The city club have reached the semi-finals in each of the past two years, losing to Nemo Rangers in the penultimate round in 2013 and Carbery Rangers last year. On the hurling front, a final appearance in 2012 hasn’t been built on and the club have a relegation play-off against Killeagh hanging over them.
Three SHC games – losses to Bride Rovers, Sarsfields and St Finbarr’s – have been played since the win over Rossa on the May bank holiday Monday, limiting the access football management have had to dual players. Manager Leo Jones is happy to have been able to focus on the challenge of Clyda since the start of August, however.
“We’ve had the lads together for the last three weeks,” he says. “We played Nemo in the Kelleher Shield last weekend and we beat them, that was our first league game actually since Clyda beat us at the end of May. The way the hurling went, our dual players had to focus on that and you accept that these things will happen in a club that’s senior in both.
“The focus has been all on football now for the last few weeks.”
Last year, Bishopstown and Clyda – in their first season back up at senior level - collided in the quarter-finals. Having erased a three-point deficit in the final quarter to force a draw, a Conor Dorman-inspired Town side opened up a lead of six in the replay and looked safe.
They were almost reeled in by a spirited Clyda fightback but they held out to win by 1-9 to 0-11. Naturally, Jones knows that their Mourneabbey opponents will provide a similar challenge tonight.
“It’s going to be another battle, there’s no doubt about that and there’s no point saying anything else,” he says. “Last year, we played them in the quarter-finals and it went to a replay, they were two tough games and we were lucky to come out with the win. We’re not expecting anything different this time around, but we think that we have the lads well prepared.” Based on the first round, the portents are good, though the caveat of the three-month lay-off does mean that there is an element of resetting everything.
“We were happy with the overall performance,” Jones says. “We probably struggled a bit in the first half but, in saying that, we created a few goal chances and the Skibb goalkeeper Ryan Price played very well, he made some very good saves.
“In the second half, we played well and we were able to get ahead. Getting over the first round is very important, especially when you’re a dual club, it all goes back to scratch now but we’re anxious to drive on.”
The experience which comes with reaching the last four twice on the trot was key in turning the game against O’Donovan Rossa. The Town also benefit from having players like Paul Honohan and Denis Crowley fit again while Dorman and Jamie O’Sullivan have benefited from inter-county exposure.
“We have had the nucleus of the same squad for the past four years or so,” Jones says. “There’s a good bank of experience built up and reaching two semi-finals has given them belief. We’re lucky at the moment that we don’t have any injuries. When everybody is fit, it’s a strong squad and hopefully we can prove that.”