Can another Cork football club emerge and do a Ballincollig?

Eoghan Cormican examines the contenders for this year’s Cork SFC, which kicks off this weekend at several venues.

AGHADA

Manager: Darren Lee

Captain: Pearse O’Neill

Last year: Avoided relegation play-off by staving off the challenge of St Vincent’s in round 3. Bowed out to Clonakilty in the round of 16.

On the rise: John Looney and Aaron Berry were to the fore in the club’s recent U21 East Cork final win.

On the mend: Clean bill of health.

League hints: Languishing at the wrong end of Division 2. Have come out second best against Nemo’s second string side, Béal Áthan Ghaorthaidh, Newmarket, Ballincollig and Eire Óg.

Match-winner: Whether at midfield or further forward, Pearse O’Neill will cause problems.

First round rivals: Dohenys at Páirc Uí Rinn tomorrow. Must capitalise on a favourable draw.

Summer signs: With a relatively inexperienced team built around their successful U21 outfits of recent years, a Rd 4 appearance is as much as they can hope for.

BALLINCOLLIG

Manager: Michael O’Brien

Captain: Stephen O’Donoghue

Last year: Reached the summit of Cork football for the first time in the club’s history.

On the rise: Dylan Kirstein.

On the mend: Luke Prendergast and Niall Allen (both groin).

League hints: It might be Division 2, but Ballincollig’s spring form suggests second season syndrome won’t be an issue. Are six wins from six with a scoring difference of +47.

Match-winner: Patrick Kelly is to line out on Monday against the Barrs despite a recent calf injury and though the likes of George Durrant, Cian Dorgan and John Kelly are prominent contributors in front of goal, for leadership and class they will continue to turn to the 29-year old. 

First round rivals: St Finbarr’s - a repeat of last summer’s first round clash. The champions had one point to spare then and they should again emerge on the right side of this latest meeting.

Summer signs: Avoid fellow contenders Nemo, Castlehaven and Carbery Rangers in round 4 and they’ll take stopping coming down the home stretch.

BISHOPSTOWN

Manager: Leo Jones

Captain: Eoin Byrne

Last year: Knocked out at the semi-final stage for a second successive year.

On the rise: Killian Davin, Darragh O’Connor.

On the mend: Broken finger rules Mark Dorgan out.

League hints: Mid-table in Division 1 with three wins and three defeats. Stand out result was their 3-19 to 2-5 hammering at the hands of Valley Rovers last month.

Match-winner: Conor Dorman in defence and Sam Oakes in attack stand as the two most exciting members of this Bishopstown cast.

First round rivals: O’Donovan Rossa at Clonakilty on Monday afternoon. Will be forced to show close to their full hand in order to secure direct passage to round 4.

Summer signs: Injuries derailed their title ambitions last summer. Keep the casualty list relatively low and they’ll still be knocking about in late September/early October.

CARBERY RANGERS

Manager: Michael O’Sullivan

Captain: John Hayes

Last year: Coughed up a seven-point lead to Ballincollig in their unsuccessful attempt to secure a first county senior title.

On the rise: Christopher O’Donovan, Cathal O’Rourke.

On the mend: John O’Rourke dislocated his shoulder in Cork’s league final loss.

League hints: Mixed bag. Scored victories against Clonakilty, Clyda Rovers and Newcestown, lost on the road to O’Donovan Rossa and Nemo Rangers.

Match-winner: John Hayes will be asked to shoulder the bulk of the scoring responsibility in the absence of John O’Rourke for Monday’s clash.

First round rivals: Valley Rovers at Ballinascarthy on Monday - a tricky opening hurdle they should clear.

Summer signs: Will at least be targeting a semi-final berth given last year’s run. Another prolonged summer adventure is not beyond them.

CASTLEHAVEN

Manager: Jim Nolan

Captain: David Limrick

Last year: Stunned in their round 4 replay against Carbery Rangers, bringing the curtain down on their three-in-a-row dream.

On the rise: Plenty of minors have featured during their league campaign - Conor Nolan, Conor Cahalane, Cathal Maguire and Ronan Walsh.

On the mend: Michael Hurley pulled his hamstring training with the Cork U21’s prior to the Munster final. He will be absent this weekend.

League hints: Four wins has them second in the top tier. Lost narrowly to O’Donovan Rossa and Bishopstown.

