BY GER McCARTHY
ONE of the most anticipated days in the West Cork League calendar takes place on bank holiday Monday with the Darrara Agricultural College grounds in Clonakilty set to host the 2016 Beamish Cup semi-finals.
Two quality matchups between four clubs hoping to lift the prestigious trophy should attract a large attendance and make for exciting viewing as Baltimore, Crookstown, Drinagh Rangers and Dunmanway Town take to the field.
Little doubt that Drinagh and Dunmanway’s local derby represents Monday’s main headline act but that won’t bother Baltimore and Crookstown one bit with the Division 1 sides likely to provide an equally compelling curtain raiser.
A repeat of the 2015 cup decider between Dunmanway (holders) and Crookstown is a possibility but Drinagh and Baltimore will have plenty to say about that and anxious to reach this year’s final. Here’s a synopsis of each club’s path to the final, current form and prospects of becoming this year’s West Cork Beamish Cup winners.
Last year’s Beamish Cup: Winners. The Mohona club overcame Lyre Rovers, Skibbereen, Ballydehob and rivals Togher Celtic to reach the 2015 decider before defeating Crookstown 4-2 to lift the mygaff.ie trophy.
Path to this year’s semi-finals:A bye straight into round two saw the cup holders travel to Inchisine and prove too strong for Kilmichael Rovers with Barry O’Donovan netting a hat-trick plus additional Maurice Murphy, Ray Jennings and Jerry McCarthy efforts cementing a 6-1 win. The aforementioned McCarthy also got his name on the scoresheet in the quarter-finals, a 2-0 victory at home to Bunratty United, with Vincent Healy completing Town’s total.
Current form:A recent 6-3 loss at home to Bunratty appears to have scuppered hopes mounting a late Premier Division title-charge. Although fifth placed Town have games in hand on the clubs above them, the Beamish Cup appears Dunmanway’s best chance of claiming silverware in 2016.
Prospects: Good. Little doubt Dunmanway possess the correct blend of youth and experience to reach another Beamish Cup final. Yet, standing in their way is an in-form Drinagh side they hammered 8-2 in the Michael Cronin Cup final at the start of the season but subsequently lost 3-1 to (league) at the beginning of March. In short, Dunmanway must produce their best performance of the season if the Mohona club is to reach a second consecutive cup final.
Last year’s Beamish Cup: The 2014 cup winners safely negotiated the opening defence of their trophy with a straightforward 3-0 preliminary round victory at home to Sullane before Togher Celtic ended the holders’ interest in the competition by edging an eight-goal thriller 5-3 in Togher.
Path to this year’s semi-finals:Rangers needed penalties to see off Spartak Mossgrove in the first round with Gearoid White finding the net in a 1-1 draw after extra time. Drinagh produced a terrific team display to knock Skibbereen out of the competition 6-1 in round two thanks to Barry O’Driscoll (2), Gearoid White (2), Tomás Connolly and Keith Jagoe strikes. The Canon Crowley Park club secured safe passage to this weekend’s semi-finals thanks to a 3-0 victory at home to title-rivals Riverside Athletic with Keith Jagoe, Barry O’Driscoll and Barry O’Driscoll (H) finding the net.
Current form: The defending Premier Division champions are third in the current standings, four points behind leaders Riverside Athletic but with a game in hand. One loss in their last seven competitive outings has Drinagh ominously hitting form at the business end of the season.
Prospects: Very good, although that 8-1 shellacking in the Michael Cronin Cup final is a reminder Drinagh will need to bring their A-game to Darrara on Monday afternoon. The Canon Crowley Park side’s current form coupled with a more potent attacking threat should see Rangers edge their neighbours and qualify for a second Beamish Cup final in three years.
Last year’s Beamish Cup: The Crabs didn’t make it beyond the first round after suffering a 3-2 loss away to Kilmichael Rovers in Inchisine.
Path to this year’s semi-finals: Baltimore should probably change their sponsorship to ‘Penalties Inc.’ following three consecutive shootout victories to reach this year’s Beamish Cup semi-finals. A 2-2 St Valentine’s Day draw at home to Sullane saw an evenly matched first round tie go Baltimore’s way in the ensuing spot-kicks. Noel Collins and Stephen Leonard found the net on that occasion ahead of the Crab’s second consecutive shootout win in round two over Lyre Rovers (0-0 after extra time). Kieran O’Driscoll headed home in the 1-1 quarter-final draw away to Ballydehob before yet another penalty shootout success setup Monday’s clash with Crookstown.
Current form:Baltimore have reserved their best form for this year’s Beamish Cup but are still in danger of being relegated from Division 1 if results go against them in the coming weeks.
Prospects: Good. The Crabs have reached this year’s semi-finals the hard way but earned their spot thanks to resilient defending and some nerveless penalty taking. Don’t be surprised if those skills are called upon once again on Monday afternoon.
Last year’s Beamish Cup: Crookstown overcame Drinagh Rangers B (5-3), Riverside Athletic (4-2) and Bunratty United (2-0) to reach a second consecutive Beamish Cup final last year, only to come up short to Dunmanway Town (4-2) in the decider.
Path to this year’s semi-finals:In search of a third consecutive Beamish Cup final appearance, Crookstown got their 2015-16’ campaign off to the best possible start with a 6-3 first round win at home to Ardfield on St. Valetine’s Day. Denis O’Sullivan netted a hat-trick with Darren Shine and Colm Crowley also finding the net for the winners on that occasion. A walkover from Courtmacsherry sent Crookstown into the quarter-finals without having to kick a ball and where Charles Kenneally’s lone strike was enough to oust Bantry Bay Rovers.
Current form:Failure to win any of their last five Division 1 League fixtures has Crookstown mired second from bottom in the standings and in danger of being relegated. There are still three fixtures to negotiate, the results of which may yet save Crookstown’s Division 1 status but for now, all focus is on securing a third Beamish Cup final appearance in as many years.
Prospects: Very Good. Crookstown’s renowned battling qualities, evidenced in the 1-0 quarter-final win over Bay Rovers, will be needed once again against Baltimore on Monday. There is likely to be plenty of goals too as Crookstown won 6-3 and drew 3-3 with their semi-final opponents in the two side’s league meetings earlier this season.
Drinagh Rangers to overcome Dunmanway Town and Croosktown to edge Baltimore.
Monday, May 2nd 2016
West Cork League Beamish Cup semi-finals
Crookstown v Baltimore at 12pm
Referee: P Hurley
Assistant Referees: A McDermott and T McDermott
Drinagh Rangers v Dunmanway Town at 2.30pm
Referee: A McDermott
Assistant Referees: T McDermott and P Hurley
(Both semi-finals taking place at Darrara Agricultural College, Clonakilty)