Silvermines face Ballyduff in Semple Stadium, Thurles on Saturday in an eagerly-anticipated Munster intermediate hurling final.
Initially this final was expected to take place on Sunday, November 18th, but since the game clashed with a coursing meeting the Munster Council allowed Ballyduff a special dispensation and now the final will be played in Semple Stadium.
Since the initiation of the intermediate club championship in 2003 Tipperary clubs have struggled to make an impression on the provincial competition.
Kilruane MacDonagh’s lost the final to Bride Rovers in 2003 and Borrisokane lost the 2010 decider to Ballymartle while only Kildangan (2004) managed to win the competition outright when the north Tipperary men got the better of Dromin-Athlacca and then progressed to win an All-Ireland title. Silvermines look capable to repeating that feat, but first they will have to get the better of Ballyduff who were crowned the Kerry senior hurling champions for the third consecutive year (24th time in all) on October 7th last. In that final Ballyduff got the better of Lixnaw on a 1-15 to 1-9 scoreline.
Ballyduff took on the well-fancied Limerick champions Ballybrown in their respective semi-final at Kilmallock and won 2-13 to 0-14. Extra-time was required to seperate the sides on that occasion. Ballyduff impressively out-scored Ballybrown 0-6 to 0-1 in extra-time.
Ballyduff lost last year’s Munster intermediate final to Effin so there is a sense of unfinished business for the Kerry champions who are managed by Patrickswell’s PJ O’Grady.
Silvermines, managed by Thurles’ Paddy Moore and coached by Paddy McCormack, are in fine form.
In the county intermediate final Silvermines, who were relegated from the senior ranks in 2003, saw off Ballina on 2-21 to 0-10 scoreline.
The ‘Mines then faced Clare champions Ruan in a Munster quarter-final. Silvermines won that encounter 1-15 to 0-6 at Sixmilebridge before progressing to take on An Rinn (Waterford) at the semi-final stage.
Previous to that semi-final some of Silvermines’ hurling, especially their approach play, was truly exceptional, but against An Rinn the Tipperary champions were asked a very different question. Having played with the wind in the opening half the ‘Mines trailed by three points but recovered magnificently to win on a 0-13 to 0-11 scoreline.
For the mines Brendan Timmons is uncompromising at full-back, Dónal Keogh, Ronan Sherlock and Noel Quirke represent an outstanding half-back line while Orrie Quirke is a key influence at midfield.
Meanwhile up front Silvermines have found a real trump card in Jason Forde.
Forde, who is still just 19 years of age, captained the Tipperary minors in 2011 and inspired Nenagh CBS to All-Ireland Colleges glory earlier this year.