2019 Cork premier intermediate champions Fr O’Neill’s will be without two first-team regulars for this evening’s Cork SAHC clash against Bride Rovers.
Ger Millerick, part of the Cork U20 defence last year, missed Fr O’Neills’ senior championship opener last weekend because of injury and he has again been ruled out for their second game in Group C.
Also absent this evening will be half-back John Barry, he is serving a one-game suspension for the red card picked up against Kilworth this day last week.
Despite finishing that game with 14 men, Fr O'Neill's won with seven to spare. And should they manage to follow that victory with a second win against 2016 senior quarter-finalists Bride Rovers, they will be all but assured of a place in the quarter-finals of this new Senior A grade.
The restructuring of the Cork county championships meant there was no seat at the top table for Fr O’Neill’s as reward for their premier intermediate final win last October. But joint-manager Dave Colbert says the introduction of a second senior grade is enabling the men from Ballymacoda and Ladysbridge to find their feet in this their first campaign out of premier intermediate.
“Senior A is a hugely competitive grade. With the redrawing of the grades, and adding in this new 12-team Senior A grade, it has definitely made this championship and the top-tier championship way more competitive,” Colbert remarked.
“We knew halfway through last year that was the way the format was going to be. We are in this grade now and it is up to us to find our feet in it.
“Certainly, there are going to be no runaway results in this championship. The teams are very even, from top to bottom. That level of competition is good for everyone. In all grades, from lower intermediate to the top senior grade, it was a good idea to tighten up the numbers a bit and get that competition going in Cork hurling.”
Colbert and the rest of the Fr O’Neill’s management were most pleased with how the team responded following Barry’s 39th-minute dismissal against Kilworth. The 2020 All-Ireland club finalists found themselves two in arrears at the break but completed a nine-point swing in the second-half an hour.
"We struggled in the first-half, but in the second-half we came into it a bit more. After the sending off, I felt that focused the minds even more so that was promising.
“If you can get a second win, you would put yourself in a good position for a knockout spot. But this game is definitely going to be a step up. Bride Rovers have been up senior 10-plus years. It is up to us to try and get up to that speed of hurling that they have been used to at senior level.”
Meanwhile, Cork county board has released the dates, throw-in times, and venues for the semi-finals and final of the divisions/colleges section in both the Cork Premier SHC and SFC.
On Tuesday, August 18, Duhallow meet UCC in the hurling semi-final (Mourneabbey, 7.30pm). The winner progresses to play three-in-a-row county champions Imokilly the following Sunday evening (Páirc Uí Rinn, 7pm).
In the football semi-finals on Wednesday, August 19, Duhallow take on Beara (Macroom, 7.30pm), while UCC face Carbery (Cloughduv, 7.30pm). The football final is also down for decision on Sunday evening, August 23 (venue tbc).
It is win-or-bust for either side. Both Midleton and Ballyhea came away pointless from their opening games and so whoever falls for a second time this evening will exit the race for a knockout berth. Midleton didn't do much wrong when coming up three points short of Sars and they’ll be confident they can get their campaign back on track in Fermoy. Ballyhea will have taken heart from the manner in which they pushed Douglas last weekend. As ever, though, there was a strong reliance on Pa O’Callaghan for scores. He was responsible for 0-9 of their 1-11 tally..
Both sides are buoyed by their opening round wins. Indeed, whoever claims the spoils here will put one foot in the knockout stages. Bride Rovers were never in trouble against Ballymartle and given they were one of the teams to lose their seat at the top table when the senior grade was split in two, you’d imagine their ambitions stretch far beyond simply making it out of Group C. William Finnegan, Brian Roche, Paddy O’Flynn, and Daniel Dooley will keep the opposition defence busy.
Verdict: Bride Rovers