St Thomas and Clarinbridge do battle this Sunday in the last of this year’s senior hurling championship quarter-final ties in what looks set to be a mouth-watering contest in Kenny Park (1.30pm ).
Fresh from a quite breathtaking victory over Gort in their rescheduled preliminary quarter-final tie at the weekend, Jarlath Niland’s Clarinbridge will go in to this game with their confidence at an all-time high against the favourites for the Tom Callanan Cup in 2018.
Kevin Lally’s St Thomas will be favourites, and rightly so, but when they take to the field this Sunday, it will have been a month since their last competitive game, and that was a 1-19 to 0-13 win over Castlegar.
In comparison Clarinbridge have come through two tough encounters with Padraig Pearses and Gort since then and those games do give them genuine momentum for this clash.
That being said, if they do come with their A game, it is difficult to see St Thomas beaten, given the form they have shown since the championship resumed in September.
Clarinbridge, though, will take some stopping as evidenced by their 3-18 to 1-19 victory over Gort last weekend.
Gort had started the game brightly with Richie Cummins and Aidan Harte impressive, but Cian Salmon’s well finished goal after 11 minutes helped his side to a 1-9 to 0-11 half-time lead.
Stephen Forde buried his side’s second goal 90 seconds into the second half to stretch the lead to three, and although Gort fought back to level, Mark Kennedy’s goal after 47 minutes put Clarinbridge 3-14 to 0-16 up. Despite conceding a late goal from the penalty spot, the date with St Thomas was theirs.
Liam Mellows march on
In the second of Sunday’s double-header in Athenry, Liam Mellows and Tynagh/Abbey-Duniry clashed in the last of the weekend's three quarter-final ties, with the defending county champions coming away 2-16 to 0-16 winners.
Enda Fallon’s early goal helped Mellows to a 1-6 to 0-1 lead before Tynagh/Abbey eventually worked their way in to the game to reduce the deficit to five at half-time, 1-8 to 0-6.
Mellows opened the second half brightly, too, with four points by Tadhg Haran, but points by Shane Moloney (two ), Thomas Gordon and Niall Moloney reduced the gap to four, before Conor Kavanagh rifled a blistering shot to the corner of the net for Mellows' crucial second goal.
Earlier in the day near-neighbours Cappataggle and Loughrea met in their eagerly awaited quarter-final contest and it was the Cappataggle men who came out on top by the minimum, 1-15 to 0-17.
Donal Mannion handed his side the dream start with a goal after only 18 seconds, but Loughrea, inspired by Jamie Ryan, battled back strongly to lead by two after 18 minutes, before Alan Dolan put Cappataggle back ahead with the last puck of the half.
Shane O’Brien continued the tit-for-tat nature of the game when he handed Loughrea a 0-13 to 1-9 lead, but three points in-a-row by Dan Nevin ensured Cappataggle came out on top by the skin of their teeth after an enthralling battle.
Joining Cappataggle and Liam Mellows will be Sarsfields after the defending champions recovered from an 0-8 to 0-2 deficit to beat Castlegar 1-12 to 0-13.
Sarsfields worked their way back into the game well to draw level by half-time at 0-8 apiece, and with little to separate the sides from there on, Kevin Cooney’s 50th minute goal proved the game’s decisive score. Edging his side in to a 1-10 to 0-12 lead, Jeffrey Lawless’ injury-time point end the 2015 county champions a spot in the semi-finals.