Cork hurling championship preview: Holders will get stern test in intriguing battle of the Rovers

Eoghan Cormican looks ahead to the action in the Cork club championship this weekend.

TODAY

Cork SHC first round

Ballymartle v St Finbarr’s, Páirc Uí Rinn, (D Copps, Ballyhea), 6.15pm

Patrick and Ruairi Dwyer are no longer on the scene for Ballymartle. They are six from six in group one of the league’s top tier, with notable victories over Midleton and Glen Rovers. St Finbarr’s will have Damien Cahalane available, with the Cork defender returning to full fitness after missing the end of the league campaign because of an Achilles tendon injury.

Verdict: Ballymartle

Bishopstown v Imokilly, Riverstown (N Wall, Carrigaline), 6.45pm

Barry Murphy and Pa Cronin are slight injury concerns for Bishopstown. Their league form has been poor, with just one win from six in Division 1. Imokilly will be dependent on Seamus Harnedy and Paudie O’Sullivan for scores. Divisional outfits are typically slow starters at the outset of championship owing to a lack of game-time together so it remains to be seen if Imokilly can buck this trend.

Verdict: Bishopstown

Glen Rovers v Bride Rovers, Páirc Uí Rinn (J Larkin, Douglas), 8pm

Richie Kelleher and his backroom team have remained on board as the Blackpool club chase a first three-in-a-row of county titles since 1960. Dean Brosnan can expect more attention than he received in recent seasons owing to the considerable amount of game-time he got with the Cork hurlers this spring. Bride Rovers, for whom Daniel Dooley and Barry Johnson are important figures, upset Bishopstown in the first round two years ago and they’ll be hoping to cause a similar shock here.

Verdict: Glen Rovers

Cork PIHC first round

Courcey Rovers v Mallow, Ovens (D Kirwan, Éire Óg), 7.30pm

These teams enjoyed contrasting fortunes last year; Mallow came within a puck of a ball of reaching the county final while Courcey Rovers wound up in a relegation playoff against Barney, the only fixture they managed to win in the championship. Sean Hayes and Aaron Sheehan are likely to ask plenty of questions of the Courcey Rovers defence.

Verdict: Mallow

TOMORROW

Cork SHC first round

Avondhu v Carbery, Coachford (P O’Driscoll, Bride Rovers), 2.15pm

What team, if any, Carbery bring to Coachford remains to be seen as management have spent all week trying to secure the services of 15 players. Clonakilty’s David Lowney – a Cork minor in 2015 – will not be part of the Carbery set-up as he will instead line out for UCC. Martin Brennan (Fermoy), Kieran Morrison (Fermoy), Andrew Cagney (Charleville) and Seanie O’Connell (Milford) are key players for Avondhu.

Verdict: Avondhu

Duhallow v Youghal, Fermoy (C Lyons, Nemo Rangers), 3.30pm

Youghal failed to win either of their championship games last year. That poor form continued in 2017 when they lost their first four league games. The slide has been arrested somewhat in recent weeks, thanks to back-to-back wins overs Bishopstown and Bandon. Aidan Walsh isn’t expected to feature for Duhallow, but they can still call on Anthony Nash, William Egan, Lorcán McLoughlin and Mark Ellis.

Verdict: Duhallow

Ballyhea v Newcestown, Coachford (M Maher, St Finbarr’s), 4pm

Newcestown are still chasing their first victory upon returning to the top table having lost all three of their games in 2016. Luke Meade will look to carry his inter-county form onto the club stage, while prominent showings will be expected from Trevor Horgan and Michael McSweeney. Carthach Keane is injured. The two sides clashed in the 2014 Premier Intermediate final, a game in which Ballyhea emerged victorious. Pa O’Callaghan is the standout member of their attack, but cannot be expected to provide the bulk of the scores, as was the case in 2016.

Verdict: Ballyhea

CIT v Douglas, Páirc Uí Rinn (K Healy, Ballymartle), 4.30pm

New signings Cian McCarthy and Shane Bourke are expected to make their championship debuts for their adopted club. Eoin Cadogan won’t feature, however, as he continues to battle injury. For CIT, Conor Kingston (Douglas), David Noonan (Glen Rovers), Eoin Healy (Ballymartle) and Conor O’Neill (Newcestown) were all members of their starting team during the Fitzgibbon Cup but aren’t available as their respective clubs hold senior status. The availability of Waterford’s Mikey Kearney is key if they are to reverse last year’s fourth round defeat.

Verdict: Douglas

UCC v Carrigdhoun, Páirc Uí Rinn (S Stokes, Tullylease), 6.15pm

The divisional outfit will look to Ed Finn (Ballinhassig), David Drake (Carrigaline), Fintan O’Leary (Ballinhassig) and David Lynch (Valley Rovers). For UCC, Carrigaline’s Rob O’Shea and Castlelyons pair Colm and Anthony Spillane should feature. UCC, having failed to win a championship game last year, will be hoping for better fortunes in 2017.

Verdict: UCC

Cork SHC preliminary round

Bandon v Muskerry, Brinny (B Murphy, Carrigtwohill), 3.30pm

Muskerry have done very little in preparation for this game and will be up against it to churn out a positive result. Eoghan O’Donovan, Philip Crowley and Rory Fogarty are ruled out through injury. Their league form hasn’t been anything to shout home about with last year’s Premier Intermediate champions securing victory in only one of their six outings. Still, they should have enough for a divisional side who failed to win a championship game in 2016

Verdict: Bandon


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