Rathgormack take on An Rinn on Saturday night knowing that a win will see them guarantee their place in the quarter-finals of the Co. SFC. Photo: Sean Byrne.
Though there are unbeaten teams at the top of each group, this final round of games could see the scene change dramatically where qualification for the quarter finals is concerned. The unbeaten teams in Groups A, B, and C respectively are Stradbally, Nire and Rathgormack and a slip up by either could let their opponents of this week slip through on head to head results.
ARDMORE V PORTLAW
This is the one group where it will take a big upset to deny defending champions Stradbally an automatic quarter final place. The first game in this group takes place in Fraher Field on Thursday evening (7.15 p.m.) where Ardmore will face Portlaw. The Tannery Town men have been the surprise packets in this Group where having impressively survived a relegation replay against Ballinameela from last year they carried their momentum into the championship, scoring a deserved three point win over Dungarvan and pushing Stradbally all the way before losing their second game.
Ardmore, in something of a transition period, lost out to Stradbally in their opening game and then went down to Dungarvan. When the same teams met in last year’s championship Ardmore avoided the relegation playoffs with a 0-15 to 0-9 win and they will be pinning their hopes on repeating that result here. This time however, Portlaw look a more formidable side and will see this as a game they can win and perhaps secure at least a second place seeding. Ardmore will be putting a lot into this game but if Portlaw can carry their form against Stradbally and Dungarvan forward they may just about shade it.
STRADBALLY V DUNGARVAN
Newly promoted Dungarvan may have underestimated Portlaw when they lost their opening Group game but they looked a different side when beating Ardmore with eight points to spare next time out. It was always going to be a big ask for last year’s Intermediate champions to beat the senior champions but Dungarvan will not be intimidated by Stradbally and will draw confidence from their three county senior players Gavin Crotty, Kevin Power and Joe Allen. A shock win for Dungarvan would put them into the quarter finals on the head to head in the event of Ardmore beating Portlaw. That much said Stradbally look the bankers to claim the quarter final spot from this group.
Without a win and a vastly inferior score difference Brickey Rangers are very much out of the equation here despite putting up a good performance against the Nire last time out. A win for Clashmore-Kinsalebeg on Thursday could see them nick second place in the group on their head to head win over Ballinacourty should the latter lose out to The Nire in what will be the Group decider in Fraher Field on Sunday evening (7 p.m.).
While Clashmore must be strongly fancied to beat the Brickeys the clash between The Nire and Ballinacourty could go any way given past meetings between two of the top three teams in Waterford football down the years. Having scored six goals in their opening win over Clashmore the Ballymac’ side had to work hard for their 4-15 to 4-9 win over Brickey Rangers and though Ballinacourty were ambushed by Clashmore last time out, their back to back U-21 title wins suggest that they are a side for the future and still have enough experienced players in the side to get a win here. Both sides are carrying injuries to key players following the hurling championship game of two weeks ago with Ballincourty waiting on top scorer Mark Ferncombe and the Nire on the influential Shane Ryan. A win for Ballinacourty here and a win for Clashmore could bring it all down to score difference and that would work out in Ballinacourty’s favour.
Here it all comes down to one game as the winners of An Rinn and Rathgormack will advance to the quarter finals. A draw would be good enough for Rathgormack but should An Rinn prevail then Rathgormack would be in a strong position for the fourth quarter final spot as a best Group runner up. An Rinn will have their county panellists, who missed out on being involved with Tom McGlinchey’s championship side through injury, back in action here having also missed out on their drawn games with Gaultier and Kilrossanty. Consequently, they will have their strongest available side out in Fraher Field on Saturday (6.30pm).
In Rathgormack, An Rinn will face a young side that has greatly improved since last year and were most impressive winners over Kilrossanty and Gaultier, both of whom held the Gaeltacht side to draws. A third draw will not be enough for An Rinn here while it would be just enough for Rathgormack.
Kilrossanty and Gaultier will be playing for a second tier seed in Kill on Friday (8 p.m.) with Kilrossanty just about fancied to get the win here.
Quarter final places for Stradbally, Ballinacourty and Rathgormack with The Nire taking the fourth spot as best runner up. The second tier of seeds for the playoffs to be Portlaw, Clashmore, Kilrossanty and An Rinn (based on score difference).