Gorey face tough test
Experienced Camross have a rich pedigree in Leinster
Last week's surprise exit from the Junior football championship may well prove a blessing in disguise for the Naomh Eanna Senior hurlers as they embark on their AIB Leinster Club adventure in the small ball code with a tough assignment against a battle-hardened Camross side in O'Moore Park, Portlaoise, on Sunday (2 p.m.).
It must have come as a jolt to the system to depart at the first hurdle to Tullogher-Rosbercon from Kilkenny, a club whose focus was on hurling rather than football since mid-summer.
Naomh Eanna clearly enjoyed the celebrations during the week, and naturally so after an achievement that deserved to be feted.
However, that football loss served as a timely reminder that no game can be taken for granted, so hopefully it will have focused the minds and the Dr. R.J. Bowe Cup will have been put in safekeeping for the week.
This will be a journey into the unknown, and what is certain is that Camross will come out with all guns blazing and seek to put their superior provincial experience to good use from the off.
They collected their 26th county title earlier this month at the expense of Rathdowney-Errill, a game marred by a serious facial injury to one of the losers' inter-county players, Ross King.
Indeed, the black and ambers completed a league and championship double in Laois for the second year running, and it was their first time to beat their highly-rated opponents in a final.
Midfielder Darrell Dooley was initially banned for two matches after that King incident, but this was lifted by the Laois Hearings Committee.
He will take his place in a strong line-up which also features the current Laois hurler of the year, Ciarán Collier, at right half-forward, and former inter-county attacker Zane Keenan who carries a big reputation on the other flank. Keenan is the team's free-taker and six of his seven points in their last outing came from placed balls.
Camross are managed by former Offaly All-Ireland winner Danny Owens, a much-travelled mentor who previously came up against Wexford opponents in this competition when he was in charge of his home club, Kilcormac-Killoughey.
They won the county final by 2-15 to 0-19, with an Eoin Gaughan goal giving them an interval lead of 1-8 to 0-8.
Ross King was forced off close to half-time, and a 39th-minute major from Mark Dowling pushed Camross clear by eight points before they survived a late comeback.
There is a big prize for the winners - a home semi-final clash with the Ballyhale Shamrocks side under first-time manager Henry Shefflin who also held off a Bennettbridge revival to clinch the Kilkenny title in Nowlan Park on Sunday.
On the other side of the draw, Ballyboden St. Enda's - managed by Enniscorthy man Joe Fortune - will face Clonkill of Westmeath in Parnell Park, while Tullamore is the venue for the meeting of Coolderry (Offaly) and Mount Leinster Rangers of Carlow.
Naomh Eanna will need to be at their county final level of performance from the start to get through this tough assignment, because the last thing they will want is to be chasing a game away from home against a club with vast experience over the years of the Leinster championship.
Incidentally, after the DRA received the clarification from the referee that was sought following Cathal Dunbar's eleventh hour hearing before the county final, it has been announced that he will, as originally recommended, serve a one-match ban.
However, it won't keep him from the fray next Sunday as the suspension has to be served in the same competition that the alleged offence occurred in, meaning that Dunbar will miss the first game of Naomh Eanna's Pettitt's Senior hurling championship title defence in 2019.