Kepak SHC Final: Four Roads v Athleague on Sunday in Athleague at 2.30 pm
Like the senior football club championship, the two form teams will line up against each other in the county senior hurling final on Sunday in Athleague. Four Roads are in an unusual position because they have lost the last three finals in a row and it would be unprecedented in the long and rich history of the club for them to lose four on the bounce.
Since the start of the championship a final pairing of Athleague and Four Roads looked likely. Both sides have been consistent all through and deserve to be tussling for the magnificent Mickey Cunniffe Cup.
The loss of Darragh Heavey and Aengus Lyons for Athleague cannot be underestimated as both have been playing super hurling this year. It will mean that the burden of leadership will fall on men like Alan Moore, Niall Connolly, Gary Fallon, Pat Nolan, Cormac Kelly, Eamon Flanagan and Robbie Fallon but they are all players who are well capable of stepping up to the mark.
Alan Moore and Gary Fallon will operate in central positions in defence and they will be charged with shutting the door on the likes of Padraig Kelly and Cathal Dolan. Seamus Qualter will have to shake up his midfield partnership as both Heavey and Lyons are out of commission. Cormac Kelly and Eamon Flanagan could well be pressed into service in that area with the likes of Cian Murray and David Flaherty likely replacements.
The burden of score-getting will fall to the likes of Eamon Flanagan and Robbie Fallon who, on their day are as good as are in the county. Flanagan is a marvellous free-taker while Robbie Fallon is a very skilful attacker capable of opening up the Four Roads defence.
Joe Mannion’s men are likely to have Jamie Lawlor at full-back. I like the look of the Four Roads half-back line of Cormac Coyle, Micheal Kelly and Jack Donnelly which is the springboard for many an attack.
Shane Curley will bring all his experience to bear in the middle of the field while Conor Coyle is a very able deputy and Johnny Moran may also be fit to take some part on Sunday.
Cathal Dolan is an outstanding free-taker and the return of Padraig Kelly has strengthened the Four Roads attack this year for sure. With Conor Mulry missing, Niall Hynes or Brendan Mulry could be options in attack for the men from Tisrara.
There won’t be a lot between the teams and I am expecting a hard-fought and close game between these great rivals. But the arrival of Joe Mannion and a fresh management team have injected new life into Four Roads this year and they are very determined to stop their run of losses in finals.
Seamus Qualter is an excellent manager and will have Athleague ready for the challenge but I have been impressed with Four Roads every time I have seen them this year. They look like a side that want their title back and they should emerge victorious by three or four points after a battle.
Prediction: Four Roads