THE old phrase “everything to play for” never seemed as appropriate as now.
The last round of the intermediate hurling league will be held this weekend, with all but one of the 12 teams fighting for something. For some, it’s the chance to nab a place in the finals of the League and Shield competitions while, for others, the opportunity is there to get out of the relegation zone and ensure intermediate status is secured for another year.
With so much at stake the games have been divided into their respective groups on the fixture list this Saturday. All of the Group B games will be played on Saturday (throw-in times 3pm) while an evening (7pm) throw-in will be used for the final round of Group A games.
All the games
Piltown - Mooncoin v Mullinavat
BARRING a disaster, Mullinavat will end the evening with a place in either the League or Shield final - but they won’t want to ease up before taking on local rivals Mooncoin. The ’Vat were impressive in their opening three games in the league, collecting the maximum six points, but lost their 100% record with a below-par performance against Emeralds in Callan in round four.
Starved of possession in that game, the Mullinavat forwards will be hoping to regain the form that saw them rattle off 5-39 in their opening three matches. While the five-point defeat (1-8 to 0-6) wasn’t enough to dislodge them from top spot in Group A, it did allow Danesfort to draw level on points and leave them with a chance to swipe pole position, something Mullinavat will be keen to avoid.
Mooncoin are another side with silverware aspirations. They did their hopes of making one of the finals a great help with their big win (0-31 to 0-10) over Tullogher-Rosbercon in round four, while also shaking up the group. That 21-point win saw Mooncoin rise from fourth to third in the group, while also pushing Tullogher into one of the relegation play-off spots. They have had an indifferent league, as their form of win-loss-win-loss shows, but they are clicking into gear at the right time. This game could be an indicator of how they’ll fare once the championship comes around.
Bennettsbridge - Graignamanagh v Emeralds
THIS is the only game in Group A where one team already knows their final position in the league table. It’s been a season to forget for Graignamanagh, as four losses have left them anchored to the bottom of the table. They almost broke the trend in the last round, where they came close to getting something in their clash with Danesfort (2-19 to 3-13). Had they won that game, instead of slipping to a two-point defeat - four early wides proved costly by the final whistle - who knows what mood the camp would have been in for the championship. As it is, they will have to look past this game and prepare for a fight to retain their intermediate status for the second year in succession.
The Emeralds surprised many people with their win over Mullinavat in round three. With a breeze at their backs they took control of the game in the first half, albeit against an off-colour ’Vat, but an Ian Grant goal proved to be a major part of the win which saw them move up the table and out of the drop zone. With a better scoring average than Tullogher, who currently occupy fifth place in the group, the Urlingford men know that a big win will guarantee mid-table security. That should be the spur needed to end their league campaign on a high.
Ballyhale - Tullogher-Rosbercon v Danesfort
WHAT a difference one round of games can make. Anyone who thinks different should just ask Tullogher-Rosbercon. Sitting second in the table after three rounds of the league, the Southerners looked good for a crack at the Shield final. Instead a heavy loss to Mooncoin in round four has left them in the doldrums.
While one result won’t make or break their season, a win over Danesfort is needed if they are to extricate themselves from a potential relegation scrap. Lining out minus the likes of Pat Hartley and Walter Walsh, they will have a tough task but can look back on good performances against Graig and Emeralds for inspiration.
Just like Tullogher, Danesfort know a win is a must on Saturday evening. While Mullinavat are within touching distance at the top, the ’Fort also know they have Mooncoin and Emeralds breathing down their necks, ready to nab second place in the group.
A strong performance midway through the second half saw Danesfort get away from Graignamanagh in the fourth round of the league, a result which kept them in contention to make a return to the League final again this year. Danesfort beat Tullogher by eight points in last year’s championship quarter-final; they’d gladly accept the same here.
Cloneen - Conahy Shamrocks v St Lachtain’s
GETTING out of the bottom two is the only goal that Conahy Shamrocks will be aiming for come Saturday afternoon. A league that promised much after their five-point (3-10 to 1-11) win over Glenmore in round two has turned sour, with John Lockes and Young Irelands both scoring wins in subsequent rounds. The loss to Gowran will have stung deeply, as the Shamrocks were caught within sight of the finish line, coughing up three late points that victory from their grasp. They trail Irelands in the table, but know that a win - plus other results going their way - could change all that.
St Lachtain’s will be looking to get back to winning ways after losing their way against Glenmore. Three Eoin Murphy goals cost the Freshford side more than victory; it also saw them drop from first to third in the table. They will be keen to get themselves back in the shake-up for silverware with a win here.
Graignamanagh - Young Irelands v Rower-Inistioge
THE drive to get out of the bottom two is still on for Young Irelands (Gowran), but it won’t be easy. Three points in as many minutes before the final whistle saw them snatch victory from Conahy Shamrocks, and move up a spot in the group standings, but they know they’ll have to make that dash much quicker if they are to beat the Rower-Inistioge.
After an indifferent start to the league (one win, one loss and a draw) a Paul Sheehan-inspired win over John Lockes has left the Rower-Inistioge in the box seat in this group after four games. Top thanks to a healthy scoring difference (Sheehan’s haul of 2-6 in their last game certainly helped) a win here should cement their place in the league final - what other momentum is needed?
Mooncoin - Glenmore v John Lockes
THIS is a meeting of two teams who swapped places in the league tables after different results in round four. Eoin Murphy was the main man for Glenmore, rattling off 3-4 as his side beat St Lachtain’s by six points (4-8 to 0-14) in Thomastown to move into second place behind the Rower-Inistioge. Murphy has scored 5-15 in the three league games he has featured in, but Glenmore are not a one-man team, as the likes of Ger Aylward and Michael Phelan have also led by example in attack.
Back at intermediate level, the league has been mostly positive for county junior champions John Lockes. Although beaten in the club All-Ireland final they have kept the momentum built up along the way to Croke Park steadily flowing, as their three-point win over the relegated senior side St Lachtain’s proved in round one. Since then they’ve lost two of the following three games, including a fourth round defeat to a Paul Sheehan-led Rower, but with a confident side who boast the right mix of youth and experience they’ll be looking to bounce right back in what promises to be an entertaining clash.