Six of the best chase Senior glory
GAA: Hibernian Inn North Tipperary Senior Hurling Championship Preview
By Shane Brophy
The 2022 senior club championships couldn’t be getting off to a better start next Sunday as the North Championship sees two quarter finals between four great rivals.
Tipperary’s early championship elimination provides an opportunity for clubs to play championship hurling at the height of summer when the temperatures are warm, and the ball is moving fast.
With the new Premier Intermediate grade made up of the seven O Riain Cup level teams now having their own divisional championship, six teams will battle it out for the Frank McGrath Cup in the coming weeks and all can harbour serious ambitions of claiming the honours.
After five successful years under the guidance of Johnny Kelly, Borris-Ileigh have a new management team headed up by former Galway manager Shane O’Neill who is bringing Limerick native John Fitzgerald with him, whom he worked with in Galway and previously with Nenagh Eire Og.
“They have brought a fresh approach,” said Brendan Maher.
“They have huge experience after giving the last two years with Galway. We have a really good set-up and training has been going really well.”
With Borris-Ileigh’s junior team winning the North League last month, they are developing real depth within the panel as they aim to win a first North title since 2017.
“It was great to get that league final win,” Brendan added.
“For a lot of lads on that team it was a first ever win they had, even underage, so it makes training a lot better and it’s the one thing we have this year is good numbers and a good buy-in from everyone but at the of the day it is only training and preparation, and we will see over the next few weeks how teams are going.
“I am looking forward to the campaign, we have a number of good games to look forward to in the North, without even looking to the county championship, where we have local derbies and then the county finalists from last year, so it is going to be seriously competitive. There are genuinely six or seven teams that could win it this year, so we are looking forward to two really good championships.”
Kiladangan are hunting a seventh North title since 2008 and aiming for a three-in-a-row under new manager Dan Hackett, who is joined by Sean O’Meara and George Hannigan.
After being dethroned as county champions last year, they go from the hunted to the hunted and Alan Flynn is looking forward to another campaign.
“The North Championship is great to be able to get things up and running,” he said.
“It is a different year again when we were going into last year, we were county champions and had every aspiration to try and bring that back but it didn’t work out for us so we’ll give it everything to get their again but that is down the line.
“We have to concentrate on next week against Kilruane and see where we go from there. You want these games to test lads and it will tell you where you are.”
First up for Kiladangan are their great rivals Kilruane MacDonaghs who pushed them all the way in last years North Final. Liam O’Kelly goes again as manager with a team that developed nicely last year and according to Craig Morgan, are aiming to go a step or two further this year.
“It’s the same as every other year, we just want to go out and perform to our best really, and everything else will take care of itself and hopefully we’ll go a step or two further,” he said.
“We have a young enough team in fairness and each year these lads are getting a year older and more experienced and starting off against a good Kiladangan team who we played in the North Final last year in a great game, so it is a great way to start the championship.
“These are the games you want, when you look back at Covid times and there wasn’t many people at games, hopefully there’ll be a big crowd at the game and that is what North senior championship hurling is all about.”
NENAGH EIRE OG
It’s a trade off of sorts between Nenagh Eire Og and Borris-Ileigh with former maroons’ manager Johnny Kelly installed as coach in Nenagh under manager Noel Maloney who returns for second stint after previously being joint manager with John Brennan. It’s a management team that excites Barry Heffernan.
“Noel (Moloney) was confirmed first which was great and is such a massive clubman, but I heard such good reports from Dan McCormack and Brendan Maher on how good Johnny (Kelly) was,” he said.
“A man of his calibre coming in and in the last two weeks since Offaly have finished and we have him full-time, you can see just how brilliant his mind is about hurling, he is a hurling fanatic, and you get great energy off him.
Nenagh had a disappointing 2021 campaign, exiting the North Championship at the quarter final stage and failing to emerge from their group in the county championship.
“Last year was very disappointing, there is no point in painting it up any other way,” Heffernan added.
“Whatever about winning trophies, you have to perform but we didn’t do that and didn’t work hard enough. That is the main aim this year to improve our performances and get our workrate up really high.
“This year there is great youth being used and they don’t have the burden of some county final losses some players might have, so that is great, and they have come into their own in the last few weeks in challenge matches and training.”
Templederry Kenyons have been playing in the North Senior Championship since 2009 but it feels like they are a fully fledged senior club having won the O Riain Cup last year.
“It’s where we have wanted to be for the last few years, and we are finally there now,” said Gearoid Ryan.
“It is going to be a different ball-game. Opposition is going to be the highest standard in Tipperary so the challenge is put down to us so can we try and see if we can kick on from last year and take it to another level.”
Templederry haven’t won a North Senior title, coming closest in 2015 when they were defeated in the final by Kiladangan, and getting a bye to the semi-final offers them a great opportunity, if they bring their top form with them, to put their name on the Frank McGrath Cup.
“Getting a bye to the semi-final, it is one sixty minutes to get back to the final,” Ryan added.
“Whoever we play are going to be serious opposition, but it is down to ourselves to try and start well and get to the pace early and keep with whoever we are up against.”
Despite Kiladangan’s recent domination of the North Championship, Toomevara remain top dogs in terms of the roll of honour with 33 titles, but you have to go back to 2011 for their most recent success.
Clare man Aaron Considine is at the helm this year of a team that made disappointing exits in both the North & County Championships last year.
“Last year was very disappointing,” admitted Jason Ryan.
“Beating Holycross and Clonoulty to be top of the group and heading into the Mullinahone game we flopped completely and to not get out of the group was very disappointing so this year we are heading into it all guns blazing, starting with Borris-Ileigh next weekend and then into the county stages.
“We’ll find out early on where we are. Training has been going well for the last couple of weeks. Borris-Ileigh are a savage team, we all know that, but we are looking forward to them and not looking past them, focusing on the North first and hopefully next Sunday night we’ll give it our all and get a result.”