With two teams from each of the four sections going through to the knock-out stages and a number of schools tied on equal points, qualification may come down to scoring difference.
Coláiste An Spioraid Naoimh are the only team definitely through to the quarter-finals. Playing in the competition for the first time, they have maximum points from two games, and irrespective of the result tomorrow against defending champions St Colman’s, they cannot be caught.
However, Colman’s need at least a point to be certain, which adds extra spice to their game in Watergrasshill.
CSN are backboned by most of the Bishopstown minor team - the Cork Premier champions - and are being tipped as one of the favourites for this year’s title.
However, St Colman’s will battle all the way to stay in the title race.
The other game in that section involves Cashel and Kilmallock at Mitchelstown on Friday. The Limerick college have lost their two opening matches and are only playing for pride while Cashel have one point from their two games. The Tipp side need the win and to chalk up a big score in the process, and then hope that Colman’s lose to CSN.
Of the four sections, Section C is the most competitive with all four teams level on two points each. With so much at stake, the all-Tipperary clash at the Ragg tomorrow between St. Josephs (Borrisoleigh) and Thurles CBS will have a cutting edge to it
Moycarkey Borris’s victory in the Tipperary county MHC final replay on Sunday will be a big boost for Thurles as they will include Kieran Shorthall, Joe Dixon and Brian Moran from that team.
Richard O’Gorman returns after injury to strengthen the side and with county minor Tom King also included, Thurles look to carry that extra bit of class.
In the other game in that section, two of the former greats, North Mon and St Flannan’s, clash at Kilmallock with both needing the win. In the previous round, the Mon shocked Thurles who had beaten Flannan’s, which suggests there’s little between them.
Whatever happens in Section A, Waterford will have at least one team in the knock out stages after Christmas. Waterford Colleges top the group with four points from two games played, and should Shannon Schools beat Youghal CBS at Ballyagran this afternoon, they will join them.
DLS (Waterford) entertain Coláiste Chríost Rí in Ardmore tomorrow and need to win to stay in the championship. Tommy Power, Kevin Moran, Noel Delahunty and Nicky Quinlan should ensure a home win. But Roy Leahy, Shane Crowley, Brian Cashman and David Coughlan will give their all for the Capwell side.
Following their dramatic injury time win over Doon CBS in their previous outing, Midleton CBS face unbeaten Our Lady’s (Templemore) in Clonmel tomorrow where victory for both sides is a must.
Midleton showed marvellous heart to beat Doon by a point, and if they play with the same commitment, could well secure the win that would guarantee them at least a play-off for the knock out stages.
Aidan Ryan, Ger O’Leary, Alan Morrissey and Cillian Hurley will again be the key players for the East Cork school, but they can take nothing for granted against a side that beat Abbey CBS by seven points in the opening round.
James Egan, Joey Ryan, Pádraig Murphy and Morgan Lawlor will spearhead the Templemore challenge and they should be good enough to bag the points to keep their hopes alive.
In the same group, a Doon win over their sister school from Tipperary Town should ensure they stay in contention. However, the defeat by Midleton was a real setback and should have them on guard against the pointless Abbey CBS.