We challenged DENIS HURLEY to pick the best combined 15 from Carbery Rangers and Ballincollig. Let the debate begin...
1. David Lordan (Ballincollig): Carbery Rangers netminder Paul Shanahan can feel aggrieved, but the return of ‘Scotty’ – so-called for speaking like Groundskeeper Willie from The Simpsons when he was young – to the Ballincollig side after missing the earlier rounds has helped to buttress the defence. The captain when Ballincollig won in 2014, his experience helps to provide a calming presence.
2. Liam Jennings (Ballincollig): The current Collig captain normally plays at full-back but is shifted to accommodate both himself and Brian Shanahan. Exactly what one would want from someone in the last line of defence, his greatest strength is his ability to do his job in an understated but hugely effective way.
3. Brian Shanahan (Carbery Rangers): Often, Carbery Rangers’ biggest failing has been the backhanded compliment that they have too many footballers and not enough of a defensive meanness, but the tallies allowed this year indicate a change in that regard, no doubt helped by Ronan McCarthy’s experience. Shanahan is skilful enough to play further out the field – and has done so in the past – but has been excellent in putting the team first.
4. Noel Galvin (Ballincollig): The only Cork panellist among the back seven, he has perhaps been unlucky not to have had more exposure in a red shirt, with injuries often mitigating against him. An excellent man-marker, he was key in ensuring that Ballincollig only conceded 1-2 in the second half of the semi-final against Nemo Rangers last Sunday week.
5. Pádraig Hodnett (Carbery Rangers): Versatile enough to feature in a number of spots, Hodnett – who has played in the McGrath Cup for Cork – has featured strongly since being used as a sub in the opener against Clyda Rovers. Well able to play football but not afraid to mix it either and Ross haven’t conceded a goal in the three games he has started.
6. Robbie Kiely (Carbery Rangers): The Tipperary star has been a huge addition to the team since transferring and has literally been central as Ross’s soft centre has been barricaded shut. At club level, can utilise his footballing smarts to get forward and involve himself in attacking moves but only after dealing with primary duties.
7. Cian Kiely (Ballincollig): The younger brother of Seán, it would not surprise if he was to go on to greater prominence as an attacker but has been impressive at wing-back since his return from the US after spending the summer there. Has everything that the modern-day number 5 or 7 needs going forward, but doesn’t lack for defensive discipline.
8. Seán Kiely (Ballincollig): Gone are the days when a midfield pairing had one player sitting on halfway while the other scuttled up and down the field – nowadays the 8 and 9 must be close to complete footballers and Kiely’s displays in the championship have seen his role as a leader in the Collig team grow. The next challenge is to stake a claim for a Cork place.
9. James Fitzpatrick (Carbery Rangers): A model of consistency, this year’s captain had featured in the half-forward line in the past but Micheál O’Sullivan’s retirement from senior level saw him become ensconced at midfield. Good in the air, he rarely wastes possession and isn’t afraid to have a go from distance with his trusty left foot.
10. John O’Rourke (Carbery Rangers): Fingers crossed that his injury woes are behind him and that he can go on to become an integral part of the Cork team. He is already that for Ross, his levels of industry so high that it would be easy to wonder if there were two or three of him on the field at once. Always good for three or four points but gives the team so much more than that.
11. Patrick Kelly (Ballincollig): The classiest of footballers, he always seems to be two or three moves ahead like a chess or snooker player. Composure personified, his vision and awareness remain outstanding, with an impressive level of assists always assured. The hope would be that he still has something to offer Cork in 2017.
12. Chris O’Donovan (Carbery Rangers): Might not always get the headlines, but he is the kind of player who does the often-unheralded work which allows others to benefit. Supreme energy levels allow him to contribute as heavily in the final minute as he does in the first and the ball-usage is faultless more often than not.
13. Cian Dorgan (Ballincollig): Like his namesake Kiely, was in America for the summer and his return has coincided with an improvement in his team’s performance. Excellent from frees, he has become the scorer-in-chief from play too and nullifying his threat would go a long way towards victory for Ross.
14. John Hayes (Carbery Rangers): What can you say that hasn’t been said in the past? The deadliest of finishers – it’s unlikely that bookmakers would have even offered odds on him scoring the penalty against Avondhu – he remains the leader of the attack and dead-ball expert. Not an exaggeration to say that a big display from him would have Ross more than halfway there.
15. John Miskella (Ballincollig): Cheating slightly as he rarely stays in the corner, but his impact isn’t lessened on account of that. While the player himself would prefer to still be a wing-back if pace allowed it, his wealth of experience allows him to benefit the team in a number of ways, depending on what is needed at a given time.