THE serious business of the senior and intermediate hurling championship gets under way this coming weekend for 16 clubs and as with every year we can expect a few upsets along the way. The eight teams that finished top of their respective groups will all be watching anxiously when the quarter-final draws are made on Monday night next.
The first two games in the senior Championship have much in common with close neighbours in actions. Dunnamaggin and Carrickshock open proceedings on Saturday afternoon and as with the later game between Graigue-Ballycallan and Tullaroan, there is not a lot between the sides.
The Southern neighbours picked up four points each during the league and both will need to improve to have any chance of capturing the county title. Carrickshock has thus far failed to produce the form this year which saw them get to last year’s county final.
John Tennyson remains a huge loss and that places the spotlight on the side’s other Kilkenny stars Richie Power, Michael Rice and John Dalton. The contribution from these three players could well decide the outcome of the tie.
Dunnamaggin have an excellent defence with Noel Hickey the key player in front of goalkeeper David Herity. The game is likely to hinge on how well the Dunnamaggin rearguard contains their neighbours attack. Carrickshock’s disappointment at last year’s final loss should be enough motivation to see them edge out their neighbours by a couple of points.
There is no greater rivalry in Kilkenny GAA than Graigue-Ballycallan and Tullaroan. Not alone is this a first round championship game, but it is also a relegation battle.
Based on league form Graigue will be favourites with two wins out of five. Their opponents had a league to forget, losing all five games. That, though, will not matter on Saturday evening and we can expect a fiercely competitive tie in Palmerstown.
Forecasting a result between such great rivals is a bit of a lottery, but despite their poor league form Tullaroan might sneak a narrow win over its neighbours.
Dicksboro and Clara are an unlikely pairing for a relegation battle, but that is their lot after a disappointing league. The ’Boro, just up from the intermediate grade, badly need to retain their senior status but it will not be easy against Clara.
Clara scored a deserved Byrne Cup final win over Erin’s Own some weeks ago and if they can maintain that same form on Sunday they should have a few points to spare over their city rivals.
The remaining senior game between Erin’s Own and Fenians could be the best game of the weekend. Erin’s Own will be favourites, but you write the Fenians off at your peril. Still, the ’Comer lads look to have the stronger side and should progress to the quarter-finals.
Neighbours in action
Neighbours are also in action in the Intermediate grade in which St Lachtain’s play Emeralds. The Freshford side lost a number of players to the USA during the summer and they will need a full-hand to overcome their Urlingford neighbours. If the travellers have returned in time St Lachtain’s may just edge the game.
Mullinavat could have won last year’s final, but they will not get an easy game against Young Irelands on Sunday. The ’Vat are a strong physical team and will be expected to move on to the quarter-finals.
The relegation battles will both be hard-fought contests. The first of those games brings Conahy Shamrocks and Tullogher-Rosbercon into opposition and either side is capable of winning. Conahy are down a few players due to emigration and the side is suffering as a result. It might be wise if I refrain from predicting a winner in this tie!
The second relegation tie brings Graignamanagh and John Lockes into opposition. The Callan side will be anxious to retain their intermediate status having just been promoted. That should be enough to see them reach the quarter-finals.