Abbeyside may be team to beat

With the coveted senior hurling championship prize no longer the chief preserve of clubs in the Eastern end of the county, the chief talking point at the moment who is likely to succeed Ballyduff Upper. Already a number of clubs in the West are laying claim to such a distinction, and one of them happens to be Abbeyside, whose ambitions go a bit higher, as the retention of the football title (Ballinacourty) forms for them an achievable dual objective.

Their hurling fortunes have been gaining momentum since they returned to senior ranks after winning the 2003 Intermediate championship, and this year they are simply setting a blistering pace not lost on any of the leading contenders for the title.

They faced the record-breaking Mount Sion in the opening round and put up a tremendous performance to win on a score line of 1-21 to 0-13 at Walsh Park back in April. They returned to the city venue to try conclusions with newly promoted Passage, ending up winning with ten points to spare (1-16 to 1-6) and as a result were assured of a place in the play-offs.

Some fourteen weeks elapsed before the Westerners were pressed into championship action again, this time it was to dispute out and out group supremacy with Lismore, and while the result wasn’t as ultra-important as it might otherwise have been, what ensued was voted the best seen on the local scene so far this year.

An hour of fluctuating fortunes, some marvellous scores and splendid hurling to boot, the game could in fact have gone either way. As it was the Cathedral Town men had four points to spare (2-18 to 2-14), but Abbeyside lost little caste or indeed confidence by this setback.

Unfortunately it was at a price as sterling defender John Kindergan who experienced cruciate ligament, and is unlikely to play again this season. He was also part of the club’s football squad into the bargain, and his loss to both teams right now must be viewed as incalculable.

Still, with more than their share of quality hurlers in their side – most notably perhaps Richie Foley, Gary, John and Patrick Hurney, Mark Fives, Mark Ferncombe, Gavin Breen, John Foley, Mark and John Gorman, and outstanding goalie Daryl Ryan – they must get the vote to see off the challenge of Ballyduff Lower, when they make a return visit to Walsh Park on Sunday afternoon.

Lower on the up

Those are indeed heady hurling days for Ballyduff Lower, who see themselves as equals with the remaining sides vying for the coveted senior hurling title in this year of many surprises. Winners in their own right as far back as 1906, they did feature in other outright victories with Portlaw in the 1970s .before the dawn of the new and current century (2000), saw them regain senior status after winning the Intermediate crown at the expense of Abbeyside, and they have been holding their own in the top flight ever since.

This year Ballyduff’s initial progress was a little on the slow side. In the group stages they lost to Ballygunner (3-15 to 2-8), before featuring strongly in a drawn match with one of the outright championship favourites, De La Salle. However, they later recovered well by accounting for Ardmore in the third round, and of course last Sunday had the additional satisfaction of adding the name of Passage – the recent conquerors of Mount Sion – to their list of victims, and more of the same could very well be the order of the day when they tackle Abbeyside in Walsh Park this Sunday (2pm).

An evenly-balanced side with considerable experience on board make Ballyduff a stern proposition for anyone, and while they are likely to start as outsiders in this instance, solid performances once again from Jack Kenney, John and Brian O’Leary, Pat Matthews, Pat Fitzgerald, Derek Van Veen, Conor Kenny, Paul Stephenson, Neil Power and Paudie Murphy, could enable them to shock the Westerners,

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