Can Moneygall make it back to back?
GAA: Kelly’s of Fantane North Tipperary Intermediate Hurling Championship Preview
By Liam Hogan
The North Tipperary Intermediate Championship kick-starts the major divisional hurling competitions this Friday evening.
Borrisokane take on Ballinahinch in the sole quarter final with the winners progressing to a semi-final against Shannon Rovers while holders Moneygall take on Lorrha who were relegated last year and play in the intermediate grade for the first time since 2007.
After managing Shannon Rovers for the last two seasons, Pat Cremin has switched allegiance to Ballinahinch. His brief tenure so far has been hit hard by injuries, retirements and players heading to America.
“We are carrying a couple of injuries but like most clubs there are players gone to America for the summer,” he revealed.
“Cathal Ryan suffered a bad hamstring injury and Darragh McGrath suffered an injury also and both players are very unlikely to be back in time for the game against Borris. We would prefer if this fixture was two or three weeks down the line, but it is what it is at this stage.
“We have a few retirements at this stage but a lot of new kids coming through from last year’s under 19s so there is a fresh look to Ballinahinch in a way. Shane (McGrath) isn’t playing at the moment. I’m not sure what his plans are. He has been busy all along with other commitments while Alan Kelly or Donnacha are with us at the moment. They have been carrying injuries, so it has been difficult for them.”
Kiladangan man Seamus Gleeson makes a return to the Borrisokane hot seat after a lapse of eleven years and in 2010 he led Borrisokane to a County Intermediate title.
Unbeaten in the County League his side is fresh after winning the Division 4 title and he is looking forward to his team’s quarter final clash with Ballinahinch.
“The league win has given the lads a bit of a lift,” he said.
“We are delighted how it went. It has been good to us. We looked beaten in one or two games, none more so than the final but we hung in which is a good sign.
“They are working hard and in good form and looking forward to challenge ahead. The challenges will be coming thick and fast as we look forward to the long summer evenings of hurling.”
Like most teams at this stage, injury worries remain a source of concern.
“We will be struggling to have one or two lads on the field. Philip Austin was injured in the League final win. Kevin Cleary was struggling with sickness. He was very sick on the morning of the League final.
“The numbers are tight panel wise but to be fair they (players) are trying everything in their power to get themselves right. Michael Heenan will be back, and he will captain the team, but we are hoping to get one or two more players right, but the game has come one or two weeks too soon.”
Borrisokane were runners-up to Moneygall in last year’s North Final and they were unlucky not to have made the knockout stages of the county champions losing to Drom & Inch on score difference.
Following their loss to Burgess in last year’s Seamus O Riain Cup relegation play-off Lorrha were back in Intermediate grade after a lapse of fourteen years.
Lorrha are managed by former Tipp goalkeeper and two-time All-Ireland winner Ken Hogan and has taken the 2022 season with fervour, a year in which the split season would test the mettle of his team.
“We have a couple of players gone to America, Daniel O’Donoghue, Ollie Cleary, and Eoin Cleary players who played senior,” he revealed.
“Then Kevin Maher has a long-term injury and hasn’t been able to return to training just yet. I am sure every other club is suffering in that regard as well.”
Darragh Guinan, Donnacha O’Meara and Martin O’Gorman are newcomers to the set up and they have benefited from the recent league run where Lorrha did well.
“We got a decent run in the league,” Hogan added.
“Obviously, Ballina beat us in the semi-final. It was a good game. From our point of view, it was a good way in getting the players into team. As we all know, the league is entirely different from the championship.
“We have the toughest opener of all against the North champions Moneygall. They beat us in the league. They have momentum and have some fantastic hurlers. Moneygall and Lorrha have always had a healthy rivalry and will be a strong force to reckon with particularly at county championship.
His thoughts on the split season: “People keep say that season ends up on July 17th – it does not- it only starts in my view. For every grassroots member of the GAA, it’s very important to keep that going. The club championships have taken on a new meaning, and it certainly deserves to be trialled,” he said.
As holders of this championship, Moneygall will want to retain the Fr Hewitt Cup while at the same time have their eye on the county championship where they feel they had an off day in the semi-final defeat to Kilsheelan/Kilcash.
Paul O’Neill was the manager twelve months ago and his team will take on Lorrha in the North semi-final. Would the favourite’s tag sit well on the shoulders of the holders?
“I am not sure about Moneygall being favourites after Lorrha came back down,” he said.
“They were suffocated with injuries last year and now they seem to have everybody back. They had a very good league campaign and were very unlucky to lose to Ballina after extra time in the semi-final.
“We had a good league campaign ourselves and were unlucky not to come out of the group with Lorrha. It’s all to play for and both teams are going well.
“The intermediate championship is a big carrot for any team to come out off because you want to get an Intermediate title under your belt to face the county championship.”
Moneygall will enter the 2022 season short the services of Willie Greene who has retired. Joe Fogarty has recovered from the injury sustained in his first day training with the Tipperary senior team. He was out for seven months with the North Tipp Intermediate hurler of the year returning to action for the second last league game against Ballingarry.
“Joe has another campaign to get under his belt and he is very eager to get back and show he can return to the Tipp scene,” O’Brien added.
Shannon Rovers wait in the wings for the winners of the Borrisokane v Ballinahinch semi-final.
Moneygall defeated them in last year’s divisional semi-final. In the county championship they fell short of reaching the knockout stage because of defeats to Ballinahinch and Ballingarry but survived a relegation battle because of a share of the spoils with Arravale Rovers.
With John Flannery sharing the managerial role alongside Brian Lawlor of Kiladangan, the Rovers league campaign saw them win two games and lose three in division 4 but their season has been hampered by a huge amount of injuries
“It’s been tough as it is for a lot of clubs,” Flannery said.
“We don’t have huge numbers and we lost Jack O’Sullivan from last year, as well as Alan Hogan. The league was tough based on numbers and because the type of year it is it has been a long enough year to ask players to make huge commitment because of low numbers.”
With the injuries healing there are a few niggly ones but Padraic O’Meara is very doubtful due to an ankle injury sustained on St Patrick’s Day. Looking forward to the semi-final against either Borrisokane or Ballinahinch John went on to say.
“Borrisokane gave us a trimming in the championship last year and they gave us another trimming in the league this year, so we know they have loads of good hurlers. We beat Ballinahinch in the north championship last year but when it mattered, they beat us in the county championship at Dolla. Ballinahinch have had an Indian sign on us for as long as I remember.
“The response to Brian Lawlor has been brilliant. Brian is excellent and he as seen it all not just with Kiladangan but with Kildare as well when they won the Christy Ring Cup. Remember Kildare got a hiding from Kerry earlier that year, but they met in the final and Kildare won. He has been impressive,” he said.