Clean Ireland Recycling County senior hurling championship preview.
Only Templederry managed a victory greater than a one point margin - their prize? A crack at Thurles Sarsfields in the semi-final on Sunday afternoon next - the curtain raiser in Semple Stadium.
Templederry saw off the challenge of divisional neighbours Burgess and will come into the game with much confidence and with absolutely nothing to lose. This is new territory for them, but they are worth their place in the last four and will be determined to give everything they have against a highly fancied Sarsfields outfit. Their opponents needed extra time to get over the line against North champions Nenagh Eire Og, and that win came courtesy of a late long range free from Aidan McCormack who shot a monster score to break the hearts of his opponents. McCormack showed great courage to step up to the free having missed a difficult one at the end of normal time which would have given the same result, but at an earlier stage.
Sarsfields, favourites for the title now, have not been firing as they would wish, but still have plenty of room for improvement. Unusually, their attacking division, full of marquee names, has been subdued, and will need to step up considerably if they are to be regarded as real contenders. Still, they have accounted now for Drom-Inch and Nenagh Eire Og - two of the top five teams in the county - and have a lot of momentum behind them as they move towards Sunday’s tie. They will be hoping that defender Stephen Maher recovers from a bang on the knee suffered in the clash with Nenagh to take his place in the side again
In the second semi-final Mullinahone, the only divisional champion remaining in the race, square up to current champions Loughmore Castleiney who just about edged past Clonoulty Rossmore in the quarter final. The champs did what they had to do, but they too will be looking for an improvement and can count themselves as fortunate as Sarsfields to be still in the hunt - keeper Shane Nolan made a magnificent double save to keep Clonoulty Rossmore at bay late on. Indeed, the Clonoulty Rossmore men shot a whopping 17 wides in the match - 11 of those in the second half - and have been kicking themselves all week since.
As for Mullinahone - they surrendered a big lead in normal time against Kildangan and ended up in the extra time battle with the north men. And, though they seemed to be going out of the championship, they found a way back with Eoin Kelly blasting two goals in the second period to breathe new life back into their hopes. They won out and now face the champions in a real battle of the green and red - the similarity of the colours will surely make for interesting viewing in the stands on Sunday. Kelly’s thumb injury picked up in that game is a serious concern for Mullinahone though and even if he is in a position to lineout, he will surely be hampered somewhat by the injury.
The quarter final ties were not exactly of the highest quality but the close nature of proceedings kept patrons on their seats all the way through. However, with a combined attendance of just over 5,000 for the two days - disappointing to say the least - the hope is that Semple Stadium will be a far busier place on Sunday next with three of the four divisions represented on semi-final day.
The Clean Ireland Recycling County Intermediate Hurling championship semi-finals also take place next weekend (Saturday) with Thurles Sarsfields taking on St Mary’s and Clonakenny taking on mid neighbours Moyne Templetuohy. These two games will certainly attract a lot of attention and should provide some interesting viewing for spectators.
See fixtures page for a full rundown of GAA fixtures in the county.