Kicking off football semi-finals weekend in Cork: Would the real Skibb please stand up?

Beaten finalists last year, the perennial bridesmaids St Michael's also came off second best in the final of the old second-tier premier intermediate grade in 2015, 17, 18, and 19. How will they fare against the Skibbereen outfit this weekend?
Kicking off football semi-finals weekend in Cork: Would the real Skibb please stand up?

TIME TO SHINE: O'Donovan Rossa's Donal Og Hodnett is tackled by Newmarket's T.J. Brosnan during the Bon Secours Cork SAFC at Macroom. Picture; Eddie O'Hare

No country for old men? 

Quite the opposite in Cork, it seems On these pages last Saturday, we chatted to Erin’s Own hurler Kieran ‘Hero’ Murphy. The 39-year-old lined out at left-half forward in the following day’s premier senior semi-final, a full 22 years after he made his Cork hurling championship debut for the Glounthaune club in 2000.

Three years Hero’s senior is Paudie Kissane who, at 42 years young, will line out in the half-back line for Clyda Rovers in Saturday’s Senior A football semi-final against Knocknagree. Kissane isn’t so much a first-team regular for the Mourneabbey men as he is one of their leading performers, his trademark full-of-running approach - which hasn’t suffered for entering his 40s - so central to Clyda topping their group and progressing directly to the last four.

If Clyda are successful in returning to the top table of Cork football after a three-year stay in the second tier, who would bet against the 2010 All-Star continuing to play on past his 43rd birthday.

Is this finally St Michael’s year?

Arguably the most desperate of the four semi-finalists for top table involvement is St Michael’s.

Beaten finalists last year, the perennial bridesmaids also came off second best in the final of the old second-tier premier intermediate grade in 2015, 17, 18, and 19.

Speaking to this reporter after their final round group win over Bishopstown, manager Dave Egan said his team are reaping the benefits of increased S&C focus over the past two years.

“After Éire Óg blew us away in 2020, we brought in a team around us, strength and conditioning guys,” Egan explained. “It is grand bringing these guys in, but the players have to buy into it. And our lads have. They are working hard for it.

“Like anything in life, if you want to achieve something, it ain’t going to be easy, especially in GAA. These lads are putting in the hours, so hopefully they can keep putting them in and get a little bit of reward out of it. Getting to semi-finals and finals is grand, but it is nice to get across the line.” Is that to be the grain of rice that finally tips the scales in Michaels’ favour?

Plucky Knocknagree 

ONE can't say they are the most fortunate of the semi-final quartet to still be in the hunt for promotion, but if a straw poll had been done ahead of the final round of group action as to who were the four most likely semi-finalists, there was nobody including Knocknagree in their pick.

Winless and pointless after the first two rounds, Knocknagree had to beat Fermoy in their last game and hope Michael’s did them a favour by edging out Bishopstown, while also requiring the results in those two games to take their score difference (then -7) ahead of Fermoy (-5) and Bishopstown (0).

All those fences they successfully jumped to lift themselves from fourth to second in Group C, before taking out Béal Átha’n Ghaorthaidh in the quarters.

John Fintan Daly’s side have had their fair share of injuries this season, but don’t be the least bit surprised if they continue to confound over the coming few weeks.

Can the real O’Donovan Rossa please stand up?

O’Donovan Rossa, like Clyda Rovers, were a top-tier outfit just three years ago. Not alone that but they had five to spare over this weekend’s premier senior semi-finalists Ballincollig in the 2019 championship and came up just a point short against last year’s beaten finalists Clon.

On paper, they resemble a premier senior side, their teamsheet containing as it does Ryan Price, Donal Óg Hodnett, Kevin Davis, and Dylan Hourihane. Indeed, in 2020, no club ran eventual Senior A champions Éire Óg as close in the knockout stages as they did. 2021, though, was a disaster, Skibb finishing bottom of their group.

“There is serious talent in the squad, but they have just underachieved. I have told them that, but they know themselves,” said Skibb boss Gene O’Donovan earlier this year.

Is this the season they deliver on their potential?

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