Novel pairing in Senior final
Martin’s meeting Rathnure
Novelty factor aside, a Wexford Senior camogie championship final in Bellefield on Saturday (3.45 p.m.) pitting young whipper-snappers St. Martin's against the veteran leaders of Rathnure is one of the most eagerly-awaited deciders for some time.
Even on the rare occasion that Oulart-The Ballagh were beaten in recent years, like they were by St. Ibar's/Shelmalier in 2013, it came as a surprise as the double All-Ireland champions were always expected to escape with title intact from the usual battling, gallant final foe.
This is a different story altogether. This final is there for the taking and both sides will go into Saturday's game fully anticipating ending it with the silverware going back to their parish. But only one can win it.
St. Martin's have the experience of last season's final to look back on and learn from. They lost the 2016 decider to Oulart-The Ballagh (1-13 to 0-10) but are on an unbeaten championship run this season.
Their record is tempered somewhat by the fact that they were in the opposite group from Rathnure and Oulart-The Ballagh and have therefore only really been tested twice by St. Ibar's/Shelmalier, both in the group stages (0-14 to 0-8) and their semi-final success (2-11 to 2-8).
In attack, Lisa Bolger and Minor Lettie Whelan both netted in the semi-final. Their side will need a similar return in this game as the Rathnure half-back line probably won't allow Linda Bolger the four points she scored from play against St. Ibar's/Shelmalier.
The Piercestown-based side had Kate Kelly to curtail in their last four clash but they will face a more balanced attack in Rathnure. The Blackstairs girls were led in scoring in their semi by Lenny Holohan, but Aoife Guiney is a real game-changing threat.
This result could well come down to which bench has the bigger impact. There's no real reason why Rathnure won't start with a similar side that began against Oulart-The Ballagh, leaving the likes of Nora Higgins, Marie Morrissey and Ciara O'Connor as impact substitutes.
St. Martin's have a Ciara O'Connor of their own and it will be interesting to see if management give the county Under-16 starlet, as well as Katie O'Connor, a role from the off.
On the balance of it, Rathnure will probably have more left in reserve. That, tied in with this being the last chance for the old brigade to get a county medal, makes them the pick in a fascinating final.
Also this weekend, some other titles will be decided. Preceding the main event in Bellefield on Saturday (2 p.m.) will be the Senior 'B' final between double defending champions Glynn-Barntown and 2015 Intermediate victors Kilrush - who have made further progress this year after avoiding relegation last season.
Earlier, the Junior 'A' title decider looks set to be a competitive affair (12 noon, venue TBC). Craanford-Monaseed have made great strides in recent seasons and a jump to Intermediate level won't scare them.
Monageer-Boolavogue have gone the other way but have shown enough this term to make this a tight contest.