BY NIALL SHERRY
Bridge & Sash do battle as Danesfort and the Town reach for the stars
We are now getting to the business end of the Kilkenny club season, as the league titles are up for grabs this weekend. Along with the final 4 facing-off in the senior and intermediate league finals, relegation matters will become clearer and round 1 of the championship will play out across the county.
St. Canice’s Credit Union Senior Hurling League Final
Bennettsbridge v Tullaroan
The meeting of The Bridge & the Sash in the senior league final could prove to be an enjoyable spectacle. All those in attendance will hope for a high-scoring affair, especially given the quality of forwards that will be on show in the decider.
The Bridge will look to the accuracy of placed-ball specialist Nicky Cleere to keep the score board ticking over, while the rampaging Sean Morrissey has the potential to cause unrest in the Tullaroan defence. Back-boned by the Blanchfield’s, Kevin, Liam and David can bring class and danger in equal measure, as they seek to make it back-to-back senior league titles.
Last season saw Bennettsbridge claim their very first senior league title, when they overcame a strong challenge from Clara. Willie Murphy was key to that victory, hitting 0-5 from play and he will look to step-up again this weekend when they face The Sash.
Tullaroan will look to build on their final group game win over Shamrocks Ballyhale and will fancy their chances of inflicting the first league defeat on The Bridge in the final. Shane Walsh has been in tremendous form this season and will look to cement this when he confronts Bennettsbridge.
County men Padraig Walsh and Martin Keoghan can have pivotal roles in the final at different ends of the pitch. We are likely to see the classy Padraig at centre-back, while Mossy will undoubtedly provide a constant goal threat to the Bridge rearguard. The ever-improving Dylan Simpson will also need to be watched as he too knows how to raise a green flag.
Nicky Cleere vs Shane Walsh from the placed ball could be a right ding-dong battle and go part of the way to deciding the victors of this mouth-watering contest.
Senior shield final
Clara v Dicksboro
An interesting fixture this one. The Palmerstown outfit will be keen to progress, and the goal threat that they hold, could prove vital. Andy Gaffney, Bill Sheehan, Liam Moore and fit again Harry Shine could provide the ‘Boro with the necessary weapons to edge this one.
First round championship
Ballyhale Shamrocks v Glenmore
Seeking a 5th consecutive county title, Pat Hoban’s men will take on last season’s intermediate champions Glenmore. I think it’s fair to say that Ballyhale will not take the Murphy brothers side lightly. Eoind Cody, Adrian Mullen and TJ will look to dominate. Expect Shamrocks Ballyhale to make a statement in this tie.
Mullinavat v O’Loughlin Gaels
The Vegas Boys will need to bring their recent form into this game and a bit more to it, if they are to cause an upset when they face Andy Comerford’s charges. Mikey Butler, Huw Lawlor and Paddy Deegan will be keen to try and go one better than last season, and should have enough about them to progress.
Relegation semi-finals & Championship Round 1
James Stephens v Lisdowney
The Village will seek to kick-start their season when they face Lisdowney. Luke Scanlon, Niall Brasill and trusty free-take Eoin Guilfoyle will look to propel James Stephens to the next round. Cian Kenny will also be keen to drive-on following his breakthrough season for the county.
Erin’s Own v Graigue Ballycallan
The ‘Comer men will look to get out of trouble when they take-on pointless Graigue-Ballycallan in an encounter that looks a 50/50 game. Erin’s Own will hope that Jack Buggy’s radar is on-point and that the likes of Stephen Daly can provide assistance in attack to get them over the line against Billy Ryan & Co.
Michael Lyng Motors Hyundai Kilkenny Intermediate Hurling League Final
Thomastown vs Danesfort
The battle to reach the senior ranks see’s unbeaten Danesfort face-off against Thomastown. Much was expected of Henry Shefflin’s charges last season, but they came up short in their semi-final against eventual winners Glenmore.
It won’t be any easier against the team with the best record at this level following the completion of the group stages.
Danesfort have beaten all those in front of them this season, not only have they won all 5 games in Group B, but they are also the group’s top scorers as well as having the tightest defence. 2014 All-Stars, Richie Hogan and Paul Murphy provide the experience and leadership for the black and amber side, and as we all know, Hogan can point from just about anywhere on the pitch! Hogan has decent support in attack, especially with Robbie Walsh and Colm Phelan looking lively during the group stages.
Thomastown come into the final having suffered just one loss in the group, that a narrow defeat to Mikey Carey’s Young Irelands. The Town hold plenty of attacking threats themselves, with the trio of Donnelly’s, John, Stephen & Robbie all capable of keeping the umpire’s flag-waving busy. Throw-in Luke Connellan, Zach Bay Hammond and Jack Holden and you can see how they have the arsenal to trouble the Danesfort defensive unit.
With former county minor star, Peter McDonald anchoring the defence at centre-back, the Thomastown back-line will need to keep a tight rein on the Danesfort front six. It’s also worth point out that Thomastown have scored more and conceded less than their fellow intermediate finalists. The battle for a place at the top table could be a cracker!
Intermediate shield final
Rower Inistioge vs Carrickshock
Gaels will expect an entertaining affair when The Rower meet Shocks for the shield. Richie Leahy and Pat Lyng will trouble the Carrickshock defence, while Shocks will look to Jake O’Dwyer and Eoghan O’Neill to do the damage and secure silverware and a safe passage to the next round of the championship
First round championship
Young Irelands vs Mooncoin
This encounter definitely has the feel of a 50/50 about it. Mooncoin will look to their attacking threat to steer them home, with Pa Walsh, Killian Hogan and Adam Croke providing a stern test to the Young Irelands defence, while Martin O’Neill and Ciaran Quilty will add a little bit of quality to the ‘Coin’s challenge.
O’Loughlin Gaels vs Dunnamaggin
O’Loughlin’s second string will look to progress when they take on Dunnamaggin. The Gaels finished 3rd in their group and their form would suggest that they perhaps hold the greater scoring threat than that of their opponents.
Relegation semi-finals & Championship Round 1
St Martin’s vs St Lachtain’s
St Lachtains should possess a little too much for winless St Martins, and should progress without too much bother.
Conahy Shamrocks vs Fenians
Like St Martins, Fenians endured a very tough group stage in the league. It doesn’t auger well as Fenians look to upset the odds and progress at Conahy Shamrocks expense.
Expect the relegation final to be St Martins vs Fenians.