ON semi-final form, there is little between Kilmaley and Éire Óg ahead of Saturday’s U-21 A Hurling Championship final. Both sides look well-balanced, with a number of key players who should make it a lively encounter in Cusack Park.
Kilmaley are probably entitled to carry the favourites’ tag, as they won the corresponding minor A title three years ago and that experience should be a help.
Captain Conor Cleary, Aidan McGuane, Michael O’Malley and Cian Moloney have been regulars in the senior side in recent years and they have all played key parts in the team’s progress to this stage of the championship.
They are supported by Conan Fitzgerald, Brian Cahill, Sean and Aidan Kennedy and Padraic McNamara from last year’s minor A-winning side and, in their semi-final win over Clarecastle, that combination played some very impressive hurling.
Inter-county man Shane O’Donnell is a key figure in the Éire Óg line-up. While his tally in the semi-final win over Ballyea was just a point, he was key to many of his side’s scores as he created numerous openings. Kilmaley will have to be alert to this if they are to win the title.
Liam Corry, Tadhg Connellan, Dara Walsh and free-taker Nathan Murray are others who have a role to play for the town side, who are boosted this week by the return of Conor Brennan, who missed the semi-final due to suspension.
It promises to be a close and hard fought affair, which may well require more than the standard 60 minutes to produce a result.
Little between Tulla and Cratloe
Cratloe and Tulla will clash in the B final and another close contest is expected. Both had first round byes and entered the competition at the quarter-final stage. Cratloe finished strongly to record a two-point win over St Joseph’s and then upset a fancied Crusheen-Tubber side in the semi-final.
Tulla also upset fancied opposition when beating Wolfe Tones by a point in the quarter-final and then scoring a two-point win over favourites Clonlara at the weekend.
Both teams will fancy their chances on Saturday, when Cratloe will be looking to senior players Shane O’Leary and Shane Gleeson to lead the way, both having been hugely impressive in their progress to date.
Tulla, who may have a physically stronger outfit, will be looking to Niall Bolton, Daniel Vaughan, Colin Corbett and Brian Fahy to lead the way.
On the evidence of play to date, Tulla will start as favourites to capture the title.
Corofin fancied for C title
The C final will take place on Friday evening, when Corofin will take on Bodyke. This 13-a-side competition has produced some high scoring contests in the past.
Inter-county U-21 player Paddy Fitzgerald has been to the fore in Bodyke’s march to the final but he hobbled off the pitch in their semi-final win over Ballyea with a hamstring injury and hasn’t played since. Bodyke followers will be hoping that he will be fully fit for this week’s contest.
Corofin played their first round game against Ennistymon without inter-county footballer Jamie Malone. They had a big win over Ruan in the semi-final and start the final as favourites to take the title.
By Seamus Hayes, sports editor.