It is do or die time for all as knock-out hurling arrives

It is do or die time for all as knock-out hurling arrives
by John Knox @johnknoxkk

Last weekend was the moving weekend. This time it will be business, real business.

Welcome to the knock-out stages of the local hurling championships - senior, intermediate and junior.

The safety net of league competition has been removed, and from here on it is perform or else time for clubs.

Fifth round matches in all three competitions last weekend decided the pairings for the opening series of championship games, plus the League and Shield finalists in the two top grades.

All-Ireland club champions of 2014/15, Ballyhale Shamrocks may have lost former Hurler of the Year, Michael Fennelly, to injury, but they are still hot on the trail of silverware.

As table toppers in Group A of the senior league they earned the right to contest the final. They face the surprise packet from Group B, St Martin’s (Muckalee).

The pair will face off in John Lockes Park, Callan, on Sunday.

The Shield final, for the runners-up in each group, will be contested by city giants, Dicksboro and O’Loughlin Gaels as the curtain-raiser at the same venue.

Losers finished

Around the same time first round matches will pit Erin’s Own (Castlecomer) against James Stephens and Mullinavat against Bennettsbridge.

The losers will be finished with serious competition for the season. The winners can look forward to the quarter-finals two weeks later.

On Saturday four other senior clubs will contest first round games too, but here the losers will be faced with the dread of relegation.

These clashes double as first round/relegation semi-final games.

Involved are defending champions, Clara, against Fenians and Danesfort versus the Rower-Inistioge.

The losers in both face a shoot-out, with the losers of the shoot-out dropping back to the intermediate division.

The first round of the intermediate championship, plus the League and Shield finals, will be played on the following weekend, October 1 and 2.

However, junior clubs will sample the white hot heat of the championship this weekend.

Twelve of them are all set to face off - Blacks and Whites v Slieverue; John Lockes v Piltown; Kilmacow v Barrow Rangers; Mooncoin v Galmoy; Emeralds v Windgap and Cloneen v Graignamanagh.

It was noticeable last weekend that the mood among all had become deadly serious with so much to play for in the last round of league games.

Now the march towards the senior and junior county finals on Sunday, October 30 begins in earnest.

The county intermediate final has been fixed for Sunday, November 6.