The necessity to have Port Láirge represented in this year’s Munster Club Championship has led to this year’s Senior Football Championship being staged this Friday night (8pm) under the Fraher Field floodlights.
That the competition’s conclusion has been sandwiched into a hectic handful of weekends, given that Waterford’s interest in the Football Championship concluded following a qualifier defeat to June 20th, is regrettable.
And that common sense couldn’t prevail in the wake of De La Salle’s concession to The Nire when it came to establishing the placings in Group One proved as regrettable as it was avoidable. No doubt, this shall be raised come the County Convention a few weeks from now.
The odds on either Ballinacourty or Stradbally emulating The Nire’s run to last year’s Final have been lengthened given that they’ll face Nemo Rangers in the Munster Quarter-Final, also at Fraher Field, just 24 hours later (7pm).
But neither side shall concern themselves with the provincial element until one or the other has claimed the Conway Cup on Friday night, which Munster Council fingers firmly crossed in the hope of avoiding a replay.
It’s difficult to counter argue the contention that the cream has risen to the top given that Ballinacourty and Stradbally will contest the Conway Cup decider, the fourth time they’ve faced each other in the Final since 2010.
And having both come through stern examinations in last weekend’s semi-finals, played in wildly contrasting conditions (see Sport 2 and 3 for our reports), the kinder weather afforded Ballinacourty on Saturday last means they should have a little more pep in the step.
The previous night, Stradbally dethroned The Nire in lashing rain and driving wind; energy sapping conditions which will surely have taken a lot of out of the Covemen.
For the second successive match, Stradbally engineered a victory despite enduring lengthy spells without a score, as their 1-4 flurry, racked up inside the first quarter, proved too great a bridge for the champions to gap.
And they also benefited from the rub of the green, when Shane Ahearne’s 45 somehow careered into The Nire net just three minutes after the restart to leave them nine points clear.
And that goal proved vital, as they ended just a goal clear of their great rivals, prevailing by 2-8 to 1-8.
Ballinacourty, who were pressed to the pin of their collar by arguably the fittest Kilrossanty team ever to take to SFC action, will have been similarly emboldened by the challenge they overcame last weekend.
Courty have found scores slightly easier to come by over the course of the campaign, but with both sides averaging 13 scores a game and conceding between seven and eight scores per match, a cakewalk for either is difficult to envisage.
And when one considers Stradbally have scored only 0-11 in their past two Final appearances, including a seven-point reversal to Courty two years ago, their determination to put that right will be burned into the mindset this week.
However, on the basis of the greater goal threat possessed by a Ballinacourty side boosted by the return of Shane Briggs, and with Patrick Hurney in the form of his life, I’m tipping the green and white to take the spoils this Friday night.