JIMMY DARCY looks ahead to a crucial round of Corn Uí Mhuirí fixtures this week with several Kerry schools still not certain of their place in the Munster quarter-finals
MUNSTER COLLEGE SFC (Corn Uí Mhuirí)
There is still much to play for as the Corn Uí Mhuirí continues this week with a number of crucial games across all four groups. The earlier disruption to some fixtures because of adverse weather means several schools still haven’t booked their place in the quarter-final stages, with some Kerry schools needing to win this week to be sure of advancing to the knock-out phase.
SP Sliabh Luachra v St. Flannans Ennis
In Rathkeale at 1pm
St Flannans have never actually won the Corn Uí Mhuirí, but they knock very hard on the door. This year's team is no exception. Sliabh Luachra's chances of qualification are all but over after losing their first two games. The Sliabh Luachra that lost to Tralee in a thriller in their second game had the same personnel as the team that were well beaten by Clonakilty, but it was a very different display. If they can repeat that – and I firmly believe that they can – they won't be going home empty-handed. Fionn Murphy, Daniel Sheehan, Pádraig Moynihan, Darragh Nagle, marksman Ciarán Collins are exceptional footballers.
St. Flannans are a good side. If the likes of Darren Keane, Darren Cleary or Luca Cleary can get enough ball, they will do damage. They also have most of the team that pushed Mounthawk in last year's Frewen Cup Final; that's a deep well to be drawing from. They will be fancied to see off Sliabh Luachra – personally, I have my doubts. The Rathmore school should win this one, but it should be a cracker either way.
Tralee CBS v Clonakilty CC
No fixture confirmation; provisionally scheduled for December
Tralee CBS have two wins under their belt – that's serious money in the bank at this stage. Even better, they got two great contests – both Flannans and Sliabh Luachra made them work very hard for those wins. They also beat Clonakilty in last year's quarter-final, although that's a less reliable measure given the inevitable changes to the sides since then. But with the likes of Ben Donnellan and Ciarán White locking up the back, Colm Browne and Seán McElligott driving forward, and playmaker Jerh Brosnan, sharpshooter Darragh Cunnane, and Adam McDonagh up front, the Green will be favourites here.
This will be a really severe test for The Green. Clonakilty are well on course to qualify themselves and have the likes of Dan Twomey, Darragh Gough, and a deadly Olan O'Donovan. Make no mistake; this one will be going all the way down to the wire, but I expect Tralee to just about shade it. It would be a major surprise at this stage if either of these schools didn't come out of the group.
PS Chorca Dhuibhne v Presentation Milltown
In Keel/Listry at 1.30pm
Presentation Milltown lost by two points in their Corn Uí Mhuirí and probably deserved to take something from that game against Skibbereen. They are very young, though, and muscle is even more important than speed when you are playing football in November. They have a lot of talent – Liam Evans and Fionnán Griffin in the engine room, Dara Hogan, Gearóid Evans, full back Shane Clifford.
They need to win this, but so do Corca Duibhne. The West Kerry school are not the force that they were (nor is anybody else, that team of 2012-2015 team may have been the best school team I ever saw) but they still stem from that ball-kicking football philosophy so inherent to the region. They have good footballers in the likes of Cathal Ó Gealbháin, Seán Ó Cuinn, Cian Ó Cinnéide, and Seán Ó Fiannachta. This one is very close to call, but I suspect that Milltown might just edge this one.
Skibbereen CS v St. Francis Rochestown
In Newcestown at 1.30pm
Rochestown went within a whisper of a Corn Uí Mhuirí Harty double in 2015 but narrowly lost both finals. They have already beaten Dingle and Milltown, convincingly in both cases, and should to the group with an expected win here. Skibbereen are no easy side, but with shooters like Bryan Hayes, Seán Coakley, free-taker Michael O'Mahony....well, that's a lot of firepower to be drawing from. Hayes especially is a serious talent. Skibbereen have very good footballers themselves – Niall Daly, Luke Shorten, Seán Connelly, Fionn Hurley, Tomas Ó Donnobháin...they have a lot of strength in depth. Rochestown will just about be favourites here, but both of these sides will be in the mix later on.
Coláiste na Sceilge v Coláiste Choilm Ballincollig
In Lewis Road, Killarney at 1.30pm
Coláiste na Sceilge were desperately unlucky not to take something from their game against The Sem. Their race is far from run, though. A win here and a scoring difference of -3 would see them well poised to take second place in the group and turn their last game against Mounthawk into a real winner-take-all situation, regardless of the result in the other game in the group. They will be favourites here, giving that Ballincollig were beaten by 3-18 to 0-12 by Mounthawk in their first game.
