By Denis J. Croke
CLAIMING this year’s intermediate football title is going to take some doing. Just look at this weekend’s semi-finals. All four teams involved have been relegated over the past five years and all will battle to the end to get back to the senior ranks.
The Heath are many people’s favourites to make an immediate return after making the dreaded drop last year, and while they have looked impressive the fact that Arles Kilcruise, Crettyard and Mountmellick, relegated in 2020, 2019 and 2017 respectively, could not win promotion the year after making the drop shows just how difficult a task that can be.
The Heath is a very proud club which has been crowned senior champions on 10 occasions, but the last time was back in 1993. They would love to be back in the senior ranks next year to hopefully repeat that title winning 30 years on.
But they have a lot of work to do first, and the first hurdle will be Mountmellick, another club that featured in the senior ranks not that long ago. In their last game Mountmellick came out the best of a tough battle against Ballyroan Abbey. Central to that win was Finn Culleton’s three goals giving them a 3-11 to 1-13 win. If they can reproduce that sort of form they could trouble The Heath.
The black and ambers cruised past Arles Kilcruise in their last game winning on a 3-15 to 0-9 score line. Their top scorer that day was James Phelan with six points but the standout score came from Dylan Kavanagh after raced from deep inside his own half and finished by finding the bottom corner of the net.
From what we have seen from both these sides so far this year you would have to go with The Heath to take the next step in their quest to make an immediate return to the top rank.
The second semi-final, which takes place tomorrow (Saturday), promises to be an intriguing affair.
Arles Kilcruise could have been forgiven if they gave up the ghost after being hammered by the Heath in their round two meeting. But credit to them, they rallied, put the shock behind them and came with all guns blazing when taking on another one-time big gun, Timahoe.
Some will say that Arles Kilcruise are an aging team but it was their two most experienced players who put Timahoe to the sword. It was the guile and experience of Arles Kilcruise’s two longest serving players, Ross Munnelly and David Conway, that provided the impetus for them to see off the Timahoe challenge.
Between the pair of them they accounted all bar two points of the Arles Kilcruise total of 3-13.
In their third round game Crettyard were comfortable winners over Ballyroan Abbey’s second string. After a closely fought opening half the lads from the Kilkenny border took control in the second half.
It would have been a case of if Arles Kilcruise are to make it to the final they would have keep a tight rein on Evan O’Carroll. He has looked very sharp during the campaign but reportedly has broken a bone in his hand and will not be available for Saturday’s game.
If that is the case it is hard to see Crettyard advancing.