BY TOM LYONS
With all the concentration on inter-county games of late, the club championships have reached a vital stage almost unnoticed.Â
This Sunday, August 6th, sees the first semi-final in the South West junior A football championship when St Mary's face surprise packets Kilbrittain in Timoleague at 7pm.
St Mary's will enter this game as firm favourites on foot of their record during the past decade when they captured the title twice, in 2009 and 2014. This season St Mary's were surprisingly beaten by Castlehaven in Round 1 but got back on the winning trail in Round 2 when they beat Ilen Rovers' second string by 2-15 to 0-5 with a great second-half performance. That put them into a Round 3 clash with a promising but youthful Kilmeen outfit and it was in this game that they began to show their best form with a well-deserved win by 2-9 to 1-6, the goals coming from a rejuvenated Chris Daly and Brian McCarthy.
The quarter-final proved a tough clash with a fancied St Colum's last weekend but again Mary's rose to the challenge and emerged winners by 1-11 to 0-8, an early goal from Niall Kelleher being decisive. The three Daly brothers, Chris, John and Peter, David Milner, Stephen Keohane, Brian Everard, Rory O'Connor, Barry O'Mahony, Jason Collins, Niall Kelleher and Dylan Scannell, will backbone Marys' challenge on Sunday.
Kilbrittain are campaigning in junior A this season having won the county B championship last season, beating Cobh in the final by four points. In Round 1 they had a good win over Dohenys' second string. Striking top form, they kicked four goals to win by 4-8 to 0-7. Quarter-final opponents were neighbours Barryroe and again it was the goalscoring ability of the forwards that made the difference in an impressive 3-11 to 1-11 victory, Declan Harrington kicking a pair of goals.
Outstanding captain and wing back David Desmond, Eamon Lyons, Ross Cashman, Nick O'Donovan, Tom Harrington, Josh O'Donovan, James Hurley, Maurice Sexton, Dec Harrington, Philip Wall and Conor O'Donovan are all as good with the big ball as the small and will prove stern opposition for the Ballineen/Enniskeane outfit.
Kilbrittain's experienced coach Noel Griffin is quietly confident of springing a surprise on Sunday.
âFootball is going very well in the club right now and with the hurling being put back a bit, we can have no excuse as regards preparation,' he said.
âThe quality of our football has improved greatly from winning the county last season and we have a big panel with some very promising young lads. We're doing well in the league against the football clubs and we're really enjoying our football.Â
âWe played St Mary's in 2014, when they won the title, and gave them a great game for 45 minutes. If we can stretch that to 60 minutes this time we are in with a great shout. There is the added bonus that qualifying for the South West final means you are automatically into the county championship and the defeat of Caheragh last weekend shows anything is possible.Â
âWe know St Mary's will be tough but we're looking for a performance and will see where that takes us.'
Verdict: The goal-scoring ability of the Kilbrittain forwards will make them a serious threat in this semi-final and their football has improved immensely in the past 18 months but the experience of the St Marys' men could prove vital on the day.