Round 2 Previews:
Naomh Eoin v Ballinkillen
This fixture has the potential to decide a semifinal place for one of these teams even as early as this. Both teams would be keen to move on from their respective first round fixtures for differing reasons. Naomh Eoin will feel they had chances to win the game against Mount Leinster Rangers but let them off the hook.
On the other hand, Ballinkillen will be keen to move forward from their defeat to Saint Mullins which saw them only produce patches of hurling – the best of which game when the game was possibly out of their reach in the 2nd half.
Personnel availability could be a key deciding factor in this game for Ballinkillen.
Sean Murphy will make his return surely to the front 6 of the men in blue and gold. His forceful running and aerial ability will give further options and possibly allow Jack Treacy to play a more advanced role. Cormac Lomax and Padraig Hynes, if fit, will provide energy in that middle 8, and it is especially important given the nature of Naomh Eoin’s play in that area the last day.
The pacey Shane Kelly may be handed his debut in this game or most certainly will feature – again another who has been on the injured list of late. Ballinkillen will look to sharpen up their play and try to deliver that ball quicker especially if Craig Wall remains in at 14. At the other end, getting the match up right in their full back line will be key to neutralizing a lively Naomh Eoin front 3.
Naomh Eoin’s defence was solid the last day and they marshalled their men well in key one on one battles. James O’Hara was excellent at 3 and their halfback line gave them a good platform to spring from while doing their primary duties. John Michael Nolan was vibrant for the full 60 minutes the last day and Adam Kenny at 14 was a constant thorn in MLRs side with his physicality and how he kept the ball alive in their full forward line.
Ruschitzko can cause problems inside, and he hit 1 1 from play. They will look to their forward 6 to offer more on the score board from play – they failed to score from play in the 2nd half v MLR. James Smithers pace, if introduced again late on, could stretch a tiring defense and create chances.
Both teams will have targeted this game as a must win if they have ambitions to make a semifinal. Both (for varying reasons) might have had a free shot in game 1 where a performance, game time into lads etc. was the realistic priority rather than 2 points. But this one is different!
Naomh Eoin will be gunning for revenge for last year’s narrow loss and with their dander up, will provide a formidable test here. I think the potential additions that Ballinkillen can add to their team for this fixture might be the key in what I think will be a low scoring game given what is at stake – I think whoever breaks 20 points wins this.
Ballinkillen by 3
MLR v Bagenalstown Gaels
This match I feel has more at stake than simply 2 points. In the bigger scheme of things, after round 1 victories for both, they both will feel semifinal berths should be well within their grasp – and it’s a very likely scenario. I think Bagenalstown Gaels will be very keen to prove that last year’s semifinal win was not a one off and that their star is on the rise, and so they might see this as a fixture to lay down a marker for their year.
On the other side of things, MLR will look to burn off any doubts that might have crept into them after their narrow win in round 1 over Naomh Eoin more so than last year’s semifinal.
Bagenalstown Gaels when needed, in the win against Naomh Brid, put the peddle down and hit the scores when required. The front 6 hit 4-10 from play over the hour with 2 of their young guns Jake Doyle and Paddy McDonnell hitting 4-6 between them.
This spread of scores is what they need if they are to go one step further this year and the addition of Jason Wall and Kealan Guidera to the starting team further strengthens that pacey attacking threat. The one worrying aspect will have been the concession of 3-10 and if they cough up chances in this game like that they will be punished further.
MLRs game plan will hinge on the availability of some key men also. No team, even with their depth, can afford to be without county players like Jon Nolan, Fiachra Fitzpatrick and Evan Kealy. Their presence offers lots of options in terms of positioning but also in terms of energy and power.
Their forwards did not really fire as we know they can v Naomh Eoin and they will certainly need to be far more accurate in front of goal. I can not see Chris Nolan being restricted to 1 point from play again and I think we will see a response from him here. Donnagh Murphy was electric on the ball and with good ball in will cause problems.
Defensively, I think we will see MLR having to defend more – as strange as it sound’s! I can not see the Gaels allowing Kevin Mc or Diarmuid Byrne etc licence or opportunity to have as much influence on the MLR offence – attack for Bagenalstown might be the best defence!
Its so hard to call this fixture if both teams have a full hand to pick from and this is the great unknown until Friday evening.
Basing on the availability from last week, I think the extra firepower from the Town might see them over the line in a high scoring game - I can see both teams over 20 points here. I do feel that MLR will be more economical with their shooting – they hit a huge number of wides last week and they will see that Naomh Brid punched holes at times in the Gaels rearguard.
Bagenalstown by 3
St Mullins V Naomh Brid
It will be a daunting task facing Naomh Brid this weekend as they face off v St Mullins in round 2, but all is not lost!
Firstly, it's a chance to pitch themselves against one of the very best teams in Leinster – always a good barometer of where you are and 2nd off it gives them a chance to get game time into players/as a collective ahead of the next two rounds which are surely two ties that will decide semifinal ambitions for them.
That’s not a defeatist attitude in any way but the nature of where these 2 clubs’ fortunes are at the minute. The Saints will be a little disappointed with how the second 30 minutes went in round one and surely given their experience and playing personnel they will be heavy favorites going into this game.
St Mullins opened their first round with a 13-point victory over Ballinkillen, one of their nearest rivals over the last few years.
They will be incredibly pleased with their opening half of hurling which saw them create numerous goal chances and but for some wasteful shooting and the brilliance of Thomas Dowling in goal they would have surely had a bigger lead at full time. Their forward line packs 6 scorers with pace, aerial ability and a rootless streak - not a bad combination!
Complimenting that is a seasoned back line with a little bit of youth thrown in for good measure. Paudie Kehoe is restored to the center back roll, a position from where his ball distribution can be at its brilliant best.
Naomh Brid can take a lot of positives out of their game against Bagenalstown Gaels despite a 15-point loss. This game saw them field a close to full strength team for the first time this year. County footballers Aaron Amond and Mikey Bambrick were huge additions to their front 6 and hit for three goals between them.
They are intelligent players, combined with strength and pace, which make them ideal targets to hit and counterattack as you would imagine they may have to live on a limited supply of ball. A compact shape, sitting deep and not allowing overlaps in that half back line will be key to closing down goal opportunities for the Saints.
It is very hard to see only one winner here going on current form. Naomh Brid will be keen to build on the 3-10 they scored last week and keep themselves in the game for as long as possible.
They certainly have 2 form teams in the opening 2 rounds and with little scope for St Mullins to rest/rotate players – they are fielding 3 adult teams; it is hard not to see a comfortable for the O’Connor Cup holders who looked the most impressive team in round 1.
St Mullins by 9