Senior Hurling Championship reconvenes

This weekend’s SHC games will confirm quarter-final places for some, and a step towards relegation for others.

The highlight of Saturday’s three-match programme is unquestionably the meeting of Ballygunner and De La Salle at Walsh Park (5pm) – two teams with realistic ambitions of going all the way.

Champions Ballyduff Upper can feel none too comfortable about their meeting with Fourmilewater at Fraher Field (4pm), the Big Valley outfit having improved out of all recognition this year take an unbeaten record into this crunch affair.

A win would cement their quarter final place, and leave the champions faced with the possibility of relegation, while another huge crowd is expected at Cappoquin, where resurgent Tallow throw down the gauntlet to Stradbally.

Sunday’s three-match programme will have two earlier than usual starts due to the live television coverage of the Kerry/Tyrone showdown.

Survival is the name of the game for Mount Sion and Passage (1pm), while at the same time Western hopefuls Lismore and Abbeyside try conclusions at Cappoquin.

The final game of the day brings Ballyduff Lower and Ardmore to grips at Fraher Field (5.30pm) – another difficult one to call and like so many of the week end ties, wide open as to the outcome.

Ballygunner v De La Salle

Both teams are on the short-list for outright honours this year and take unbeaten records into this final group fixture.

At the moment the Gunners are marginally better off, having won both games to date convincingly and a further win would see them top the section and secure a more favourable quarter-final slot.

In their opening match Ballygunner recorded a convincing 3-15 to 2-8 victory over Ballyduff Lower, and with the return of Paul Flynn to the side, look well positioned to keep the momentum going.

On the other hand, De La Salle have been persistently knocking at the door of eventual glory for a number of seasons.

De La Salle got this year’s campaign off to a terrific start with a 12-point win over Ardmore. Despite taking their foot off the pedal against Ballyduff Lower, they still came away with a point.

But only their best will suffice against their great city rivals. Powered by three of Waterford’s hurling heroes – John Mullane, Kevin Moran and Brian Phelan, De La Salle are well capable of winning this one.

(Walsh Park, Saturday, 5.30pm; Referee: Pat Casey)

Ballyduff Upper v Fourmilewater

Defending champions Ballyduff Upper are in grave danger of surrendering their title. Defeat to Tallow, followed by a draw with Stradbally leaves the westerners staring into the abyss, knowing that nothing less than victory will suffice at Fraher Field this Saturday.

In marked contrast, Fourmilewater are enjoying their best hurling season since gaining promotion in 2001, with a win over Stradbally and a draw with Tallow to their name to date this campaign.

This form puts the Big Valley men firmly in the driving seat to top the group table. With the likelihood of achieving a rare senior county double a further motivating factor, they are widely fancied to add to Ballyduff’s woes.

However, the champions kept their best form for the concluding stages of last year’s SHC and could be viewed as having kept their powder dry up until now.

But it will take more than just the craft and experience of the Molumphy brothers, Adrian Power, Seamus Hannon, Patrick and Jamie Kearney and co, to see them through in this instance.

(Fraher Field, Saturday, 4pm; Referee: T O’Sullivan)

Stradbally v Tallow

Tallow and Stradbally remains one of the key games of the day. The seasiders desperately need a second win of the campaign having lost their opener to Fourmilewater. They did, however, regain some pride when holding champions Ballyduff to a draw in round two.

They are hoping that Ger Power, who’s played little hurling this year, will be fit to face Tallow and provide a galvanising influence which could cajole match-winning performances out of Stephen Cunningham, the Costelloes and Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh.

Form however, dictates that Tallow must be fancied to come out on top here, having already accounted for Ballyduff Upper and drawing with Fourmilewater.

Led by county senior stars Aidan Kearney and James Murray, Tallow are capable of beating anyone when in the mood and given their positive momentum in the championship to date must be given the nod to be first past the post this Saturday.

(Cappoquin, Saturday, 4pm; Referee: Michael Wadding)

Mount Sion v Passage

It’s unusual to find Mount Sion without a win to their name in September, and even more unusual still that they remain championship favourites with some bookies despite defeats to Abbeyside and Lismore.

And while they certainly have the talent to go all the way, but it must be victory all the way from here on in if they are to achieve their objective.

Kevin Ryan has already worked something of an oracle since stepping into the breach following Kevin Fennelly’s departure.

The return of the McGrath brothers and Tony Browne leaves the Monastery with their strongest possible panel available and it would come as a huge surprise if they were to lose again.

Passage find themselves in a similar position to Cnoc Síon, having tasted defeat in both their group outings to date, losing to both Lismore and Abbeyside.

Having returned to senior ranks after a six-year absence, and given an early season boost with the acquisition of Eoin Kelly, it would be unthinkable if such a talented unit found itself back in Intermediate ranks next season.

While Passage will battle hard, expect Mount Sion to prevail after the lunchtime throw-in.

(Walsh Park, Sunday, 1pm; Referee: Tim O’Byrne)

Lismore v Abbeyside

This top of the table clash will draw a big crowd to Cappoquin this Sunday lunchtime and should provide a mighty tussle.

Denied a county final place by the puck of a ball last year, Abbeyside have redoubled their efforts this time around, with excellent wins over Mount Sion and Passage ensuring them a place in the last eight.

Since their return to senior ranks in 2004, Abbeyside have annexed three county Under-21 titles, laying a solid foundation for a major tilt at the senior hurling crown. Right now, it looks as if they’re closing in on that objective.

However, powered by a large number of players who have served the county well at several grades, Lismore could themselves be on the brink of something big and if they can add the name of Abbeyside to their list of conquests, they themselves would be fancied to go all the way.

It should be a very close affair. The greater experience of Lismore could prove a telling factor, but there’s a refreshing confidence about this Abbeyside outfit, that will not be easily quenched. Because of that, we’ll give them the nod in what should be a cracker.

(Cappoquin, Sunday 1pm; Referee: John Condon)

Ballyduff Lower v Ardmore

Both these teams are fully determined to their long cherished senior status intact, yet they should play a huge role as to who tops the Deise pile in 2008.

Having successfully avoided relegation during the past two seasons, Ballyduff now find themselves marginally better off to make the quarter-finals. And another win this Sunday would do nicely.

In a group dominated by Ballygunner and De La Salle, Ballyduff managed a point with the aforementioned after losing by 10 points to the Gunners.

And while they realise a mammoth task still confronts them in their efforts to make the play-offs, they should manage a win here, if it might be minimal on the score board.

With county senior panel members Jack Kennedy and Pat Fitzgerald in their ranks, the ‘reds’ should just about shade it, even though Ardmore remain an unpredictable outfit.

Having already lost ground to De La Salle and Ballygunner, it’s a big ask to expect the seasiders to get a win here, with the likes of Seamus and Declan Prendergast and Clinton in their starting XV, they could very upset the calculations in this instance.

(Fraher Field, Sunday, 5.30pm; Referee: Jimmy Murphy)

For full story see The Munster Express newspaper or
subscribe to our Electronic edition.

Leave a Comment