This weekend sees the beginning of the county championships on leeside. The May long-weekend is generally the benchmark for the Senior Football Championship and this year is no different. There are four attractive first round fixtures taking place this weekend. The safety net of the back-door has taken from the first round of the county championships but a teams’ preference will always be to go through the front door and the threat of relegation immediately leaves a team that wins their opening game. There will be plenty at stake this weekend for the clubs involved.
St. Finbarr’s –v- Ballincollig
Saturday night sees two very close teams go head-to-head. St. Finbarr’s have been successful at minor level over the last decade or so but are yet to transfer this success to senior level. They were well represented in the Cork under-21 side recently and will be hoping for the younger players to inject some energy into a side that lost two county finals in a row only a few years ago.
Ballincollig are a side with a lot of potential but they have failed to make a significant impact on the senior championship. They have a minor and an under-21 county title to their name in the last five years and have some good experienced players to count on. This is a very close contest which is very tight to call. League form would favour the Barrs to prevail but this should be a very even game that could go either way.
Bishopstown –v- Ilen Rovers
These sides met in the first round of last year’s championship with Ilen Rovers edging the game by the narrowest of margins. It was a low scoring affair that disappointed many neutrals but that didn’t matter to the men from west Cork. They have a relatively small pick and they would have been looked at as a team who would do well just to preserve their senior status, but they seem to have turned things around and are now a force in the senior championship.
Bishopstown are a side with potential and have been there or thereabouts in the championship over the last few years. They have fallen at quarter and semi-finals in the last two seasons and will be hoping to go one further in 2014. They have scoring potential in their side and will hoping for a more open contest than what occurred when both sides met last season. Their league form has been similar with more losses than wins, but Bishopstown will be fancied to come out on top.
Castlehaven –v- St. Vincent’s
This game last season almost provided the shock of the season but the Haven came out on the right side of the result after a struggle against what was a newly promoted St. Vincent’s. One thing you can be sure with St. Vincent’s is that you will be made to work for your victory. They are a very dogged outfit and give no opponent anything easily. They have a lot of pride in themselves and their club and they will be looking to cause another upset against the reigning champions.
The Haven are now going for the lucrative ‘three in a row’ and most people around the county will fancy them to go all the way again. They will deservedly start the season and this game as favourites but everyone will be out to claim their scalp. They have a lot of talent in their side and they have a very tight knit spirit that makes them very hard to beat. In Brian Hurley they have the county’s best forward and they should learn from last year’s scare and come through the first round with little fuss.
Douglas –v- Newcestown
The final first round clash should be another tight contest that is tough to call. Douglas are a talented side and have had some strong minor teams in the last few years, contesting four finals in a row and finally won the title last season. They have brought some players through the ranks and have some intercounty experience in their side. Alan Cadogan has been in exceptional form this year and he will be their main scoring threat.
Newcestown certainly haven’t shamed themselves since their promotion to the senior ranks and have a lot of good footballers at their disposal. They almost claimed the scalp of the Barrs in their first season before beating Bishopstown. They ran champions Castlehaven very close two years ago and have shown some good form in this year’s Kelleher Shield. This is a game that really could go either way. The tighter pitch at Ballygarvan may suit Newcestown but Douglas would probably be the safer bet.
Sean Cremin, Pundit Arena.