AIB All-Ireland Intermediate Club FC semi-final:
Castlerea St Kevin’s v Cill na Martra (Cork) on Saturday in Laois Hire O’Moore Park, Portlaoise at 2.30 pm
Having set a win in the Roscommon IFC as their goal for 2023, Castlerea St Kevin’s begin a new year just one step away from an All-Ireland final appearance in Croke Park when they take on Cill na Martra of Cork in the semi-final this Saturday.
The fact that the west Cork side are managed by ex-Roscommon senior team manager John Evans adds spice to the contest. In the opposite corner is Dara Bruen, a man who would have worked alongside Evans as a coach with Roscommon, and the Castlerea manager is looking forward to the challenge this weekend.
“We have been training hard over the Christmas and the lads have been brilliant, to be honest. They had a couple of nights out, but nothing too serious, but they have applied themselves well to the training and they realise that a chance like this doesn’t come about too often” he said.
Dara is expecting a huge challenge from the Corkmen who he has seen in action a number of times. “They are a very strong side. They won a very tough Cork championship and a bit like Castlerea, they went into the final against Bantry as the outsiders but they caught them at the end to win it.
“They are physically strong and they have power and pace. They have some excellent players and their full back Tadhg Corcoran is on the Cork senior panel. They have been very impressive in Munster and they will be very strong opposition” he said.
Bruen is reporting a full bill of health in the run-up to the semi-final. “We have no injuries whatsoever and everyone is available, so that’s a plus. We are really looking forward to the challenge now at a venue (O’Moore Park) that has good memories for Roscommon supporters over the years” he said.
Bruen says that the support for the club has been fantastic over the past few weeks. “We have been thrilled with all the support that we have been getting, and not just in the town, but around the country and further afield too. We are going out there on Saturday to have a real cut at it.
“It is not easy for the players. They have had friends home for Christmas and they couldn’t go out with them, but as I said earlier this opportunity won’t come up too often.
“We have had a lot of people who came home for Christmas who are delaying their return flights so they can go to the match. The atmosphere is great in the club and hopefully we can give it a real go” he concluded.
It is unfair to say that Castlerea are now very much in bonus territory. They will look at the likes of St Croan’s and Michael Glavey’s, both of whom made it through to All-Ireland finals over the past decade. However, the west Cork side look a formidable side and it will take a huge Castlerea performance to upset the odds. They have done it in the county final and again in the Connacht final but this might just be a step too far.
Prediction: Cill na Martra.
Note: Both Saturday’s intermediate semi-finals will be shown live on the TG4 Sport YouTube Channel. The first semi-final between Allenwood and Cullyhanna is at 1 pm while the second semi-final between Castlerea St Kevin’s and Cill na Martra will be at 2.30 pm