Ballygarrett may pip GOH
Richly-deserving Intermediate 'A' winner guaranteed
A richly-deserving winner will be crowned in Innovate Wexford Park on Sunday, regardless of the outcome of the Top Oil Intermediate 'A' hurling championship final featuring Ballygarrett and Geraldine O'Hanrahans (1.30 p.m.).
New Ross may be lagging behind the other three main towns in terms of making an impact in the small ball code, but it's very encouraging to see them 60 minutes away from what would be a first adult title since the Junior success of 1995.
And they haven't contested a final with their first team since 2006 when neighbours Rathgarogue-Cushinstown pipped them by 0-11 to 0-9 in the Intermediate decider.
Thirteen years later, three members of that squad survive: defenders Conor Cleere and Garry Hill, plus current captain Stephen Somers who was a substitute on that occasion.
Ballygarrett have also endured a long wait since their last adult success back in 2004, when Our Lady's Island were overcome by 0-14 to 0-9 in the Junior final.
The long-serving Redmond brothers, Eddie and Stephen, are still going strong along with Patrick Naughter, while Colm Kennelly made an appearance off the bench 15 years ago.
The last knockout clash between the clubs arrived in 2011, with Ballygarrett winning an Intermediate quarter-final by 2-16 to 1-12.
Although they lost to eventual champions Adamstown by a point on their next outing, it was the closest they have ever got to reaching the top flight.
Relegation down to Intermediate 'A' occurred in 2017 with a loss to Rathgarogue-Cushinstown, and they did beat the Geraldines comfortably by 2-16 to 1-7 in a group game last season.
Both went on to lose quarter-finals to the eventual champion and runner-up, and in the Barrowsiders' case it was their second successive exit at that stage.
They were relegated from Intermediate in 2014, and pipped Clongeen the following year to avoid another drop, but they have been making steady progress since 2017.
Ballygarrett were very slow starters in this campaign, only winning two from five group games before overcoming Craanford after extra-time in a quarter-final District derby.
A super scoring contribution of 1-12 from Jack Hobbs guided them to a 2-15 to 1-16 victory over Gusserane, and he will need to be at his best once more, along with the Corcoran brothers, Cormac Moore-Kavanagh, and their survivors from 2004.
Geraldine O'Hanrahans wouldn't have been strongly fancied after only claiming five points from a possible ten in their group, but their 1-15 to 0-16 quarter-final win over the Oulart-The Ballagh was a huge boost in confidence to a generally young, promising team.
And it showed in the semi-final, as they beat Liam Mellows by five points after drawing them in their first outing of the year.
Players from the club haven't always featured regularly with Good Counsel in 'A' hurling, but that has changed in recent years when Pádraig Bailey, Michael Cleere and Diarmuid 'DD' Kehoe were key figures with their school team.
After holding their own at that level, it is no surprise that they have translated this into strong club form.
The three Kelly brothers, whose father, Brendan, is a Trojan worker for the Geraldines, will also be expected to lead from the front, while Dylan Egan has been racking up impressive tallies throughout the campaign.
Finals can take on a life of their own, and past meetings shouldn't always be taken as a reliable guide.
Having said that, the fact that Ballygarrett won the last meeting of the sides by twelve points in 2018 makes them favourites, although this game is unlikely to be decided by a double-scores margin.
PATHS TO THE FINAL - Ballygarrett: lost to Tara Rocks 1-23 to 0-11; lost to Oulart-The Ballagh 2-17 to 0-17; beat Shelmaliers 3-22 to 2-11; lost to Duffry Rovers 0-21 to 1-14; beat St. Patrick's 2-17 to 1-9; beat Craanford 1-25 to 2-15 AET (quarter-final); beat Gusserane 2-15 to 1-16 (semi-final); Geraldine O'Hanrahans: drew with Liam Mellows 2-9 to 1-12; beat Our Lady's Island 0-24 to 1-8; lost to Gusserane 3-21 to 2-18; beat Craanford 2-16 to 1-16; lost to Rathnure 0-14 to 1-9; beat Oulart-The Ballagh 1-15 to 0-16 (quarter-final); beat Liam Mellows 1-12 to 0-10 (semi-final).