It didn’t matter which way the draw went the county final was going to throw up a juicy pairing, but there is fascination to see how it will pan out.
The county senior hurling championship semi-finals, which will be staged in Nowlan Park on Sunday, have thrown up two derby ties.
The Southern duo in the head-to-head are defending champions, Ballyhale Shamrocks and neighbours Carrickshock. Fate hasn’t been kind to either, and both will enter the fray shorn of some terrific talent.
The Northern pair thrown together were current All-Ireland club intermediate and Kilkenny league champions, Clara and St Martin’s (Ballyfoyle/Coon/Muckalee), who, incidentally, won the county senior football title under the club banner of Muckalee. While both have players nursing knocks, they should be more or less at full strength for a high stakes tie that will either end their season or edged them close to the ultimate prize, the Tom Walsh Cup.
This quartet are the last of the high rollers in championship 2013, and the big date all have on their mind is Sunday, October 27, county final day.
The Shamrocks are the biggest winners of the remaining contenders. They were missing former Hurler of the Year, Michel Fennelly, Eamon Walsh and Aidan Cummins at the start of their quarter-final. Such losses are not easy to take, and Messrs Fennelly and Walsh will sit out the rest of the season too. Cummins should be okay this time.
The Shamrocks, as versatile as they come, had to call on all their vast experience, and then some, to turn a one time second half deficit of four points into a good 1-21 to 1-17 victory. The experience was all over the field, especially with Bob Aylward, T.J. Reid, Cummins when he came out during the second half, Colin Fennelly and Henry Shefflin.
The latter pair, however, produced big when the need was greatest. Shamrocks are no different to any club side. They feel the pain, the loss, when afflicted by injury. However, is it their peerless capacity to cope in such situations that sets them apart.
Carrickshock will be without the unfortunate John Tennyson, who has been laid low by a shoulder injury, the fourth occasion he has been thus cut down. The real shame is that Tennyson had made terrific strides in improving his mobility since stepping down from the county panel. He was going really well before injury struck. He now joins Shane Power (cruciate ligament) on the sideline.
Carrickshock are hoping Michael Rice (hamstring) won’t be keeping them company. If available he can make up for the loss of Tennyson. Their defence is good. If they can drag a bit more from their attack they will really trouble Shamrocks, but the job looks to be just beyond them.
Verdict - Shamrocks to repeat Shield final win over same opposition.
Clara almost talked themselves into defeat in the quarter-finals, worrying about their bad run in the match venue and against opponents who troubled them in the past. The players have to live in the day, because the Clara team of today is a very capable one.
The last time they were a senior team, scoring was a problem. This season’s highs includes a win over Shamrocks. In recent weeks they clocked up 0-24 (league final). A team that can do that has a lot going for it, and shouldn’t sell itself short.
St Martin’s have made sure and steady progress under manager, Charlie Carter. Coming back from the dead with 14 men in the dying minutes of the quarter-final against James Stephens was some achievement. It was their third win in weeks against a club they always feared. There should be no more fear!
Verdict - Clara to sneak it.
Ballyhale Shamrocks - Patrick Reid, Paul Shefflin, Aidan Cummins, Alan Cuddihy, Joseph Holden, T.J. Reid, Robert Aylward, James ‘Cha’ Fitzpatrick, Richard Reid, Mark Aylward, Henry Shefflin, David Hoyne, Eoin Reid (capt), Colin Fennelly, Conor Walsh, Eoin Knox, Gavin Butler, Keith Nolan, Brian Butler, Eugene Aylward, Michael Dermody, Tom Coogan, Ronan Corcoran, Liam Grant, Enda Fitzpatrick, Donnchadh Fitzpatrick, Patrick Mullen, Eoin Doyle, Willie Coogan, Kevin Mullen, Liam Elvidge, Brian Cody.
Carrickshock - John Butler, John Murphy, John Dalton, David Franks, John Tennyson (inj), Pat Tennyson, Michael Rice, John Cahill, Jamie Power, Richie Power, John Power (Stoneyford), Michael Rohan, Mark O’Dwyer, Brian Donovan, Patrick Farrell, Paddy Mulcahy, James Grace, Richie Frisby, Darren O’Dwyer, Kevin Farrell, Niall Tennyson, Niall Rohan, John Power (Lismatigue), Pat Dalton, Kieran Holden, Aaron O’Neill, Damien Walsh, Andrew Power, Edward Power.
St Martin’s - Colin McGrath, Niall Moran, Ollie Walsh, Shane Cadigan, Brian Byrne, Patrick Nolan, James Maher, James Dowling, Thomas Breen, Eoin McGrath, John Mulhall, Canice Maher, Brian Mulhall, John Maher, Robert Shore, Jason Shore, Paul Maher, Michael Morrissey, Brendan Maher, Noel Darcy, Aidan Murphy, Brian Cadigan, Patrick Dowling, David Breen, Shane Kinsella, Luke Maher, Donal Shore, Eugene Maher, Martin Dowling, Jack Dowling, Joe Maher (inj), Ronan Maher (inj).
Clara - Killian Phelan, Dermot Nolan, John Phelan, Tom Ryan, Neal Prendergast, Shane Prendergast, David Langton, Lester Ryan, Jack Langton, Conor Phelan, Keith Hogan, Liam Ryan, Austin Murphy (capt), Chris Bolger, Kevin Nolan, James Nolan, Ciaran Prendergast, Sean O’Shea, Stephen Quinlan, David Prendergast, Brian O’Shea, Peter Nolan, Paddy Galvin, Michael McDonald, John Murphy, Bill Carrigan, Jason Barcoe, Jody Crean, Eoin Curtis.