Douglas and Erins’ Own set for pre-Christmas cracker

THERE’S a pre-Christmas cracker in the offing for hurling followers at Páirc Ui Rinn tomorrow (3.30pm) when Erin’s Own and Douglas battle it our for the right to be crowned Evening Echo Cork Co U-21 champions.

And both sides make no secret of their desire to win the coveted title.

Thankfully, the weather this week has been kind and the Páirc Ui Rinn sod will make for some lively, open hurling. But what a pity this great competition is catapulted to the end of a long season.

It's been a long wait for Douglas since they won the city championship, taking some nice scalps on the way. Fancied Bishopstown fell, so too did Glen Rovers and Blackrock after replays. Inniscarra were next to bite the dust in the county semi-final, the Douglas youngsters showing commendable resilience in their quest for a first championship victory they yearn.

And they have left no stone unturned in those long lonely weeks, while Erin's Own were battling away out the county.

The Douglas mentors have had a job keeping their charges ticking over but selector Pat Harrington is quietly confident and after five tough games in the city and that semi-final win over Inniscarra they know how to deliver.

Said Harrington: "We played Drom Inch from Tipperary, Abbeyside from Waterford, UCC Freshers and the Limerick minors over the last few weeks and the lads have been going really well. We have no injuries and the attitude of the players has been top class. We know we are up against a good Erin's Own team but there is a great buzz in the area and we're ready for the challenge."

They have some super hurlers in their ranks and won't be found wanting. Team captain David O'Connor, influential centre-back Eoin Cadogan and Ray Keating are top defenders while, up front, Fergal O'Sullivan, Mark Harrington and Steve Moylan can be match winners.

But while Douglas have been involved in challenges Erin's Own have been busy in competitive action and have had tough battles.

Top of that list was their East Cork final victory over great rivals Sarsfields in Pilmore, a win they savoured. That set the mood for Erin's Own and although they had to endure two bruising county semi-final battles with Valley Rovers, the Caherlag side came through with flying colours. Some of their hurling has been top drawer, leaving great servant and coach Timmy Kelleher and selector Ned O'Flynn very pleased with their charges.

Said O'Flynn: "the lads are all okay, just a few knocks and bruises. We were a bit worried as five of our players were involved with our junior footballers who have also had a tough campaign. Our fellows have shown tremendous improvement since luckily beating Killeagh after extra-time in the first round in East Cork. But the win over Sars has put them in the right mood to retain a championship that has been good to us. We know Douglas are a good side, but we're ready."

No question Erin's Own have the players for the big occasion.

Goalkeeper Shay Bowen's deliveries are a huge boost and with defenders like Paul Fenton, Pat Fitzgerald Ronan Carroll and Steve Cronin the Douglas front division will get nothing soft.

Diarmuid O'Flynn is having a terrific season at midfield while, up front, Eoghan Murphy recently called into the Cork senior squad has been a revelation at full-forward, making lots of space for eager forwards like Colm Coakley, Killian Murphy and Ciarán O'Leary.

Two fine hurling teams, but the better balanced Erin's Own side get the verdict.

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