Final: Sarsfields v Bishopstown
Páirc Uí Chaoimh, 3.45pm
Sarsfields are bidding for a third title in five years, and given that they only fell short at the final hurdle in 2009 against Newtownshandrum, this has been a dominant phase by the Riverstown based club.
Defender Conor O’Sullivan, midfielder Daniel Kearney and attacker Cian McCarthy were all part of Jimmy Barry-Murphy’s Cork squad this season. In addition Kieran ‘Fraggy’ Murphy and Michael Cussen have both featured at that level in recent years.
Sarsfields can also call on Wexford seniors Eanna Martin, goalkeeper for the Model County but wing-back for his club side, and Eoin Quigley. It is a potent combination which helped power them to a semi-final success over last year’s finalists Cork IT.
Opponents Bishopstown are entering unchartered territory. They featured in county senior football finals in 2002 and 2004 but their is their maiden appearance in a hurling decider. And it is made all the more remarkable by the fact that they only retained their senior status with a relegation final replay win over Ballinhassig last year. It has been a stunning transformation.
They lost their opening round tie against Midleton this year but have bounced back in splendid style. Cork seniors Shane O’Neill and Patrick Cronin have been outstanding, county football goalkeeper Ken O’Halloran has been brilliant between the posts while defenders Diarmuid Lester and Ian Jones have also impressed.
Final: Adare v Kilmallock, Gaelic Grounds, 3.30pm
This year’s senior hurling showdown on Shannonside pits together an Adare team, who claimed a three-in-a-row of titles between 2007 and 2009, and a Kilmallock side who triumphed in 2010.
It also brings together homer Clare senior bosses Ger O’Loughlin (Adare) and Tony Considine (Kilmallock) in a battle of the sideline operators. Adare reached this juncture by virtue of their 1-19 to 0-12 semi-final success over Garryspillane. That was achieved without the suspended Declan Hannon but he is back in harness and they can also call on Willie Griffin, Donncha Sheehan and John Fitzgibbon.
Kilmallock toppled reigning champions Na Piarsaigh in their semi-final tie by 4-24 to 4-13 in a thrilling clash. County senior Graeme Mulcahy is their attacking lynchpin after grabbing 3-3 in that clash. Gavin O’Mahony, Kevin O’Donnell and Paudie O’Brien are other sectors of strength in the Kilmallock line-up.
Final: Kilcormac-Killoughey v St Rynagh’s, O’Connor Park, Tullamore, 3.30pm
Kilcormac-Killoughey were defeated in finals in 2002, 2007 and 2009 and indeed must go back to 1907 when a team from their parish claimed senior hurling honors in the Faithful county. Conor Mahon and Killian Leonard were the scoring heroes in their dramatic one-point win over the traditional kingpins Birr at the semi-final stage.
It was an ability to plunder goals that proved crucial for St Rynagh’s against Shinrone in their semi-final tie with Gary Conneely and Stephen Quirke finding the net for the Banagher-based club. The side coached by former Antrim boss Dinny Cahill will take confidence from knocking out this year’s All-Ireland club finalists Coolderry earlier in the championship as they go in search of their first title since 1993.
Verdict: St Rynagh’s
Thurles Sarsfields v Éire Óg-Annacarty, Semple Stadium, 2pm
Western divisional outfit Éire Óg-Annacarty are the surprise team in contention here at the last four stage. They defeated North divisional champions Portroe in their quarter-final tie with county senior Conor O’Brien the talisman of their side. But Tipperary senior footballer Brian Fox, last weekend’s All-Ireland minor hurling medal winner Tom Fox and county intermediate player Paudie O’Dwyer are also instrumental figures in their progression to date.
But Thurles Sarsfields, who have reached eight of the last twelve senior hurling finals, are an extremely formidable force. Padraic Maher, Michael Cahill, Lar Corbett and Pa Bourke are their inter-county senior stars with good back-up from the likes of Stephen Maher, Denis Maher and Kevin O’Gorman.
Verdict: Thurles Sarsfields
Drom-Inch v Loughmore-Castleiney, Semple Stadium, 3.45pm
This clash is a repeat of the 2007 final which Loughmore-Castleiney triumphed in by nine points. However Drom-Inch are the reigning champions and enter this game on the back of a superb quarter-final victory over Clonoulty-Rossmore. Seamus Callanan, James Woodlock, Damien Young and Johnny Ryan will anchor their challenge.
For Loughmore-Castleiney, Noel, John and Liam McGrath are vital operators with Liam Treacy and David Kennedy others to watch out for in their ranks. They reached this stage on the back of a quarter-final win over Mullinahone.