It’s a big day of club hurling championship action in O’Moore Park today as the senior championship semi-finals are down for decision.
The four clubs that have won the last 15 championships between them are once again the last four standing and you now have to go back 10 years, to when Clough-Ballacolla beat Portlaoise, for anyone outside this quartet to have even been in a final.
While there are occasional slip ups in the earlier rounds, more often than not when it gets down to business, Borris-Kilcotton, Camross, Clough-Ballacolla and Rathdowney-Errill are the last four left standing.
So it is again this year. And as the draw has it, we have two huge local derbies.
Borris-Kilcotton v Camross
In O’Moore Park at 2pm
Borris-Kilcotton will be seeking to make the final for the third season running when they take on their neighbours Camross in today’s opening game.
And while they’ve come out on top in this fixture in their last three meetings, it does still hang over them that they’ve never beaten Camross in a knockout championship game.
Can that change today? They’ve recovered well since losing league and championship finals in quick succession back in the summer and though things looked a bit ropey after they could only draw with Abbeyleix in their opening round, they’ve since responded with wins over Camross and Rathdowney-Errill.
They were comfortable six-point winners over Camross when the sides met in the group stages six weeks ago but a lot has changed since.
Camross’s team has been re-shaped considerably since then and have had two big knockout wins over Abbeyleix and Castletown. There will be the world of difference between a routine group game and a semi-final on a heavy pitch in winter weather.
Borris-Kilcotton have obvious class, serious forwards in PJ Scully, Aaron Dunphy, Joe Campion and Neil Foyle and a battle-hardened team all over the pitch. They have all the tools to win this match.
But Camross seem to have found the right balance to their team and are finding form at the right time. They are slight outsiders for this game at 5/4 and started this week fourth in the outright betting at 4/1.
With the bit now between their teeth, Camross might have the know-how to win this one.
Odds: Borris-Kilcotton 4/5, Camross 5/4, Draw 8/1
Clough-Ballacolla v Rathdowney-Errill
In O’Moore Park at 3.30pm
Before the start of the championship you’d have had these two teams ranked number one and two and while Clough-Ballacolla have followed up their 2020 county final win with three thumping group round wins, Rathdowney-Errill have hit a bit of a speed bump.
After being crowned league champions in the summer, they started their campaign with a good win over Camross. But things began to unravel against Abbeyleix with an injury to Ross King and they were then beaten by Borris-Kilcotton in their final group, albeit when both sides were already safely through.
Their win over Rosenallis the last day was far from impressive and was blighted by another serious knee injury to Mark Kavanagh.
He’s an obvious absentee but King is back and is named on the bench. They’re likely to need him at some stage.
And while Clough-Ballacolla don’t seem to have the same concerns as Rathdowney-Errill and haven’t been as affected by injury, they’ve had no real test since the 2020 county final back in August and could come into this under-cooked.
They have serious scoring power up front and quality players on every line of the field. But when you go through the match ups, Rathdowney-Errill are more than capable of winning a lot of those individual duels.
A local derby and the meeting of the last two champions. It promises a lot as a game.
There shouldn’t be much in it. Rathdowney-Errill are due a big game but Clough-Ballacolla might have more going for them.
Odds: Rathdowney-Errill 10/11; Clough-Ballacolla 11/10; Draw 8/1