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INSIDE TRACK: Clonakilty need to be more clinical, while Castlehaven need big guns to shine

September 22nd, 2023 8:45 AM

By Southern Star Team

INSIDE TRACK: Clonakilty need to be more clinical, while Castlehaven need big guns to shine Image
Clonakilty's Joe Grimes slips past Nemo Rangers' Conor Horgan during their 2022 Bon Secours PSFC clash.

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HOLDING the football quarter-finals outside of HQ in the city is a change for the better. No doubt, it’s financially driven, having totted up the gates at venues like Timoleague and Bandon last Sunday week. Let’s be honest, the West Cork neutral supporters and those not fond of walking or not able to walk long distances have written off Páirc Uí Chaoimh as a venue. It’s just too much hassle. 

From premier junior up, ten Carbery teams competed in the Cork football championships, but only five remain. That’s a testament to the competitive, cutthroat nature of the new championship format across all five grades. 

Questions remain. Who is most likely to bring back silverware to West Cork? What are the chances of a Clon/Haven final at premier senior level? They are on opposite sides of the draw. What are the chances of a Newcestown v Dohenys semi-final at senior A level also being played in West Cork? If that were to materialise, that would be a crowd-puller. Of course repeat pairings will be avoided where possible. Equally as mouthwatering if it were to happen would be a Bantry v Castletownbere premier intermediate final. So, a big weekend ahead.

Let’s start at the top. Clonakilty take on champions Nemo Rangers in a Premier SFC quarter-final in Bandon at 5pm on Saturday. The gods smiled on Clon in round three of the group stage as results went their way to send them through to this stage. They will be hoping Sean White will be back fit, that Thomas Clancy’s ankle injury is not too serious and that their dual players will have come through junior hurling this past weekend unscathed. Clon need all their top players fit as their panel looks tight with not much to come off the bench. Two clear-cut goal chances in the first half and a plethora of misses in the third quarter against the Haven, if converted, could have seen them top Group A. 

Nemo will play football with Clon, which should suit the West Cork men. Mark Cronin, Luke Connolly and Paul Kerrigan accounted for 11 of Nemo’s 15 points against Carrigaline in the last round and Clon have the match-ups on paper for these three. Nemo, west of the Viaduct, are always more vulnerable. Clon’s championship will end here if they are not more clinical in front of goal.


Enniskeane on Sunday will stage the big double-header of the weekend when Bantry Blues play Nemo at 2pm in the Premier IFC followed by Castlehaven and Ballincollig in the Premier SFC at 4pm. The Haven were much improved against Clon from the first two rounds of the championship and the reason they won was because they had more top-class forwards. Michael Hurley and Brian Hurley along with Jack Cahalane contributed 1-12 out of their 1-16 against Clon. A more energetic looking Mark Collins contributed three more. Cathal Maguire should be back from injury.

Ballincollig also seem to be improving with games, but they don’t have the same calibre of inside forward. Ballincollig had four players on this year's Cork U20 panel – Harry Ahern, Darragh O’Mahony (son of Podsie), Sean Dore and Liam O’Connell. In fact, O’Connell has recently signed for St Kilda in the AFL and will soon make the move Down Under. Ballincollig are well capable of upsetting the apple cart here as they have done many times in the recent past against the household names but the Haven should prevail if all their big guns are fit.

The curtain-raiser sees Bantry taking on Nemo’s second string at premier intermediate level. Ruairi Deane missed the last round but should be back fit as Bantry eyes a return to senior status. They also have the bonus of three first-team players who have returned from foreign travels this year who didn’t feature in last season's run to the final – Kevin and Mike Casey along with Jack O’Neill, son of Damien. Coach Davey O’Donovan will have his troops primed for this one.

The winner between Newcestown and Kanturk in Coachford on Sunday will probably be dictated by how well both groups of players came through after the hurling last weekend. Buoyed by progression to the semi-final at senior A hurling and a convincing win over Bishopstown the previous week in the football, the Newcestown boys are on a run and you never get tired when you're winning. Kanturk relegated the Glen from senior hurling and carry a hugely talented squad of players. This is a hard one to call but Newcestown would relish another crack off the Dohenys, who sit pretty in a semi-final spot having beaten Ilen Rovers in round three of the group stage.

Ilen Rovers face their second relegation play-off in three years this weekend and they will want to put a solid wedge against what looks like a rollercoaster slide now. Ilen left it all out there in Drimoleague against Dohenys but it wasn’t enough. Games hinge on big plays and Stephen Daly’s third-quarter save from Donal Collins when the game was in the mix was key. That, followed soon after by an Ilen red card, turned the game in Dohenys’ favour. Already relegated to Division 4 of the county league this season, it really is all shoulders-to-the-wheel time against Fermoy who are probably a surprise in the play-off. No one is safe in any grade anymore and any club may face the scenario of going down and rebuilding to come back up in the future. 

Country places often go through cycles of talented players, often dictated by numbers. For example at premier senior, five city clubs remain along with two West Cork teams and one division (Duhallow).

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