Match-winner: Brian Hurley kicked 3-14 in their three outings last summer. Enough said.

First round rivals: Clyda Rovers at Carrigadrohid tomorrow week, May 9th. Clyda’s disciplined and defensive structure will provide an early examination of how Castlehaven are shaping up for the summer ahead.

Summer signs: Jim Nolan’s men will be hurting from last year’s early exit. Remain relatively injury free and they must be considered title favourites.

CLONAKILTY

Manager: Eoin Ryan

Captain: Donal Lyons

Last year: Fell at the quarter-final juncture to West Cork rivals Carbery Rangers.

On the rise: David Lowney and Sean McEvoy both impressed for the Cork minors in their opening Munster bout.

On the mend: Tiarnan O’Connell remains sidelined after pulling up injured in Cork’s first round Munster minor championship win over Limerick.

League hints: Second from bottom in Division 1. All five games lost were by a margin of less than five-points. Buoyed, however, by victory over Castlehaven in West Cork U21 final.

Match-winner: Tom Clancy and Sean White offer stability and composure in their half-back line.

First round rivals: Newcestown at Dunmanway on Sunday. The absence of Tony Anglin, Jonathan Leahy and Sean Nagle through suspension - all three were sent off in last year's championship defeat to Carbery Rangers - could see Clonakilty heading down the byroads in search of a round four berth.

Summer signs: Likely to experience early turbulence, but once Eoin Ryan has his full panel at his disposal, they will challenge those harbouring title ambitions.

CLYDA ROVERS

Manager: Liam Cronin

Captain: Oliver O’Hanlon

Last year: Lost to Bishopstown in quarter-final replay.

On the rise: Seamus Ronayne.

On the mend: No injures to report.

League hints: Seventh in Division 1 with three wins and three defeats. Notable results include wins over Douglas and O’Donovan Rossa, pushed Nemo and Carbery Rangers all the way to the line.

Match-winner: 35-year old Paudie Kissane can no longer be expected to carry the can. Assistance to be provided by Fionn O’Shea, Dan Callaghan and Conor Flanagan.

First round rivals: Castlehaven. Near impossible to see Cronin’s charges springing an early championship upset.

Summer signs: Strong enough to survive down the back roads. A second successive quarter-final showing would represent another progressive season.

DOHENYS

Manager: Stephen Mohan

Captain: Brian McCarthy

Last year: Condemned St Vincent’s to intermediate football by virtue of a 1-10 to 0-10 win in the relegation decider.

On the rise: Eoin Lavers, Sean Daly

On the mend: Declan O’Dwyer (medial ligament tear).

League hints: Second in Division 2 with four victories in seven outings.

Match-winner: Alan Sheehan. Commanding defender and reliable free-taker.

First round rivals: Aghada. They won’t get a better chance to avoid the all too familiar relegation scrap.

Summer signs: Lose tomorrow evening and the panic buttons will be hit.

DOUGLAS

Manager: Tony Leen

Captain: Philip Shine

Last year: Never left the starting blocks when falling to O’Donovan Rossa by eight points in the fourth round.

On the rise: Blooding a raft of younger players, with 2014 minors Kevin Flahive, Mark Dolan, Luke McGrath and Eoin O’Sullivan among them.

On the mend: Ray Keating and Philip Shine are doubtful with hamstring injuries, Paul Fitzgerald (knee), Conor O’Brien (knee) and Sean Walsh (shoulder) will not be available.

League hints: Three won, three lost. Fell to Castlehaven on their home patch by 3-14 to 1-9.

Match-winner: Hasn’t been seen in the Douglas colours this year due to county commitments and his role with the Armagh hurlers, but Eoin Cadogan will still be expected to lead the troops into battle next weekend.

First round rivals: St Nicholas’ at Páirc Uí Rinn on Saturday week. Is that a banana skin over there in the corner?

Summer signs: Hard to know. Haven’t progressed beyond the quarter-final stage since 2008. Semis would still appear beyond them.

ILEN ROVERS

Manager: Johnny Holland

Captain: Kevin O’Sullivan

Last year: Comprehensively dismissed by Nemo Rangers in round 4.

On the rise: Sean O’Donovan, Stephen Leonard.

