Getting to title deciding time

By October most teams are out of their championship, but this year some got an extended run due to the All-Ireland replay, writes Nickey Brennnan.

By October most teams are out of their championship, but this year some got an extended run due to the All-Ireland replay, writes Nickey Brennnan.

After last weekend’s games the number of teams still standing in the three adult grades is down to 12. It would have been 10 but for a couple of replays.

After an indifferent league Clara remain on track to retain the senior hurling title. It has been a tough route for the champions, but they are in the semi-final after merited victories over city sides James Stephens and O’Loughlin Gaels.

Clara did not have it easy in either game. Goals at key stages proved decisive. Keith Hogan was their outstanding player in both.

His second-half goal against ’Stephens put some daylight between the sides, while his long range point-scoring against O’Loughlin’s was vital.

O’Loughlin’s will look back on Saturday’s tie with much regret, realising that both goals conceded could have been prevented.

The second goal in particular, albeit well finished by Clara, was a give away. With the strong wind in their favour a short puck-out was the wrong tactic. When it back-fired the consequences were costly.

Rower Inistioge’s draw with Carrickshock is further proof of the progress they have made since going senior. The ’Shock had the advantage of a first round win over Erin’s Own, but their opponents are playing with great confidence.

Although the elements were a factor in Saturday’s game, I do not see much between the sides in the replay. I give a marginal nod to Carrickshock.

Relegation has become familiar territory for Fenians. They are back again in that dreaded zone, this time against Tullaroan. That will be a game to savour, perhaps the game of the year.

Danesfort’s victory over Tullaroan sees them face Ballyhale Shamrocks this weekend. The Ballyhale men will be strong favourites, but Danesfort will be delighted to have avoided a relegation dog-fight against Fenians.

Having gotten the better of Fenians in the first round, St Martin’s played impressively to defeat Dicksboro. Not for the first time John Maher was the star.

The defeat is a big setback for Dicksboro. They harboured real ambitions this year but the could not match more determined opponents.

At the start of the year I predicted three of Sunday’s intermediate semi-finalists. Tullogher Rosbercon are the surprise packets, but they deserve to be in the last four.

They play neighbours and favourites, Mullinavat. When neighbour meet anything is possible. Victories over Freshford and Lisdowney will have Tullogher in confident form.

Mullinavat have been favourites with many people for this year’s intermediate title, but they had to battle hard against Young Irelands in the quarter-final. They will need to improve on Sunday against their neighbours.

I expect them to do enough to reach the county final.

The second semi-final between St Patrick’s and Graigue Ballycallan should be a great game. In my view Ballyragget are now championship favourites, but they face a big test.

The teams had contrasting league form. St Patrick’s topped their group while the Graigue men ended up in the relegation zone. Both have scored impressive championship victories in recent weeks.

This is a big year for St Patrick’s. They need to get out of the intermediate grade now if the undoubted talent in the side is to make an impact at senior level.

Standing in their way is a team with plenty of senior experience. The Graigue men lost their way for a time this year, but they are now back on track. I take St Patrick’s to win narrowly.

Bennettsbridge and Mooncoin are icon clubs in Kilkenny with 12 senior titles each. In a couple of weeks they will contest the Kilkenny junior hurling final and begin what they hope will be a journey back to senior ranks.

On a weekend when hurling dominated in Kilkenny, surely one of the big results was Railyard’s win in the Leinster intermediate club football championship. They scored a win. Well done to the players and mentors.