Munster Junior League kicks back into action
BY DENIS HURLEY
SKIBBEREEN manager Mark Hogan is targeting a top-four finish – and a place in the All-Ireland Cup – as the Munster Junior League Division 1 kicks back into gear following the Christmas break.
With seven of 13 league games played, Skibb finished 2017 in tenth place, having won three and lost four matches and Hogan is hopeful that they can build upon that, beginning with trips to Waterpark this Sunday, January 14th and Galbally a week later.
Having beaten Cobh Pirates 32-19 on December 3rd in what proved to be their last game of the calendar year, Skibb renewed acquaintances with the East Cork side last weekend when they clashed with them in a friendly. Hogan is optimistic that that game will prove to be useful preparation for upcoming tests.
‘I’d be reasonably happy with how things have gone,’ he says.
‘We had a couple of good results, we finished the year very strongly with the bonus-point win against Cobh.
‘There were a few setbacks we didn’t anticipate but overall you can’t have too many complaints.
‘We’re looking forward to get back into action now.’
Waterpark sit ninth in the table, just a point ahead of Skibb, and the clubs will be meeting for the second time this season.
‘They beat us in the junior clubs challenge cup,’ Hogan says.
‘They’re a strong, well-structured team but, in saying that, we arguably left it behind us that day, we created a lot but didn’t finish.
‘You’d be fairly confident of putting in a good performance but the big variable is the match sharpness after the long lay-off.
‘It’ll have been a long time out since the Cobh game in the league, other years you’d have a round of the challenge cup but obviously we lost to Waterpark so we missed that too, a game then would have taken us up to December 18th.
‘We’ve trained as much as we can but the weather has been poor and pitches have been soaked. That’s why the friendly with Cobh is so important this week to build up the fitness again before the return to competitive action.
‘At the same time, a lot of teams are in the same boat.’
Longer-term, Hogan believes that a place in the top four is what the team should be aiming for for the remainder of the campaign.
‘I said it at the start of the season, there are a lot of teams going to take points off each other,’ he says.
‘Clonmel probably aren’t the force that they were for the past few seasons and there is a group of strong teams near the top, most of whom still have to play each other.
‘We have already played most of those teams, though not all of them, and I think that if we can get a good result on Sunday against Waterpark, we should be looking upwards then and trying to get into the top four.
‘It’s important in that if you finish there, you go forward to the All-Ireland Cup and that would be a good achievement for the season, coming from where we finished last year.’