Thomas Keane previews the weekend’s SFC action…
Quarter-Final: An Rinn v Clashmore
(Friday, Fraher Field, 8pm)
The opening Quarter-Final game in this year’s Senior Football Championship on Friday evening promises to be an entertaining one between two clubs in close proximity to each other.
An Rinn have reached the penultimate round of games in the Championship in recent years, an achievement which was richly deserved but they’ve to get the better of the big three to advance to the Final. They reached this stage of the competition winning Group C, having beaten Rathgormack in the final round of Round Robin games, having drawn their earlier two games against Kilrossanty and Gaultier.
If An Rinn can field a full strength team for as long as they remain in this competition they will be a force for anyone. Meanwhile, Clashmore finished third in Group B, only missing out on an automatic advance to this stage of the competition on score difference after they finished level on points with both Ballinacourty and The Nire, two of the sides that are most fancied to win another Conway Cup in the coming weeks. Last time out in the qualifiers they enjoyed a two-point win over Dungarvan and having a competitive game in recent weeks could well stand to them on Friday.
This could well prove to be the best game of the weekend and one that could go right to the wire. Don’t be surprised if it was not decided in sixty minutes.
In recent years, An Rinn have gained valuable experience in knock-out football, including the Comortus Peil competition and with that additional muscle memory to call upon, they get the nod here to advance to the last four of the competition.
Quarter-Final: Ballinacourty v Gaultier
(Saturday, Lemybrien, 7pm)
The bookies will be make the westerners odds-on to win this Quarter-Final clash, taking both history and recent form into account.
Ballinacourty won Group B of the round robin stages, but did so only on score difference finishing level on points with both The Nire and Clashmore, knocking The Nire off top spot beating them in the last round of games. Gaultier finished bottom of Group C, losing to Kilrossanty and Rathgormack while drawing with An Rinn.
They played Portlaw in the qualifiers last time out and produced their finest display of the campaign by some distance, winning by six points, spearheaded by a white hot JJ Hutchinson.
While hurling might be the number one code in the Barony, the East Waterford club have proudly flown the flag at senior level down through the years and have made great strides at underage level. So underestimate a Gaultier side with fresh limbs aplenty at your peril.
But Ballinacourty, one of the top three line-ups in the county since the turn of the century, come into this fixture with considerable pedigree, albeit still with scorched fingers having fallen at this particular hurdle a year ago. They too have produced some excellent underage teams in recent years and will be looking to gel the best of these players with their more established practitioners as they bid to regain top billing in Waterford senior football. Taking this into account, Ballinacourty should have that little bit more quality to draw on than Gaultier so we’re giving them the nod to advance to the semi-finals.
Quarter-Final: The Nire v Rathgormack
(Sunday, Fraher Field, 3.30pm)
Whenever these two sides clash, we’re generally served up a contest where each and every one of the 30 men on the paddock give it their all: the latest meeting of The Nire and Rathgormack should be no different in that respect.The Nire only lost out on topping Group B on score difference, having lost their last round robin game against Ballinacourty – but they advanced to this stage of the competition as the best placed second placed team, finishing with a better score difference to Clashmore (who along with The Nire and Ballinacourty all finished on four points).
Rathgormack finished second in Group C, losing just one of their three games – their last round robin game against An Rinn – which meant that they missed out on topping the group to An Rinn who won the head to head between the two.
Rathgormack have improved well in recent years due in no small part to the tremendous work they’ve put in at underage level which has led to county titles at Minor and Under-21 levels. And if they can bring the best of these players through they could well prove to be as good as side as the club had back in the mid to late 90s. The Nire have lost some of the players that have helped them to so much success this past decade but they still have some excellent footballers. Like most of the stronger sides, they continue to produce many good underage players who’ve been introduced to their senior set up over the past two or three years. In a local derby game anything can happen, and one expects this to go to the wire with The Nire getting a tentative vote to advance.