the club's Football victory over Macroom.

Minor players Brian O'Sullivan and Alan Walsh made a key input to the football success as substitutes and the pair will be close to starting on Sunday having been key to Colaiste Treasa's Munster Colleges SHC triumph.

Cloyne are renowned doughty battlers though their rating has dropped in recent campaigns. From 2017, they lost to Mallow by four points in a semi final, subsequently, Mallow relented to Kanturk in the county decider. Last season, Cloyne failed to win a game, defeated at the hands of both Aghada and Valley Rovers.

Cork minor hurling manager Donal Óg Cusack may well return between the post joined by the Cahill and O'Sullivan clan. Of course, there is no guidance on current form yet Kanturk's blend of youth and experience carries potential, that look's good enough to succeed.