Each year here in Waterford we have high expectations that one of our county champions would reach a Munster Club hurling final. The most likely side in the eyes of many to reach a provincial final is the senior hurling champions, but the chances of our county senior football champions cannot be dismissed.
If at the start of the year someone told you that three of our sides would reach a Munster Final you might be forgiven for thinking you were reading something from a Roy of the Rovers comic strip and if someone told you that there was a chance of four of our six champions reaching a Munster Final then some might say you were reading from a Roy of the Rovers Christmas Annual where more space could be handed over to the stories appearing in the publication.
We in Waterford are having a great year in the club championships as half of our six champions have reached provincial finals, two of our six champions were eliminated after their first game against strong opposition and the sixth of our champions are in action this weekend for the first time this year.
Also this weekend the first of our three sides that have reached a Munster Final are in action.
That honour falls on Cappoquin who will travel along the banks of the Blackwater as far as Mallow where they will take on the Limerick Premier Intermediate Champions – Bruff where the cornerstone men are expected to bring a large gathering of support, not just from the Cappoquin and Affane areas but from many of the other clubs in the area and even across the county as a whole.
Cappoquin will know that they face stiff opposition this weekend in Bruff.
The Limerick side played in the senior championship in 2013 but for this year they were one of four sides who competed in the Senior Championship last year who were relegated as the Limerick County Board decided to cut the numbers playing senior from 16 to 12 for this year and to bring up four sides from the intermediate grade in 2013 to play in a brand new competition, one that has worked successfully in Cork for some years.
All year the Limerick side have looked impressive, winning six of the eight games they played in the league section of the championship before going on to have a successful run in the knockout stages of the championship.
They began the year with a 2-14 to 2-13 win over Bruff but lost in round two to Garryspillane on a 1-14 to 1-13 score-line before winning their next two games, 0-15 to 0-10 against Dromin Athlacca and 4-14 to 1-13 against Croom.
Blackrock proved marginally too strong in the fifth round winning a high scoring game 3-16 to 1-19 but the eventual champions got back to winning ways in their remaining two league games, beating Hospital-Herberstown 5-13 to 1-8, Knockaderry 1-17 to 1-11.
In their most recent games in Limerick Bruff beat Garryspillane 0-21 to 1-9 in the county semi final they beat County Final they proved too strong for Croom for the second time this year winning 2-14 to 0-16.
Bruff come into this game as the favourites, but they will know the challenge that the Cappoquin will be no easy side to defeat.
Bruff will know that they will have to keep their discipline if they are to have any chance of winning this game as indiscipline could well cost them on the day as Shane O’Rourke has proven to be an ace free taker for Cappoquin all year but the Limerick side will know that in Shane Bulfin they have a player that is equally as impressive when standing over a placed ball.
While Bulfin will be important to the Limerick side, they are by no means a one man team. Paul Browne will be a familiar name to many hurling supporters as he has played with the Limerick senior hurlers over the past few years.
Sean Finn has played minor for Limerick over the past two years and he could well play a major roll playing in the full back line, while others that could have a major roll to play for the Limerick side in this game are Brian Finn, Dean Madden, Bobby O’Brien, John Cooke, Paddy O’Leary and Kyle Dillon.
If Bruff’s road to Saturday’s Munster Final is impressive, the same could be said of Cappoquin.
They beat near neighbours Tourin in their first league game on a 1-20 to 1-11 and then had a big win (4-20 to 1-10) over Abbeyside’s second team in round two of the league section of the competition.
The Cornerstone men’s only defeat of the year came in round three of the league section of the championship when An Rinn who played senior in 2013 beat them 4-12 to 1-15 but they got back to winning ways in round four of the league section of the competition with a 1-13 to 0-9 win over a fancied Brickeys side at Colligan.
Cappoquin advanced to the semi finals of the championship after they had the better score difference after three sides finished level on six points from a possible eight and in the semi finals An Rinn were to be their opponents for the second time this year.
An Rinn would have been the favoured side to win by many but for a side to win twice against the same opposition in a short space of time is always a big ask and this time out they were on the wrong end of a 2-12 to 1-12 score line against Cappoquin.
In the Western Final Ballinameela were Cappoquin’s opponents. Most were of the opinion that this local derby game could go either way as the two sides were evenly enough balanced. It was Cappoquin that emerged winners on a 2-15 to 2-13 score line which set up a county final against Saint Saviours at Fraher Field.
The Cornerstone men went into that game as the warmest of favourites, but they were made fight very hard by the city side and it was only in the final minutes of the game when Cappoquin’s experience of playing at a higher level up through the underage ranks and in the college’s competitions in recent years began to tell and they pulled away to win 2-19 to 2-11.
Cappoquin’s most recent game was against Clare champions Feakle at Sixmilebridge, a game that Cappoquin staged a late surge on the Clare side’s goal to win the game 1-14 to 0-16 in the Munster semi final. At the same stage of the competition Bruff had a 2-13 to 2-10 win over Kerry’s senior champions Lixnaw who had shocked the Cork Intermediate champions in the quarter finals.
In recent games Shane O’Rourke has made a lot of the headlines when it comes to Cappoquin as he continues to prove to he his sides top scorer in all games.
Last time out they were missing players like Keith Landers who was away on Army duty, Aaron O’Sullivan who was injured as was Kevin Looby. Keith Landers and Kevin Looby are reported to be back for this weekend and there are suggestions that Aaron O’Sullivan one of three Cappoquin men to play minor for Waterford this year could also be in contention for a place this weekend if called upon.
Others that could play a major roll for Cappoquin this weekend could be Donal O’Rourke between the posts, Colm and Timmy Looby in the full back line, while Patrick Morrissey who deputised for Kevin Looby against Feakle will be looking to retain his place.
The half back line of Shane Murray, Conor Murray and David Cahillane looks to be a strong settled unit, while Paul and Finnan Murray in the middle of the field are vital cogs in the Cappoquin wheel.
Top scorer Shane O’Rourke could well start in the number ten position, Andy Molumby, another Cappoquin man to play minor for Waterford in 2014 will be at centre forward and Keith Landers could welcome Keith Landers back into the team for Colin Landers, while the inside forward line of Shane Coughlan, PJ Curran and Killian O’Sullivan could well remain in tact.
Cappoquin will go into this game as the underdog (12/5 in some bookies) as opposed to 1/3 for the Limerick side and 10/1 the draw but they will not be worried. Waterford sides often play best when they are told they are the bookies second choice to win a two horse race. Cappoquin will be no different.
Bruff may have played senior hurling in Limerick until relatively recently, whereas Cappoquin have not played since the 1990’s, but this will not bother them. Cappoquin often get better as the year goes on, and if they were to come home from Mallow as the First side to win the Munster Championship at this grade, I for one would not be too surprised.