by Lár na Pairce
We begin this week’s column with a spot of self-congratulations as it was here last week that we informed readers that Seamus McAneany’s time as Meath manager was drawing to a close.
Sure enough, Banty announced his departure during the week, following a tempestuous time in charge.
Suffice to say that only silverware would have kept him in the job following a disastrous spring and when Laois ended Meath’s championship aspirations the Monaghan man knew the game was up.
It is unlikely that Meath will go outside the county for a new manager and Sean Boylan is the early favourite for the job.
Football Quarter Finals
The football quarter finals, apart from Kerry’s defeat, went as we had predicted and having attended the four games, we confidently predict that the winner of the Cork Donegal tie will go on to lift the title.
This will be a fascinating tie with Cork’s power physique and pace pitted against Donegal’s blanket defence, ferocious hunger and voracious work rate.
We would remind readers that twice, 2006 and 2009, Cork have accounted for Donegal in Croke Park so there is no reason to fear them.
Just three short years ago the Rebels notched 1-27 in a quarterfinal canter and have won three consecutive league titles and the All Ireland since while Donegal have managed just two Ulster titles.
So despite all the hype about the northerners win over an aging Kerry, and don’t forget the Kingdom almost stole it in the final minutes, Cork have the players and more importantly the depth of talent to qualify for a third decider in five years. We will deal with the other semi final nearer the time of the game.
Before moving on, it is worth making the comment that Sunday was a good day for the provincial champions with all four winning, and by extension the provincial championships.
This is now the second successive year that this has occurred and while many observers decry the provincial championships it has come up trumps again this year and gives tangible testament to the statement that the shortest route is the best one.
Sunday should see a big exodus of Cork hurling followers to Croke Park for the eagerly awaited penultimate round clash with Galway.
Since their demolition of Kilkenny in the Leinster final, Galway have been touted as champions by many notwithstanding their infamous inconsistency. Should they repeat their heroics of the last day then they will be nigh impossible to stop but that is easier said that done.
While Galway’s record against Cork in semi-finals is most impressive, having recorded wins in 1975,’79, and ’85 the stark facts are that they have never followed up with an All Ireland title.
Indeed the last couple of times that Galway have defeated Kilkenny, Cork have lifted the trophy, recall 2005 when the Tribsemen blitzed the Cats only to succumb tamely in the decider. However that is all in the past and Sunday is another game entirely and Cork will certainly have to up the intensity considerably to advance.
The full back line looked very solid against Waterford but on Sunday the Cork half back line will need to be on their toes to ensure that the likes of Joe Canning, Damien Hayes and Cyril Donnellan are not given the type of ball they got against Kilkenny.
Cork’s midfield, hopefully with Dohenys Darren Sweetnam starting, he impressed when brought on against the Deise, will have to work extremely hard to protect the half line, thereby allowing them to drop back and cut down on the space.
This will mean that the Cork half forwards will have to compress the space further, also ensuring that Galway do not find gaps while at the same time opening up the space in front of a lethal full line of Paudie O’ Sullivan, Luke O’Farrell and Patrick Horgan.
These guys know where the posts are and given a proper and plentiful supply of the ball will do extreme damage which should re kindle the old doubts in Galway. A performance like that given in Thurles a few years ago when with 14 men – after Donal Og was red carded – will be required and if this is forthcoming then an All Ireland date beckons. It promises to be an intriguing contest and here’s hoping for a Rebel win.
Now that the senior footballers have secured a semi final berth the focus this week turns to the county championship and West Cork followers are spoiled for choice with no less than four teams involved in the senior football.
Carbery Rangers get the ball rolling on Friday night when the play Ballincollig and this promises to be a lively contest. Last year Rangers overcame them en route to a second successive semi final spot and they will be hoping for a repeat. Paddy Kelly is the main man for the Muskerry side but with John and Seamus Hayes, the evergreen Micheal O’Sullivan, James Fitzpatrick a rejuvenated Kevin MacMahon and rising star John O’Rourke, Rangers should have enough to advance.
Dohenys face Duhallow, the number one seeds who already have put out champions UCC and Carbery. Powered by Aidan Walsh and Donncha O’Connor the divisional side will be fancied but Dohenys are renowned championship fighters and if the youthful Luke Quinn can replicate his display against Ilen then they have every chance.
Illen Rovers face another divisional side in Avondhu who contain three of the Cork starting fifteen- Ray Carey, Paudie Kissane and Colmn O’Neill – who were impressive in their victory over Carbery. Ilen though following defeats to both Ballincollig and Dohenys recovered to defeat Na Piarsaigh and have been improving of late. With Conor O’Driscoll, Kevin O’Sullivan ,Dan MacEoin, Danny O’Donovan and Alan Holland in their ranks they can progress.
O’Donovan Rossas, many people’s dark horses for the title face a tricky assignment against Aghada.
Rossas have been inactive since defeating Dohenys three months ago and it will be interesting to see how they cope with the lay off.
Donal Og Hodnett almost single handedly destroyed Dohenys and with Conor McCarthy, Paddy Nealon young Kevin Davis, veteran Shane Crowley Skibb are taken to advance especially as their opponents suffered defeats to Castlehaven and Newmarket before scraping over St Nicks. Pearse O’Neill will spearhead their challenge but they do not look to have enough to derail Rossas.
The other big game on a busy weekend is the meeting of city rivals Nemo Rangers and St Finbarrs. Nemo have recovered from a shock defeat to Bishopstown and easily accounted for Na Piarsaigh. In the meantime they have also won the county under 21 side powered by David Nation, Luke Connolly and Alan Cronin, who will also feature and when you add in Paul Kerrigan and Barry O’Driscoll you can see the depth of talent they possess. The ‘Barrs though will relish the challenge that Nemo offers them and led by Michael Shields will provide formidable opposition. The loss of Eoin Keane though will hurt them and unless Robert O’Mahony and Roy Leahy strike top form they may again have to play second fiddle to their great south side rivals.
The remaining ties featuring Bishopstown v Clonakilty, Castlehaven v Newcestown and Douglas v Newmarket remain to be finalise.