On the mend: Cork minor Tom Bushe (torn hamstring) is ruled out; questions marks hang over Kevin O’Sullivan and Alan Holland.

League hints: Rooted to the bottom of Division 1. Only one win from seven.

Match-winner: Dan McEoin. Will be targeted by opposition defences as assistance is lacking up front.

First round rivals: Nemo again. Don’t expect last year’s margin of 11-points to be considerably closed on Saturday.

Summer signs: Round 2 fixture could well be their county final. Lose and they could be in danger of falling through the trapdoor.

NEMO RANGERS

Manager: Stephen O’Brien

Captain: Peter Morgan

Last year: Out-worked, out-thought and out-classed by Ballincollig in the semi-final.

On the rise: Alan O’Donovan, Conor Horgan, Ryan Kennedy.

On the mend: Are reporting a clean bill of health.

League hints: Promising. Four wins in five outings - St Finbarr’s, Clyda, Newcestown and Carbery Rangers they've taken. They’ve also got a certain Tomás Ó Sé in their ranks now.

Match-winner: Several beginning to challenge Paul Kerrigan’s long held title; namely Barry O’Driscoll and Luke Connolly.

First round rivals: Ilen Rovers this Saturday in Dunmanway. Are unlikely to learn a whole pile about themselves here.

Summer signs: Such is their tradition that nothing less than at least a final appearance will be tolerated.

NEWCESTOWN

Manager: Tom Wilson

Captain: Martin O’Brien

Last year: Edged past Dohenys in round 3, but were subsequently unable to turn over Clyda Rovers.

On the rise: Leigh O’Donovan, Greg Murphy, Michael McSweeney and Luke Meade.

On the mend: Trevor Horgan is a long-term casualty following shoulder surgery.

League hints: Indifferent. Won three, lost four. Well beaten at home to Nemo and away to Valley Rovers but won at Clyda.

Match-winner: Daniel Twomey. Short of real attacking flair, however.

First round rivals: Clonakilty at Dunmanway on Sunday evening. Confidence is brewing their West Cork rivals can be turned over.

Summer signs: Might benefit from a round 2 fixture to bed in emerging crop. Quarter-final most they can aspire to.

O’DONOVAN ROSSA

Manager: Shane Crowley

Captain: Daniel Hazel

Last year: Exit at the hands of Nemo in the quarter-finals.

On the rise: Sean Fitzgerald and Dylan Hourihane have impressed in their first year out of U16 level.

On the mend: Pat Gilmore, Eoin Hodnett.

League hints: Four wins in Division 1 has the Skibbereen club fourth at present. Had the better of both Castlehaven and Carbery Rangers.

Match-winner: Donal Óg Hodnett. Off the left or right, he will trouble even the most effective man-markers in the county.

First round rivals: Conor McCarthy and Ger Minihane are missing through work commitments for the clash against Bishopstown.

Summer signs: The draw has been unkind in recent years, knocked out by Nemo in 2013 and 2014 (R4 and QF) and Castlehaven (R4) in 2011. Avoid the big guns and they could sneak into semis.

ST FINBARR’S

Manager: Tony Leahy

Captain: Paul Kennedy

Last year: Exited in Rd 4, 0-11 to 0-9 they fell to Bishopstown.

On the rise: Enda Dennehy, Cian Madden, Eoin Finn and Alan O’Connor.

On the mend: Cork midfielder Ian Maguire (back) is a major loss.

League hints: Not encouraging. Two wins from seven games. Were beaten last time out by basement club Ilen Rovers, handing the West Cork side their first win of the year.

Match-winner: In the absence of Maguire, the bulk of expectation has been dropped at the doorstep of Michael Shields.

First round rivals: Ballincollig, again. Without Maguire, very difficult to see how they can engineer victory.

Summer signs: Will secure passage to round 4 through the backdoor.

ST NICHOLAS

Manager: Michael Brosnan

Captain: Paul O’Brien

Last year: Arrived at Rnd 4 via the backdoor where they were hammered 4-14 to 1-6 by Muskerry.

On the rise: Adam Lynch, Glenn Kennefick, Dean Brosnan.

On the mend: Sickbay is empty.

League hints: From seven league games in Division 3 they have managed only a solitary win - St Vincent’s beaten 5-15 to 2-11 last month.

