Senior Hurling Championship Quarter-Finals
Newmarket-on-Fergus v Wolfe Tones @ Cusack Park, Saturday 1.30pm
A golden opportunity to return to a semi-final that neither side can afford to pass up in what is a unique derby showdown in Ennis on Saturday. It’s novel because at certain stages of their final group matches, the thoughts of staring the relegation play-offs in the face seemed a distinct reality so this is essentially bonus territory particularly after drawing each other in the last eight.
Newmarket-on-Fergus’ late smash-and-grab victory over another neighbour Clooney-Quin will have injected a new lease of life into the Blues while Wolfe Tones, despite coming off the back of back-to-back defeats, equally have nothing to lose on Saturday.
That Wolfe Tones’ form has fallen off a cliff will be alarming as the first half of their group campaign up to half-time in the Sixmilebridge match, the Shannon side looked like Canon Hamilton contenders only conceding 1-18. However, since then, they have leaked more than double that amount, 5-31, and will hope than a month’s break will have allowed them to recharge the batteries. It gives Newmarket the slightest of edges in a derby that could go either way as momentum and form cannot be turned on like a tap.
Sixmilebridge v Éire Óg @ Cusack Park, Saturday 4.30pm
A third championship meeting in the space of 12 months gives Éire Óg another shot at lowering the champions. So far, Sixmilebridge have managed to hold off the Ennis side’s best efforts but surely the Townies will have learned a few lessons along the way to redress the balance.
Add in the fact that Sixmilebridge haven’t really been tested so far and Éire Óg will understandably view this as a glorious chance of an upset.
The thing is that while Sixmilebridge have been up there to be shot at, there hasn’t been an accurate sniper to date and their enviable record now stands at 13 successive championship victories and back-to-back Canon Hamilton titles.
A lot depends on the availability of previously injured trio Jamie Shanahan, Paidi Fitzpatrick and Cathal Malone as without their presence and experience, the ‘Bridge would be far more vulnerable to be penetrated.
Shane O’Donnell is Éire Óg’s greatest injury concern so depending on personnel, the ‘Bridge will enter as justifiable favourites due to their vast experience but how much the Townies have learned from previous clashes, will only be revealed on Saturday.
Inagh-Kilnamona v Cratloe @ Cusack Park, Sunday 2pm
Being their third meeting in four championship seasons, it’s a familiar rivalry that has as many repercussions for the loser as the glorious victors on Sunday. All because of Inagh-Kilnamona’s evolution in 2021 that has seen them move from dark horses to genuine contenders by means of their unbeaten journey through the ‘Group of Death’. Put simply, nothing less than a last four place would be seen as sufficient for their development path, having reached that stage in 2019. Equally, defeat could spell the end of an era for Cratloe who after already bowing out of the senior football equivalent before the knock-out stages would consider Sunday’s exit as unthinkable, having contested ten county senior finals over the past 11 seasons in either football or hurling.
Inagh-Kilnamona’s strength has come from their county core of the McCarthy brothers Aidan and Jason along with David Fitzgerald who have consistently inspired others around them in their four match unbeaten run.
Cratloe are not short of experience themselves but it’s their younger crew led by Diarmuid Ryan and Rian Considine that have been leading the way just as much as their All-Ireland winners Podge and Sean Collins, Conor McGrath and Cathal McInerney.
It’s that must-win ambience that makes this an intriguing match-up but Inagh-Kilnamona’s need is arguably greater as they simply cannot afford to let another year slip by without some tangible progress.
Ballyea v Kilmaley @ Cusack Park, Sunday 4.45pm
A repeat of last year’s quarter-final and a derby which Ballyea have had the upper hand in over the past few seasons. Kilmaley are in the Inagh-Kilnamona make-or-break bracket but Robbie Hogan’s side are one of less than a handful of sides with realistic ambitions of wrestling back the Canon Hamilton from the ‘Bridge.
They were sorely disappointed to have unceremoniously exited the championship at the semi-final hurdle in 2020 and therefore appetite certainly won’t be an issue for Ballyea in their quest to cement a third crown in six seasons.
The question marks surrounding both sides are all to do with injury worries as Tony Kelly and Jack Browne missed Ballyea’s group decider with Cratloe while Kilmaley’s injury list has been mounting since finally cementing their place in the last eight against Clonlara a fortnight ago.
Top of the treatment pile are key forwards Mikey O’Malley and Cian Moloney so without that firepower, it would be extremely difficult for Kilmaley to exact revenge on their neighbours.
Ballyea are expected to be nearer to full strength so based on that assurance, the Bally Boys should have enough in the tank to maintain their current hold over Kilmaley.
Intermediate Hurling Championship Semi-Finals
Tulla v Smith O’Brien’s @ O’Garney Park Sixmilebridge, Saturday 4.30pm
A second championship meeting in the space of a month should make for interesting viewing as both sides will have learned a lot about each other. Their 2-16 to 0-19 group showdown was merely to decide the quarter-final placings so it’s only with Saturday’s knock-out stage clash that their true form will be realised.
To their credit, Smith O’Brien’s have fared better of the past two seasons as this is their second successive semi-final and only missed out to eventual champions Scariff last year after extra-time. Scariff also put Tulla to the sword at the quarter-final juncture but they won’t want to spend a third year down at intermediate level.
Tulla have the experience but there has just been more bite about Smith O’Brien’s hurling and they might just be able to make the breakthrough in another inch-tight contest on Saturday.
Verdict: Smith O’Brien’s
St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield v Ruan @ O’Garney Park Sixmilebridge, Sunday 12.30pm
A derby with a difference in that they haven’t met too often in recent seasons, especially at this lofty level. Relegated from senior in 2018, St Joseph’s certainly have the weaponry to seek redemption but as of yet, haven’t demonstrated enough consistency to be get back to the top tier as evidenced by a final defeat in 2019 followed by a flowingly disappointing semi-final defeat to Tubber by 15 points last year.
It means that there won’t be a shred of complacency from the Parish this Sunday as they will be wary of the threat that a momentum-fuelled Ruan can bring. After all, Doora/Barefield’s final group defeat to Corofin was completely flipped in the quarter-final when Ruan deservedly knocked out their underage amalgamation partners with a refreshing blend of youth and experience.
Being their first intermediate semi-final appearance since winning the title back in 2012, it all new territory for a lot of this Ruan side. However, in terms of necessity, the Parish simply have to show their teeth in order to sustain their upward development curve.
Verdict: St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield
The sole remaining flagship team Ogonnelloe will carry their favourites tag into Saturday’s Junior A Hurling Championship Semi-Final with Clooney-Quin while the second strings of Crusheen and St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield play out a novel derby semi-final in Corofin.
Scores certainly won’t be an issue in the Junior B Championship Final between Sixmilebridge and Scariff in Broadford on Saturday at 2pm while Scariff are also in the Junior C Semi-Finals where they take on St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield, whose three adult sides are all admirably represented in championship semi-finals this weekend. Killanena will be slight favourites over Bodyke in the first Junior C Semi-Final in Whitegate on Saturday while the opening ties of the Senior B and Relegation series also take place in a bumper weekend of hurling.
by Eoin Brennan