Oylegate: Certainly, this is the team who have surprised us all with their mature, uncomplicated and workmanlike approach to the Senior Hurling Championship. They currently lead the group and will definitely qualify for the knock out stages. When they won their first two games, many still thought they would succumb to the pressure as the championship got into full swing. With Rathnure and Cloughbawn still to come, who will back against them emerging as group winners with the full 10 points? If you were at Wexford Park last Saturday evening and saw them clinically dismiss Glynn/Barntown, you would be very optimistic. Sparkling displays from the Reck siblings and their cousin Jamie together with dazzling interventions from Podge Doran and Seamus Casey caused many headaches last Saturday evening for the Glynn boys and signs are that these boys will continue to do so in the games to come.
Rathnure: Ratnure were the pick of the performers after Round 2 and looked like they were on course to collect maximum points in the group, however, a bit of a stop-start display against The Shelmaliers has cast some doubts over them but with 5 points in the bag they are now guaranteed a quarter final spot. It must be said that only for the heroics of Dermot Flynn in the Rathnure goal it could have been a lot more uncomfortable for the Blackstairs men, than the draw they clung on to in Bellefield last Saturday afternoon. Jack Guiney, as we’ve come to expect made a telling intervention for a well-taken goal while also contributing some terrific points when required. Brian Quigley manned the square like a pro and Michael Redmond arrived into the action with some 15 minutes remaining to put his hand up for a starting place the next day.
Buffers Alley: A solid start against Glynn/Barntown and a lapse in concentration against Oylegate had us pondering their true worth before Round 3. Out they came last Sunday and put in a performance that makes us rethink the group. Their dismissal of Cloughbawn together with their Round 1 win over Glynn/Barntown means that even on 4 points they will reach the knock out stages. That said, it is climbing ahead of the other definite quarter finalists Oylegate and Rathnure that will occupy their thoughts rather than just scraping through. In last Sunday’s game, we saw the beginning of a return to form for Andrew Kenny, a solid display from his older brother Ciaran and noteworthy performances from U-21 players John Farrell at midfield and Ross Donohoe who excelled at centre-back. Those who saw them in the Leinster League Final back in May were impressed but the outcome of their next assignment against old foes, Rathnure, is the all-important test now.
Shelmaliers: A somewhat dismal start back in May followed by a more robust performance signalled that a more cohesive, organised approach was to follow. From watching them last Saturday against Rathnure, they look like they are building a bit of momentum and while not serving up a classic, they shared the points with their opponents in an exciting finish. Initially, the game appeared to be one we would forget quickly but from a Shelmaliers point of view, they are working to a plan and have a full forward line to potentially cause problems in this group yet. Conor Hearne pops up for some good scores and moves around the field with intent while the more experienced Ciaran O’Shaughnessy can punish any defence. Stephen Banville was quieter than usual but don’t expect this to last. There are tricky assignments ahead as Glynn/Barntown and Buffers Alley are their two next games and none will be considered an easy two points. The Shels just need to stick to their plan and seek out at least one more win because three points will not guarantee them a quarter-final spot if either Clougbawn or Glynn/Barntown hit a winning streak.
Cloughbawn: Last year’s beaten County finalists, Cloughbawn have endured a torrid time in their first three games and sit on the bottom of the table with no points to show from their three outings to date. They lost out by a point to Rathnure in Round 1 and then suffered a complete malfunction against The Shels in Round 2. The third round saw them come agonisingly close to salvaging something in their encounter with Buffers Alley. Their shooting has been off target and that continued in last Sunday’s game where they racked up a first half wide total in double digits. Their opponents were guilty of wides too in a game where both teams finished with 17 points, but it was the goal count that undid Cloughbawn – they picked off one compared to their opponents’ two green flags. If I was their motivational coach this week, I would be concentrating on building on their performance from round 3 and telling them that a win is not far away if they keep the faith. Their next assignment is against Oylegate/Glenbrien and although it won’t be easy, there’s a kick in this bunch yet. Conall Flood, Barry Carton and Harry Kehoe showed flashes of what they are capable of so expect a big fight back the next day.
Glynn/Barntown: A good strong hurling team on paper who have an uncanny knack of being there or thereabouts for the knockout stages but they are experiencing a rough start to this season with no points on the board after 3 rounds. In their opening game, they were undone by Buffers Alley before they came close to catching Rathnure at the death in Round 2. In the third round, they were blitzed by the direct hurling and clinical goal scoring of Oylegate/Glenbrien. They will be up against the Shels next time out and will have to pull a serious performance out of the bag. A loss against the Shels next time out would put them into a real relegation battle with Cloughbawn in the last round. This was a scenario they experienced in 2012 when they overcame Buffers Alley in a relegation final and I’m sure it’s not something they want to repeat. Their young players have not found their feet in this campaign and while Gary Moore has the ability to open up most defences, it seems to be a disjointed attack at the moment where their confidence is low. Their big men need to regroup because John Leacy, Craig Doyle and Michael O’Regan have the capacity to dominate the skies when things are going well and fill any opposition with dread due to their aerial ability.
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