BY TOM LYONS
The RCM Tarmacadam South West junior A hurling championship swings into serious action this Friday evening with three first-round games to be played.
To date St Oliver Plunkett’s have beaten St James’, St Colum’s have beaten O’Donovan Rossa in a replay and Diarmuid Ó Mathúna overcame Newcestown in extra time.
Pick of the three round one games on Friday must be the meeting of champions Clonakilty and their near-neighbours and great rivals, Ballinascarthy, in Timoleague. Clon found Bal a tough nut to crack in recent seasons and it should be a cracking contest. Dohenys and Bandon will renew rivalry in Ballinacarriga after their draw and replay at the same venue last season, while up and coming Kilbree will cross swords with Kilbrittain’s second string in Ahiohill.
Bandon v Dohenys
Friday, 8pm in
The sides met at the same venue last season and the game ended in a draw, with Dohenys, who had beaten reigning champions Newcestown in the first round, winning the replay but losing the semi-final to Mathúnas. Bandon had surprised Kilbree in the first round.
Neither side is setting the hurling world on fire this season in the league. Dohenys have lost a number of prominent players to emigration, including the talented Collins brothers, and the strong Jamie Carroll to injury. They have played five games in the league but won only two.
Being out of the senior football championship should help them and they will look to the McCarthy’s, Jerry and Pa, Carbery goalkeeper Vincent Healy, and talented minor Mark Buckley to guide them to victory. Bandon are going well at intermediate but their second string has played only two games in Section 2 of the league and have lost both. It’s difficult to say who will field in this game but Kieran Hurley, Mark Prendergast, Alan Johnson, Mark O’Regan and Cian O’Mahony are no mean hurlers and will put it up to the Dunmanway side.
Verdict: Despite all their woes this season, Dohenys should still have too much hurling and pace for the Lilywhites.
Kilbrittain v Kilbree
Friday, 8pm in Ahiohill
Kilbrittain’s second string had a short championship season last year, losing to both Clonakilty and Plunkett’s. They are campaigning in Section 2 of the league and are doing okay this season, haven won three of their five games to date.
Unfortunately, their top scorer from last season, Eamon Lyons, has been used by the intermediates this year, so they may struggle up front. They will look to Dylan Twohig, James Deasy, Denis Ryan and Seamus O’Brien to guide them through this encounter.
Kilbree surprisingly lost to Bandon in the first round last season but recovered well to beat St Mary’s and a fancied Ballinascarthy, before falling to Mathúna’s in the quarter-final. In the present league, Section 1, they have played five games, winning two, and football seems to be taking top spot in recent seasons.
However, they have a talented young hurling side, inspired by veteran Kevin O’Donovan and they will look to Don McCarthy, Ray Collins, Brian O’Donovan, Darragh Coakley and Liam O’Brien to win this game.
Verdict: Youthful Kilbree must be fancied to advance.
Ballinascarthy v Clonakilty
Friday, 8pm in Timoleague
The big clash of the weekend, the champions Clonakilty against near-neighbours Ballinascarthy, with a little bit of history attached.
On last year’s form Clon would start favourites but hurling has taken a backseat in the club this season as the new intermediate football team was bedded in, with the result that only two league games have been played, both lost, and two selectors have resigned in protest. Not the best preparation for a hard championship game and added is the fact that five of their best young players have been sitting Leaving Cert exams.
They will again look to Denis Murphy, Tom Clancy, Sean White, Timmy Anglin, David Lowney and Sean McEvoy for leadership but talented forward Tiarnán O’Connell is out of action all season with a shoulder injury. Last season they beat Kilbrittain, Plunkett’s, Colum’s and Mathúnas, in the South West final, before losing to Cloughduv in the county.
Bal’s county-winning U21 side has still to produce the goods at junior level but this could be the year they put it all together. Last year they beat Rossas but were surprised by Kilbree.
Talent-wise, they will match Clon but Daniel Nyhan, due home for the next round, will be a big loss. Still, in Ricky O’Flynn, Jeremy Ryan, Cillian Cullinane, Aidan O’Donovan, Luke Murray, Eoin O’Brien and Cathal Nyhan, they have some of the best young hurlers in the division.
Verdict: A fully-committed and fully-prepared Clon side would start strong favourites but that is far from the case now. The Reds to advance.