BY NIALL SHERRY
ALL PIX DANNY LAHART
A place at the top table up for grabs
Michael Lyng Motors Hyundai Intermediate Hurling Championship
Glenmore V St Lachtain’s @ UPMC Nowlan Park. Throw-in 2pm
Following a pulsating senior county final last weekend, the top two teams at intermediate level go head-to-head at UPMC Nowlan Park on Sunday.
To be crowned champions is special, but the real prize is to join the likes of Ballyhale and O’Loughlin’s in next seasons premier hurling arena.
Both sides will fancy their chances of winning, so it has all the hallmarks of a close encounter.
Many pundits expected Henry Shefflin’s Thomastown side to collect the Hanrahan Cup this year, following last season’s penalty shootout drama, but Declan Wall’s side ensured that Henry wouldn’t head to the west as an intermediate champion.
Having claimed the scalp of the bookie’s favourites, the Páirc na Ratha based side will take to the turf on Sunday, no longer the underdog. How they cope with this tag, could help determine the outcome of the game.
Glenmore are back-boned by the Murphy’s – Eoin, Alan and Shane. These three gentlemen are very important cogs in the south Kilkenny side’s machine. Eoin is the current inter-county netminder, but plays with No.6 on his back at club level and dictates the play, much like his county team mate, Padraig Walsh. Tough and uncompromising, Eoin is also capable of notching a score.
Shane Murphy is normally found at wing-back, and isn’t shy in getting forward either. The furthest forward of the clan, is Alan. An industrious wing-forward, he has also been a part of the inter-county set-up. Alan Know’s where the posts are and is normally reliable from the placed ball when required. If the brother’s click, it will be a huge advantage to the green & gold.
In this year’s intermediate championship, Glenmore’s top scorer to date is corner forward Ian Byrne. the nippy attacker has amassed 1-10 in his two appearances, 1-8 of which came in his sides 8-point victory over Danesfort in the quarter-final tie, also stages at UPMC Nowlan Park. Whichever Freshford defender gets the nod to pick up Byrne, will need to stand firm.
Captain Ger Aylward will no doubt prove a handful for the opposing full-back, and will be keen to keep the score board ticking over. His battle could be with Harry Burke, who coped admirably with veteran forward JJ Delaney in the saint’s semi-final win over Fenians. Centre-forward Liam Hennessey will be hoping to provide a link between the middle third and the scoring forwards. They will have been alarmed by the number of wide’s, last time out, and will be hoping that stat doesn’t become a problem in the final.
Corner-back, Sean Duggan had a solid semi-final performance and Glenmore will look to him to deal with the undoubted threat that the Freshford attack will pose. We could well see Duggan pick up St Lachtain’s joint captain, Shane Donnelly. Also, No.3, Eoin Aylward will need to be strong when confronting Cian Dawson, the Maher’s and other late-running opponents.
In midfield, Declan Wall’s side will be hoping to at least break even with their fellow finalists. Philip Roche will come against a formidable opponent in the other joint captain, John Fitzpatrick. I expect the midfield sector to be crowded throughout the game, with the half-backs from both side’s surging forward.
Freshford manager Steven Farrell will have every confidence in their top scorer this season, Liam Hickey. In his three championship games to date, the classy forward has notched a personal tally of 2-21. In the semi-final victory over Johnstown, Hickey recorded 2-5. It will be a crucial match-up and one that Glenmore will hope to get right. Could it be a job for a Murphy? Time will tell.
Hickey has some good company in the front six. Cian Dawson, Shane Donnelly and the Mahers, Darragh and county man James will be hoping to provide a stern test for the Glenmore defence. The busy Alexander Rafter will no doubt be everywhere. A great link man, he also impressed against Fenians, and covered every blade of grass. Criomhtann Bergin was very influential in the semi-final, and was very well utilised as the extra man when the opposition were reduced to 14 men. Noel McGree is probably pushing for a start, given his role in their previous game, if not he will certainly be sprung from the bench.
Experienced keeper Darren Brennan will look to secure the bragging rights and come out on top against his county positional rival, Eoin Murphy. I think Eoin might well fancy hitting a score or two to show who’s the real No.1!
Let’s hope this game delivers a feast of hurling for the supporters.
The Road to The Final
First round – St. Lachtain’s, 2-14 – 0-16, John Locke’s
Quarter-final – Carrickshock, 1-14 – 1-17, St. Lachtain’s
Semi-final – Fenians, 0-10 – 2-12, St. Lachtain’s
Quarter-final – Glenmore, 2-15 – 0-13, Danesfort
Semi-final – Thomastown, 1-13 – 0-19, Glenmore
>> SHERRY SAYS………..
The winners get the golden ticket. That’s the major prize at stake when Glenmore battle St Lachtain’s on Sunday.
In Liam Hickey & Ian Byrne, we will see two in-form attackers involved in a shoot-out, the winner getting to ply their trade at senior level next season.
Eoin & Alan Murphy, James Maher & Darren Brennan. These players want to be testing themselves at club level against TJ Reid, Paddy Deegan, Joey Holden, Huw Lawlor, Padraig Walsh & co.
Like all big games, the match-ups will be key. Keeping Hickey & Byrne quiet could be the secret to getting over the line on Sunday.
Managers Wall and Farrell want the result, the performance can be discussed over the winter.
I’m looking forward to seeing Eoin Murphy @ 6, expressing himself and being his team’s ‘Quarter-back’. Freshford will be keen to limit his influence on proceedings and will view this as crucial.
UPMC Nowlan Park will be ready for this battle. Let’s hope it delivers great hurling and a touch of drama!