Historic senior final appearance for Bishopstown
Twelve months ago almost to the day Bishopstown retained their senior status with a one point victory over Ballinhassig after extra-time in a replay, so it is some achievement that on Sunday they will play in their very first county senior final.
Ironically in the curtain-raiser Ballinhassig play Bandon, in the Premier Intermediate decider. Could the two sides that were battling relegation be entering the winners rostrum this weekend?
It’s a dream come true for Bishopstown, especially team captain Thomas Murray who has come up through the ranks and is really looking forward to Sunday. “It’s been an extraordinary few months for us here in the club, and while I did not think of it at the time, the relegation games with Ballinhassig really steeled us and stood to us.”
Thomas says, however, that the first round loss to Midleton was a slight hiccup. “It was a game we could have won, but we re-grouped and the win over Glen Rovers gave us real confidence. Sars have been brilliant in the last few years and they do have the advantage of playing in finals before, but we are confident in our own ability, our preparations have been good, and if we play well, we are capable of winning.”
For Sars coach Pat Ryan it’s a familiar road that they have travelled, Pat has experienced finals as a player but this is his first wearing the ‘Banisteoirs’ bib.
“It’s different alright but as with everyone in the club it’s a great to be involved, everyone has worked hard all year and we are where we hoped we would be.”
At the outset of the Championship Sars would have been one of the favourites but he is not surprised that it’s Bishopstown who provide the opposition.
“Not really, they have good players who enjoyed success at Minor and Under 21 and that was bound to surface at senior, look at the teams they have beaten and they are in the final in merit.”
As for having tasted finals day in the last few years that surely gives Sars an edge? “You could say it does," says pat, "but then Bishopstown will feel that because people have made us favourites, they will enter the match under less pressure and can play without any inhibitions and that makes them dangerous opponents.”
It’s fair to say it has not been the most exciting of championships to date, in fact it is hard to pick a stand out game, hopefully the final will go some way to alter that situation.
Sars are rightly installed as favourites and the manner in which they saw off the challenge of champions Carrigtwohill was impressive, but they were a bit below par in the semi-final against CIT.
Alan Kennedy is an accomplished goalkeeper and he is fronted by a defence that yields little. Ray Ryan holds down the pivotal number six shirt and with Conor O’Sullivan excellent at corner-back the ‘Town attack will have to work hard for scores.
In this regard the onus and indeed the bulk of the scoring has come from Pa Cronin and this needs to be addressed. Denis Crowley can be a handful at full-forward, Ronan Conway works hard, as does Tomas Murray, but scores win games, and if Cronin is held, where will they come from?
By contrast there is a greater spread of scorers in the Sars attack, with the presence of Michael Cussen on the edge of the square the ideal target man.
Cian Mc Carthy is also a key player for them, accurate from both play and placed balls, while Eanna Martin, Kieran Murphy, Daniel Kearney and Eoin Quigley have all been invaluable and effective throughout the campaign.
Bishopstown have really impressed in the championship. There is a collective spirit about their team, they work hard for each other all over the field and the low score count against them in all games is testimony to the excellence of their defence.
Ken O’Halloran has hardly put a foot wrong all season, Shane O’Neill’s form has been consistent and with no injuries to contend with he is a key player in their backline, while the excellence of young players Diarmuid Lester and Ian Jones makes them hard to breach.
All the indications favour Sars, but finals take on a life of their own, just reflect on Carrig’s win over CIT last year, and Bishopstown will feel that they are under less pressure to deliver, and that might work to their advantage.
But Sars hold all the aces, they have more potential in attack, and if they can contain Cronin they will be well on their way to winning, it could be close though and if that’s the case, the options they have on the bench could swing it Sars way if it’s tight coming down the stretch.
Sars to win.
Finally at half-time in the senior game on Sunday, the Cork 3 in a row winning team of 1976 to ’78 will be introduced to the crowd and given the quality and class in that side they should receive a rousing reception.