An eventful weekend in our club championship has thrown up significant outcomes. Mid pair, Holycross and Boherlahan, are already into the relegation mix while 2013 county champs, Loughmore, are also in early season difficulty after a second successive defeat.
The season may yet be young but already there are casualties. I don’t think too many would have predicted that Holycross would face a relegation shoot-out in 2015. They’ve won the last three Mid minor titles and with Cathal Barrett raising the club profile they seemed well positioned to build for the future. Yet successive one-point defeats to Roscrea and Borrisokane have raised eyebrows and left John Doyle’s old club facing the relegation trap door.
They’ll be joined in the draw by neighbours, Boherlahan, who fell heavily to Toomevara on Sunday last. It will be quite a pull if this pair has to face-off in that relegation game, though, of course, the lottery may yet keep them apart.
Boherlahan had the knack of bothering Toomevara in their golden era of the nineties, famously putting one over them in the ’96 final. They began promisingly enough on Sunday too and were well in it at half time being only four adrift. The second half, however, saw the ‘greyhounds’ race comfortably clear and that result means Boherlahan are into the relegation mix irrespective of the outcome in their final game with Mullinahone, who walloped Ballingarry at the weekend.
A third Mid side, Moyne/Templetuohy, is battling to avoid relegation too. Newly promoted after their intermediate win last year they had a very creditable draw with Swans in their opening game but came up short against an improving Kickhams formation last Saturday.
For Kickhams it was a very significant outcome. With ex-Clare player, Tommy Guilfoyle, doing the coaching at Dundrum they’ve certainly revitalised their prospects. They really made hay in the first half with wind advantage against a sluggish-looking Mid side. Davy Butler tapped in a vital goal to set up a 1-9 to 0-3 interval advantage – he might have had a second major just before the break but the wind-up was a bit obvious and the defence got in a crucial hook.
Moyne hit back strongly in the second half but Kickhams held their nerve, Brendan Ryan landing a few essential frees near the end. The evergreen Damien McGrath was one of their best but the overall work rate and industry of the side was commendable.
For Moyne the result means that they have to get something from their final round with Brackens and that won’t be helped by the red card picked up by Liam Butler near the end of last week’s game. Still it’s all to be decided in this very tight group.
Elsewhere in the top tier it was also a profitable weekend for the West division with both Annacarty and Clonoulty claiming significant points.
After their poor showing in the opening round against Killenaule, Eire Og needed to up their game and they certainly achieved that against Loughmore at Cashel on Saturday evening. The foundations were laid in the first half with wind aid. The O’Briens, Conor and Ronan, tortured the Loughmore defence slotting over nine points between them from play as a fifteen-seven lead was constructed. Tom Fox hit two eye-catching scores as well, one in particular after a dash down the left flank was simply sublime. Some are wondering why he hasn’t been part of Eamon O’Shea’s panel after his Fitzgibbon displays; it’s probably only a matter of time.
Eight-up at the interval seemed comfortable for the West side but Loughmore drafted in John McGrath for the restart and their intensity levels increased as they chased down the advantage. The lead dwindled down to just two and the Mid side will rue some ballooned wides that might have made the difference. In the end Eire Og held the line and got home by two for a precious win.
Loughmore now prop up this group after two defeats though it’s still mathematically possible for them to claim one of the top two places and with it a spot in the last sixteen of the county. They need to beat Killenaule in their final game and hope that other results go their way. By my reckoning if Lorrha won their two remaining games you could have a three-way tie which would then be decided by score difference. Still the odds must be heavily against Loughmore getting through in this group, which would then leave them requiring a Mid final win to gain entry to the last sixteen.
Clonoulty are in pole position in their group after a truly bizarre clash with Templederry on Sunday last at the Ragg. The West side led 2-4 to 0-4 at the break after goals from John and Fiachra O’Keeffe. Templederry’s woes were compounded by the dismissal of Adrian Ryan about twenty minutes in, following an off-the-ball clash with John Devane.
Astonishingly Clonoulty went thirty four minutes of the second half without adding another flag. It was a crazy half with lots of stoppages, no real pattern and a litany of outlandish misses by both sides. John O’Neill was eventually red carded after a chop down on the Templederry goalie; I suspect he may have paid the price for a few earlier Clonoulty bookings with refereeing patience running out.
In the end a draw seemed likely - and fair - but the referee played on and the last action of the game saw John Devane take a pass, albeit a dubious one, out on the left wing and land the winner. Templederry were left furious with the final phase of play as well as a number of calls earlier against their defence. It was meant to be the highlight fixture of the weekend but it never matched that billing.
It was difficult to assess either team in a game as eccentric as this one. James Heffernan had a powerful first half especially for Clonoulty but their lack of second half scoring was an indictment on a perfect day for hurling.
I thought Thomas Stapleton was man-of-the-match for Templederry at centre back; what a pity he can’t seem to bring club form up another notch to county level. His brother Brian did well too and Gearoid Ryan was busy though as wayward as any with his shooting at times. Templederry has a lot of potential though I suspect they’ll be deeply disappointed with this showing.
Elsewhere an eye-catching score line saw Kilruane MacDonaghs trounce Borrisoleigh by all of sixteen points while Moycarkey had an impressive win over Kildangan and Sarsfields outscored Upperchurch. The latter game marked the return to action of both Lar Corbett and Mickey Cahill.
Overall the club championship is heating up with some critical games scheduled for the coming weeks. Then it will be over to the divisions to do their business.
Elsewhere Tipperary followers will be neutral spectators at next Sunday’s league final in the Stadium. Cork and Waterford bring a change of colours after the dominance of Tipperary and Kilkenny in previous years. There will be obvious interest in how this new-look Deise formation fares against the rebels; the fact that they meet again in the championship later could either add spice or inhibit Sunday’s participants.
Cork are fancied by the bookies, which presumably reflects public sentiment. The neutral in me would like to see the underdog pull off a famous win though somehow I can see the Cork attack having too much firepower for them. Anyway let’s hope for a rousing one.
Incidentally Pauric Mahony’s winning point in the semi-final at Nowlan Park cost Tipperary an estimated sixty grand. That’s the purse we would likely have pocketed from a final meeting with Cork which, incidentally, would also have been staged at the Stadium. It was a costly defeat financially then and only time will tell what other consequences it may carry.
Finally best wishes to the U21s on Saturday in their search for a first; wouldn’t an U21 double be sweet this year?