LAST year’s defeated finalists Castlehaven will renew acquaintances with Kilmeen in a quarter-final this Sunday (Ardfield, 3pm), the two sides needing a replay to be separated last season before the Haven edged through to the last four, winning 1-15 to 1-12.
Castlehaven have the bulk of last year’s team still available but they will feel the loss of Michael Hurley, Conor Nolan and goalkeeper Colm O’Driscoll who are over-age. Still, they have a strong base of U21s who have also played senior so expect Ronan Walsh, David Whelton, Ciarán O’Sullivan, Cathal Maguire and Conor Cahalane to lead the charge, starting this Sunday.
‘We don’t have the turnover of players between 19 and 21 so we will be relying on a lot of minors,’ manager Finbarr Santry explained.
‘The U21 is a pure lottery, anything can happen. There is always a surprise packet and then a team expected to do well might fall at the first round.
‘We had two good games against Kilmeen last year but we expected that. We’ve played them at U14, U16 and minor and there was never more than a kick of a ball between the teams and I’d expect the same on Sunday.’
He added: ‘In terms of preparation we have had two handy challenge games, other than that it’s just been training.’
Confidence is high in the Kilmeen camp as they look forward to their first outing and a chance to avenge last year’s loss to the Haven. They have to plan this year without four starters from 2017 as Damien O’Gorman, Sean Deasy, William Tyner and Liam O’Brien are all over-age but Kilmeen can still call on Darren Santry, Shane and Ogie Scannell, Brian Keohane, Jonathan Deasy and Joseph O’Donovan.
‘I thought we were unlucky last year, I felt we were the better team in the first game but in fairness to the Haven, they took their chances and got the scores when they mattered,’ said manager Shane O’Donovan, who was the team trainer last season but now is trainer and manager.
‘Every team has a chance in this competition and I know we are a junior club going up against a senior club, but we have the confidence and belief that we can win.
‘We have been producing players at U16, minor and U21 over the past few seasons and it’s time now to push on and try reap the benefit of the talent that we have.’