Ballyduff have the firepower to get the better of Causeway
County SHC Quarter-final: Ballyduff v Causeway, Saturday August 10, Austin Stack Park, 5pm
Going into this year's championship Causeway were, once again, considered to be one of the main contenders having impressed in the opening two rounds of last year's competition. They subsequently lost out by five points to Lixnaw, the eventual winners, in the semi final.
So, while the ultimate aim of outright success in the championship wasn't attained, and, once again, questions were posed in some quarters about they having fallen short once again, they did enough to suggest that they had the nucleus of a squad capable of regaining the championship crown.
That viewpoint was reinforced in round one of this year's competition, when they outplayed Kilmoyley to end up winners by a nine point margin.
Once again expectations were heightened in terms of their prospects, and, while they lost to Lixnaw by a similar margin, it could have been a lot closer, given the penalty miss in the first half, and, the impact made by the Lixnaw goalkeeper Martin Stackpoole who denied them of goals on a few occasions early in the second half.
The defeat lowered their position on the rankings, but they are still capable on any given day, of beating any of the other teams in the competition.
Ballyduff have started this campaign rather indifferently, and, having initially drawn with Crotta O Neills, after extra time, they were beaten by nine points in the replay.
They negotiated the next hurdle with relative ease against Ballyheigue, but really, this particular win can be discounted in terms of considering their prospects of regaining a title which they last won in 2017.
Indeed, in that particular season they lost to Lixnaw in round two by nine points, before they salvaged their season, coming from behind to snatch a last gasp winning goal in added time, and, win by a point against Causeway.
So, being the championship specialists, with more titles than anybody else, Ballyduff, if they get to the latter stages, are capable of stepping up a gear, and, have the confidence and belief to get the job done at the business end of the season. There's a perception in hurling circles, that down the years they have a decided edge over Causeway when it comes to make or break situations.
Maybe, but a lot of such theories can be devoid of any real substance. History can colour one's judgement in terms of making a prediction, but really, in the modern era, it can count for very little with a different mindset prevailing.
On paper Causeway are equal to Ballyduff in mostly all facets of play. Of course Ballyduff have a few key players who can influence matters greatly, but, it was significant that they scored just one goal in their two games against Crotta.
In 2017 they scored two in the drawn final against Lixnaw, and, four in the replay. So, if they aren't firing on all cylinders and scoring goals, they can, at times, find it difficult.
In last year's one point semi-final defeat to Kilmoyley they failed to raise a single green flag. Causeway for their part have yet to score a goal in this year's championship and one feels that, maybe, a major score or two for either side could make all the difference on this coming weekend.
There's very little to choose between the teams, but, given that mostly all of their players have the experience of winning the championship just two years ago, Ballyduff get a hesitant vote to progress to the last four.