Monday 22 January 2018

Big weekend for Senior hurling championship

Dean Goodison

Ferns' Declan Byrne in action against Buffers Alley's Willie Doran in the last round of SHC games
Ferns' Declan Byrne in action against Buffers Alley's Willie Doran in the last round of SHC games

St Martin's and Glynn-Barntown aim to reach the Pettitt's Senior Hurling Championship quarter-finals - just a week after qualifying for the football last four - when they meet Ferns and Buffers Alley respectively in Wexford Park on Sunday afternoon.

The Piercestown based club topped Group A, despite only drawing their final round-robin game with Naomh Eanna. Their reward for a mostly solid, but sometimes spectacular, group stage campaign is a meeting with Ferns (3.30pm throw-in).

Pretenders to Oulart's throne, St Martin's biggest problem is that they can have their off days. When they are good, they are really good but when they are bad they score 2-5. Or they struggle to put away last season's Intermediate champions.

Okay, there are valid excuses for those two performances, one was in April, the other was when they were already qualified but the champions Oulart-The Ballagh won all five group games and that's the standard they strive to reach and surpass.

On the other hand, Ferns must wonder has their best opportunity of breaking their senior championship duck gone by. They scraped into the last eight with two wins, their victory over an equally sketchy Rathnure the difference between them playing this week and sitting at home.

With Ferns' best fifteen players on the pitch this might be the tie of the round. However, it's a tall order to expect them to get the better of a side that plays a similar type of game but does it better in most areas of the field.

Make no mistake, the football title would be a lovely addition to the trophy cabinet but the hurling crown is the one that St Martin's crave. This is just the next step for them achieving that goal and, if their aspirations are to become reality, this test should be passed without a major scare.

Glynn-Barntown needed to produce against St Anne's last time out and they were able to win that game with the minimum of fuss. There's a lot to like about the Killurin club at the moment, in both codes they seem to be peaking at the right time.

That, tied in with boasting enough game changers around the field, makes them a dangerous opponent for everyone except maybe Leinster champions Oulart. On the other hand, Buffers Alley have gone about their business under the radar.

They know how to pull games out of the bag when they get tight and come into the quarter-finals with three wins on the bounce. They also have a big bonus of having a sole focus for the last several weeks, while their opponents looked to advance in Senior football.

It's tempting to go with the side doing more hurling at this time of year but Glynn-Barntown are a team that can overcome that disadvantage with the added bonus of playing big games week in, week out.

While the Alley have the hurling, Glynn have that little more flair, maybe a small bit more athleticism and that is tipped to push them over the line. There will be little in it but expect another Wexford district win.

There will be plenty of interest in the relegation final as two sides, who have spent all of the 21st century in the top tier of Wexford hurling, battle it out to stay there. Wexford Park on Saturday (3.30pm throw-in) will host Faythe Harriers and St Anne's.

To be fair, both have had horrendous seasons. The Pairc Charman side have lost all five games and confidence must be at an all-time low. They have shown what they are capable of in spurts but that won't be enough at the weekend.

St Anne's have just a win over misfiring Shelmaliers on their résumé and were poor last time out against Glynn-Barntown. Liam Og McGovern is undoubtedly a big loss but the Rathangan club have more than one player of quality.

If both sides play to the fullest of their potential this could be a cracking game. St Anne's should have the slight edge in over quality and are picked to hang on to their senior lives but they better be prepared for a sixty minute battle as there's little between these two.

The surprise of the season happened in the Intermediate football championship last week with Ferns shocking Kilanerin, however, nothing that might happen in the Courtyard Ferns Intermediate hurling championship could top that stunner.

Where might a team spring a surprise? Don't write off Craanford, they have been a really difficult side to put away in recent years and can stun Ballygarrett in Monamolin on Saturday. Oylegate-Glenbrien face Shamrocks in the preceding tie and the former are taken to edge victory in another minor upset.

On Sunday Crossabeg-Ballymurn continue seamlessly towards a potential double. There may be a speed-bump in their future but they should see off Rathgarogue-Cushinstown. Adamstown can get over their football relegation by beating Monageer-Boolavogue and reaching the last four in Bellefield.

Oulart-The Ballagh have done enough this season to warrant the call over Blackwater in the Intermediate relegation final. Meanwhile, in the Intermediate A quarters Duffry Rovers will be given a fight by Liam Mellows but should have enough to make the semi-finals.

Fethard and Ballyfad is a mouthwatering tie, even more so after the events of last weekend, it could go all the way to extra-time. In the relegation final Buffers Alley have been treading water for a few weeks and Our Lady's Island can take advantage.

In the junior quarters Clongeen can get the better of a distracted Bannow-Ballymitty, Rapparees should edge past Faythe Harriers, St Mary's (Rosslare) will fancy their chances against Shelmaliers and Tara Rocks are tipped to survive a stern test from Gusserane.

Four big hurling fixtures are held over until Saturday week. Oulart-The Ballagh face Naomh Eanna in the Senior Hurling quarter-finals in Wexford Park with a 2pm throw-in. That is followed by the clash of Rapparees and Cloughbawn. In Intermediate A St James' meet Rathnure in Bellefield (3pm throw-in), later at the same venue Taghmon-Camross play St Patrick's.

Wexford People

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