Match-winner: Robert McCarthy-Coade and Barry O’Donovan have been instrumental in maintaining Nicks’ senior status in recent campaigns.

First round rivals: Douglas. A first round shock is unlikely but they invariably win one game to retain senior status.

Summer signs: The back roads of the Cork championship again beckon.

VALLEY ROVERS

Manager: Ger Slyne

Captain: Fiachra Lynch

Last year: This Innishannon club returned to the senior ranks three years after being relegated.

On the rise: Eoin O’Reilly, Darragh Looney.

On the mend: Tim Cummins, Hughie O’Donovan.

League hints: Top of the class. Sit at the head of the Division 1 table thanks to wins over Ilen Rovers, O’Donovan Rossa, Bishopstown, Nemo Rangers and Newcestown.

Match-winner: Jack Murphy and Fiachra Lynch are their two main operators in attack, but it is Kevin Canty at midfield who represents the engine of this Valleys operation.

First round rivals: Carbery Rangers - could really have done with an easier draw to ease themselves back into senior life.

Summer signs: League campaign suggests they will be involved in the round of 16. Will require favourable draw if they are to remain afloat beyond that point.

 

DIVISION/COLLEGES SECTION

 

BEARA

Manager: Aidan McGurn

Captain: Brian T O’Sullivan (Garnish)

Last year: Fell to Seandún in round 2.

On the rise: Cork minor Gary Murphy kicked 1-2 in their first round win.

On the mend: Will be a keeping a close eye on opening rounds of premier intermediate and intermediate championships to see if any injuries are incurred.

Divisional round hints: Were most clinical when hitting four goals in the 4-13 to 0-13 revenge mission against Seandún.

Match-winner: Former Cork panellist Andrew O’Sullivan. The Castletownbere midfielder notched 1-2 in a superb display last time out.

Second round rivals: UCC on June 19.

Summer signs: If UCC are depleted come mid-June, then McGurn's men have every chance of being present for the fourth round draw of the championship proper.

DUHALLOW

Manager: Ned English

Captain: John McLoughlin (Kanturk)

Last year: A one-point extra-time defeat to Muskerry denied Duhallow a place in round 4 of the county championship.

On the rise: Kevin Crowley (Millstreet), TJ Brosnan (Kanturk).

On the mend: No injuries to report at present.

Divisional round hints: Dominant, though somewhat wasteful in their 3-11 to 1-10 win over Avondhu.

Match-winner: Donncha O’Connor and Aidan Walsh provide composure, leadership and the required touch of class in the second half of the field.

Second round rivals: Muskerry on June 16.

Summer signs: Vital the services of Aidan Walsh are secured if the North Cork division are to progress. He was absent for their first round victory.

MUSKERRY

Manager: Andrew McCarthy

Captain: Rory Buckley (Macroom)

Last year: Outclassed by Ballincollig in the county quarter-final, 0-20 to 1-9 it finished.

On the rise: Peter Kelleher (Kilmichael), Sean Kiely (Macroom).

On the mend: Dripsey’s John Carey missed their opening bout.

Divisional round hints: Nothing spectacular when disposing of CIT by 0-12 to 1-6.

Match-winner: Daniel Goulding kicked four points against CIT – a most valuable asset in an experienced forward unit.

Second round rivals: Duhallow on June 16th.

Summer signs: Safely negotiate the challenge of Duhallow and they will again eye a last eight spot. With Peter Kelleher no longer tied to CIT, Muskerry will benefit from the aerial prowess of the Kilmichael footballer.

UCC

Manager: Dr Con Murphy

Captain: Tomás Clancy (Fermoy)

Last year: Beaten by Muskerry in round 2 of the Division/Colleges section.

On the rise: Barry O’Sullivan (Dingle), Colm Hyde (Noamh Abán).

On the mend: Availability of players rather than injuries is the main concern ahead of their next outing.

Divisional round hints: Looked very impressive when overcoming Carbery by double scores in round 1. Were able to call on eight of the team that started February’s Sigerson Cup decider.

Match-winner: None more threatening close to goal than Kerry All-Ireland winning forward Paul Geaney.

Second round rivals: Beara on June 19.

Summer signs: If Kerry contingent travel for Beara clash – Barry O’Sullivan, Geaney, Shaun Keane, Conor Cox and Fergal McNamara – they’ll ease into the championship proper.


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