The Sem are capable of dethroning champs
FOR anyone who has followed Colleges football in Kerry over the last two years, Pobalscoil Chorca Dhuibhne and St Brendan's Killarney have dominated the agenda, and now both are set to meet competitively for the fifth time in that period.
There have been some memorable encounters, a near sub-zero temperature meeting until the lights of Austin Stack Park in the 2012 O'Sullivan Cup Final probably the most memorable, but Pobalscoil have had the slight edge given their success in that fixture as well as last year's Corn Ui Mhuiri Final.
The 2013 O'Sullivan Cup Final is what will give The Sem hope, however, as they came from behind to claim the county title and redress the balance somewhat between the sides.
However, this Saturday in Fitzgerald Stadium is where it will be properly settled between them.
Both have had bumpy journeys in getting here. Pobalscoil looked strong in the Group Stages but were guilty of giving themselves a lot to do in both of their encounters with Colaiste Chriost Ri in the quarter-finals. Barra O Suilleabhain's infamous black card in the first match and the subsequent fall-out from it might have led to an unwanted re-fixture for Eamon Fitzmaurice's side, but the character shown by Pobalscoil coming from behind to triumph after extra-time on both occasions can only stand them well ahead of Saturday's semi-final.
The Pobalscoil manager is looking forward to another meeting with a side he feels Pobalscoil have now developed a 'healthy rivalry' with.
"I think the Sem will be very confident going into this after beating us in the O'Sullivan Cup whereas we're hoping the lads will have taken huge encouragement from the Chriost Ri games. The fact both teams are playing again in Fitzgerald Stadium is a magnificent opportunity for players on both teams to show their worth to the county, Jack O'Connor and the Kerry minor management in general," he feels.
When you consider both sides are made up largely of the four sides who contested last year's County Minor Championship semi-finals you get a big sense of how Colleges Football is important to the game in general at club, district and inter-county team level as well.
The Sem's journey here started off on the back foot in many respects. Defeat to Skibbereen meant they faced a winner-take-all encounter with Rochestown that Harry O'Neill's side managed to get the right result in prior to Christmas. St Flannans provided a very physical and tough challenge to the Killarney School in the quarter-finals before they pulled through in the closing stages.
The importance of this encounter is something O'Neill says his players are very much aware.
"You get only one, maybe two if you're lucky, chances to win the Corn Ui Mhuiri and the lads are very aware of the value of a medal in this competition to those that have won them. I think the extra game with Chriost Ri is of massive benefit to Pobalscoil but the delay to the semi-final has allowed us some extra time to work on our own preparations," the St Brendans manager said.
Josh Flynn with a broken bone in his hand is ruled out for St Brendans but Tony Brosnan is expected to play a full part. Pobalscoil have no major injury concerns ahead of the semi-final.
So much about this match intrigues. Have The Sem turned the corner with their O'Sullivan Cup success over Pobalscoil last November or will the Chriost Ri encounters give Pobalscoil the drive they need to make a fourth successive Corn Ui Mhuiri Final?
Brian O Beaglaoich, Maitiu O Flatharta, Tomas O Suilleabhain and Cathal O Bambaire will provide the defending champions with much of their impetus while Corey Doyle, Evan Cronin, Darragh Roche and Micheal Burns - who played so well for the Dr Crokes last Saturday when coming on for Colm Cooper against Castlebar - likely to feature strongly for The Sem.
Experience and success along the way up will make Pobalscoil the pre-match favourites but their opponents might just be able to halt their glorious era in this competition if their forwards can click on the day. Don't be surprised if it goes all the way and a bit further before it's settled!
Verdict: St Brendans College