Ballincollig left scoring chances behind them in that game and the likes of Darragh Clifford and Fintan O'Leary are very good footballers. Na Sceilge have fantastic scoring power – Ian O'Sullivan is the main threat, but Jack Clifford, Emmett Daly, Oisin Breen, Kieran Corcoran....na Sceilge have no problem scoring. The issue they have to fix is conceding four goals to St. Brendans, three of them very preventable. They should win this.
St. Brendans Killarney v Mercy Mounthawk
In Milltown at 1.30pm
This is a much-anticipated repeat of the O'Sullivan Cup Final. Mounthawk never really got going that day in tough weather conditions so will be anxious to make amends and are more than capable of it. Paddy Lane and Darragh O'Connor have been scoring for fun. Rob Monahan Daniel Kirby, and Odhrán Ferris load the guns for them. This is a very good Mounthawk side, as they proved against Ballincollig.
St. Brendans also have a win under their belts and silverware in their cupboard as reigning champions and O'Sullivan Cup winners. Charlie Keating's switch to wing back has proved a master stroke, while Keelan O'Shea in the centre has been outstanding. John Kelliher is the engine room, while Alex Hennigan, Aodhán O'Neill, and Callum Cronin do a lot of the up-front damage. Moving Jamie Moynihan into full forward has given St. Brendans a long ball option that works. St. Brendanswill go in as favourites here but only by a narrow margin. Whichever side wins will effectively have secured a quarter-final spot, while the loser will have Coláiste na Sceilge hot and heavy on their heels.
CSN Bishopstown v Coláiste Chríost Rí
In Ballincollig at 1.30pm
Coláiste Chríost Rí went down to Clonmel HS in their opening game and that's hard ground to make up. This game is effectively make or break for them. Coláiste an Spioraid Naomh are managed by Anthony Seymour, who actually helped the school win their only Corn Uí Mhuirí in 2005 by beating the Sem. They have a good side, with Cork minor Darragh O'Donovan, former minor James Byrne, and players like Gary Holland, Robert Quirke, and Adam Laverty.
Críost Rí will be looking to the likes of James Kennefick and Cian O'Sullivan to turn the tide, but they will be up against it here. Of course, with what is effectively a Cork city derby, both sides will know each other very well and there will be a bit of extra spice involved! Spioraid Naomh have a slight cushion if they lose, but Críost Rí absolutely have to win. They will be up against it.
Hamiltom High Bandon v HS Clonmel
In Mallow at 1.30pm
Bandon played a big role in a thrilling semi-final last year, but football is very strong in Clonmel (Commercials' defeat of Nemo Rangers in the Munster Club Championship was less surprising than many people seemed to think at the time). They are a big team who have obviously put a lot of work in and real ambitions. Cian Smith, Jake Forristal, and Callum McFadden are all dangerous on the ball. They got two late goals against Críost Rí but were denied three more by fractions.
Bandon are good at goals themselves, the excellent Seán Mac an tSaoí scored two against Spioraid Naomh while Olan Corcoran and Michael Maguire are very dangerous as well. This is a tough one to call, but Bandon need it more and I think they have enough scoring power to get over the line.
DUNLOE CUP SEMI-FINAL
St. Brendans 4-10
Mercy Mounthawk 0-10
St. Brendans dethroned the reigning champions in John Mitchels Complex with a victory augmented by goals to slightly flatter the final scoreline, but in no way undeserved. The Sem simply played better and more direct football, showed a bit more intensity in the tackle, and had a firm lock on restarts, both their own and Mounthawk's. This was a good, tight game of football, with a classic midfield duel between St. Brendan’s Oran O'Neill and Mounthawk's Daniel Kirby the main highlight. Josh Bowler and Joey McCarthy were the main men up front for St. Brendans, and a somewhat fortuitous enough goal by McCarthy from long distance was enough to give St. Brendans a 1-6 to 0-5 lead at half-time. Most of Mounthawk's scores came from frees, they were much more accurate than St. Brendans all through in that regard.
Mounthawk battled very hard in the second half to keep the game firmly in the mixer up until the last ten minutes, but two goals from man of the match Josh Bowler and another late on from Luke Doolan firmly secured The Sem’s berth in the final. They will now await the winners of the second semi-final between Tralee CBS and St. Michaels Listowel.