St. Martin’s: After three rounds of the championship, these are the boys all the punters are tipping to relieve Oulart/The Ballagh of the Bob Bowe Cup. They laid down a marker in Round 1 with a winning display against the reigning county champions, performed with less pomp in their win over Ferns in Round 2 and then came out last weekend and annihilated a listless Faythe Harriers team in Round 3. The smart money would appear to be on them and they have youth on their side as they stroll through the rounds. Their beacon up front is Rory O’Connor, who moves with menace and puts the fear of God in defences around the county. He is ably assisted by his two brothers and at least three first cousins who will prove a handful for Gorey in the next round. After that, they will meet an out-of-sorts Ferns, whose only motivating factor is that they caught them on the hop last year in the quarter final. After their encounter with Faythe Harriers, you couldn’t look beyond a full 10 points for this team and the number one qualifying spot in the group.
Oulart/The Ballagh: If St. Matins are the most talked about team at the moment, here’s a team who are beginning to move into serious championship mode. They may have succumbed to the Young Pretenders in Round 1 back in May but are now showing very strong signs of ripping through the rest of the rounds and qualifying comfortably for the quarter finals. Next up for them is an improving Rapparees team followed by Ferns who will both be hunting desperately for points. Nevertheless, it’s championship time and Oulart are moving into gear to defend their title. Last Saturday, they had 10 points to spare over Naomh Eanna in Round 3 and with the minimum of fuss, they dealt with anything the Gorey locals threw at them. Their forwards are menacing and fast moving and deliver the killer punch whenever they feel under threat. Garrett Sinnott, Des Mythen and Nicky Kirwan are a handful when the Oulart tails are up, which is how it appears to be as we approach Round 4. The experienced campaigner that is Keith Rossiter kept tabs on Conor McDonald last Saturday and together with Shaun Murphy and Eoin Moore, they have a potentially fortress- like defence.
The Rapparees: There wasn’t much to get excited about in the first two rounds of the championship for the Enniscorthy town side. They had no points heading into Round 3 against Ferns and we were expecting a dour encounter with very little between the sides. What we didn’t know was that the Rapparees had other ideas- Out they came last Sunday in Wexford Park and brushed aside their near neighbour’s Ferns with a whirlwind no one was expecting. In fact, had Met Eireann being expecting that gale force wind it would have been given a name all to itself – Hurricane Skinner or something like that. Helping the Rapps on their merry way last weekend were dominant displays from Kevin Foley, Liam Ryan and Ricky Fox together with old reliable Tomas Mahon who surely deserves something named after him at this stage. The Rapps will be happy to have turned their season in a different direction but will also be very well aware that their next two assignments will be a huge challenge and realistically they will need to add something to the two points they have currently. They face Oulart/The Ballagh on Saturday Aug 26th and their last group game is against current table toppers St. Martin’s, so it is evident that they have the toughest route.
Naomh Eanna: The Gorey side established themselves as a senior team during the course of the 2016 campaign, having won the Intermediate Championship in 2015. They were unlucky to narrowly lose out to Ferns in Round 1 this year but bounced back with a win over the Rapparees in Round 2. Their last assignment was a tough one against defending champions Oulart/The Ballagh and things don’t get any easier for the foreseeable future as they will come up against a buoyant St. Martin’s on Sunday Aug 27th in Bellefield. They play an intelligent brand of hurling and will be hoping to put it up to St. Martin’s which will be no easy task when you look at how the Piercestown men are currently carving up their opponents. Gorey’s last group game is against Faythe Harriers, and depending on Round 4 results, both teams could be scrambling desperately for points to avoid the unspeakable. Currently, four of the Group B teams are on 2 points so Round 4 will be crucial in determining who qualifies for the knockout stages, who survives and who ends up in the relegation battle. However, expect Conor McDonald to have many more moments of magic this season and he is surrounded by a crop of good young hurlers with Eoin Conroy, Gary Molloy and Darragh Hughes destined to contribute handsomely to proceedings also.
Faythe Harriers: Here’s a team who are proving difficult to assess this season. They survived a relegation battle last year and got this year’s campaign off to a winning start with a victory over the Rapparees. Oulart/The Ballagh were their Round 2 opponents and while Oulart took the points, the Harriers ran them close on a 2.14 to 1.13 scoreline. Last Saturday evening in Innovate Wexford Park, they suffered a 21-point defeat when they lined out against an in-form St. Martin’s side. Perhaps it was just one of those days when nothing went right but extremely worrying is the standout statistic of only one point being scored from play with the other nine coming from placed balls courtesy of Lee Chin. To add to the alarm, that point came from wing back Brendan Mulligan. In their next game, they face an equally out-of-sorts Ferns team so maybe it will be their chance to put the wheels back on the wagon before their final game against Naomh Eanna. If Lee Chin can lead the way in attack and if Richie Kehoe can steady the ship at the back, then maybe Rhys Clarke will hit a purple patch up front and between them they’ll haul the Harriers back into contention. Ifs, buts and maybes…
Ferns: This is another team who are decidedly difficult to get to grips with in terms of where they will finally end up after the group stages. They opened their campaign with a win over Naomh Eanna and remained reasonably respectable in Round 2 with a seven point loss to St. Martin’s. Somehow, they turned that 7 point loss into a 17 point hammering when they met the Rapparees last Sunday. Nobody really saw it coming as the Rapps had lost both their opening games and hadn’t looked at all convincing against either Gorey or the Harriers. Ferns are due to take on the Harriers on Sunday Aug 27th in Bellefield and need to quickly put their Round 3 experience behind them, as do the Harriers who should also be keen to forget Round 3. Things won’t take a turn for the better after Round 4 for Ferns because waiting for them in Round 5 will be Oulart/The Ballagh. With this prospect in store, they will be hoping that their Round 4 game will yield 2 points and give them a fighting chance in the final round. Paul Morris has been consistently performing but he needs to rally the troops now and get the best from his colleagues who have proven records but are not hitting the heights they have previously scaled.
I think this is what they call ‘squeaky bum’ time.
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