Until recently, it was easy enough to package these two teams in neatly-labelled boxes.
Carbery Rangers? Great going forward but no defence. Ballincollig? The opposite, plenty of good backs but not enough firepower. Both also carried the tag of never being able to deliver on sizeable amounts of potential.
This year, it has been different. Nobody could deny that these two have been the best teams in the championship as traditional notions have been confounded. Ballincollig’s scoring average is 17½ points against a concession rate of 11½. Carbery Rangers can better than on both counts, 21 points scored per game and just 9.8 allowed, though a 5-17 to 0-3 first-round win against Aghada is an outlier.
When they have met in recent times, Carbery Rangers’ irresistible force has generally bettered Ballincollig’s immovable object, the Rosscarbery side winning in 2009, ’11 and ’12 and only losing in 2010.
Rangers’ attack is still the jewel in their crown. John Hayes is so consistent it’s almost taken as a given by now but focus too much on him and you allow his brother Séamus, John O’Rourke and Declan Hayes free rein.
In midfield, Kevin MacMahon and James Fitzpatrick have complemented each other’s games brilliantly and the now-mean defence has Brian Shanahan and Pádraig Hodnett as its fulcrum.
Seán Kiely and Ciarán O’Sullivan will front up well against MacMahon and Fitzpatrick. Both are powerful in the air and able to go forward with purpose. Patrick Kelly can pick any defence apart and in George Durrant they have another creative influence. John Miskella is a nominal corner-forward but always seems to be where the ball is and Cian Dorgan benefits from the freedom inside.
How Ballincollig deal with the match-ups is key. In Noel Galvin, Stephen O’Donoghue and John Paul Murphy, among others, they are blessed with marking options.
If the game is an open, free-scoring affair, then Carbery Rangers’ attacking prowess will probably give them the edge. Finals so rarely are like that, however. If Ballincollig get a good start, like they did against Nemo Rangers in the semi-final, their defensive discipline could be an effective weapon in frustrating their opponents.
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