Pat Camon of St Rynagh’s cuts between Clodiagh Gaels duo Sean Brady and Cathal Brady during the Offaly SHC game last weekend. Photo: Ger Rogers.

Ballinamere now contenders for hurling crown as football battles loom

Kevin Egan

It would be a huge stretch to say that St Rynagh’s were impressive in their victory over Clodiagh Gaels last Saturday evening, but they got the job done with the minimum of fuss against a team that caused Kilcormac-Killoughey plenty of problems last time out.

An early injury to Ronan Hughes didn’t help matters either, while the jury is very much out (at best) on the decision to play Ben Conneely at centre and full forward. Nonetheless, they remain very strong defensively, and posting two good wins early means that they have plenty of room for experimentation in their upcoming games against Kinnitty and K-K.

In the other group, Coolderry are now in big trouble, and will need to win their last two games and get a favour from Belmont (against Shinrone) to sneak into the top three.

Perhaps more significantly, it may be time to upgrade expectations surrounding Ballinamere. A total of 0-26 against a solid Coolderry side in an hour’s hurling is a decent reflection on where they’re at, and in a wide open championship, it’s understandable that the volume of whispering around their title chances has risen.

Kilcormac-Killoughey keep winning games without necessarily impressing too much as they do so, while Shinrone avoided a slip-up against Seir Kieran, but we’ll learn a lot more about both of those clubs in their next two outings against St Rynagh’s and Coolderry.

*Champions face Ferbane in Sunday showdown

Ferbane may have made an inauspicious start to their 2022 Dowling Cup bid, but they will still carry plenty of respect into their clash with county champions Tullamore on Sunday afternoon in Ballycumber. By a comfortable margin, the Blues were the most impressive side in round one, but they’ll remember how much a depleted Ferbane side tested them in last year’s semi-finals.

On Sunday, Tullamore have a chance to put Ferbane into a final day relegation showdown against Shamrocks, which would be a very tricky assignment for both clubs. It’s a good chance for Tullamore to potentially take one of their main title rivals out of the race, so expect them to be wired for what should be a ferocious physical battle.

For their part, Shamrocks and Cappincur will make a very short trip into O’Connor Park tomorrow evening (Saturday) for what’s likely to be a very significant contest for both clubs, with the losing side odds on to go into a relegation decider. Shamrocks have the attacking flair, but can be a little vulnerable defensively, while Cappincur are steady at the back but unspectacular up front. O’Connor Park on a warm evening might suit Shamrocks here, even if Cappincur were by far the better team in round one.

Tonight (Friday), the same venue will host a fascinating tie between Edenderry and Clara, where the Reds have to be on their guard. Losing to Rhode by a single point is hardly a crisis in itself, but their season will take a very different turn if they don’t take something out of this game.

In order to win a county title, Edenderry need Cian Farrell firing on all cylinders and dominating games, and with the rest of the supporting cast in the attack chipping in with a steady run of flags to keep opposition defences honest. They won’t have Farrell against Clara, so it’s a good time for the rest to prove that they can step up in a pressure situation.

Finally, Rhode play Durrow in a contest where any chance of an upset is probably wiped out by the fact that Rhode lost the corresponding fixture last year, and so there is no danger of complacency here. A full-strength, in-form Durrow side would really test Rhode – but that’s not what we’ll see in Gracefield.

The bookies make Edenderry the clearest favourites of the weekend, but by some distance, Rhode look like the banker of the lot, with Tullamore probably the next best.