BARRING a draw, the first Championship silverware of 2012 will be presented this Sunday in Birr as St Brendan’s and St Rynagh’s Og battle it out for the U-21 Hurling title.
Both sides came through their semi-finals last weekend with St Rynagh’s Og seeing off Tullamore by 1-19 to 0-13 while St Brendan’s came back strongly in windy conditions on Sunday to overcome Seir Kieran Og by 0-13 to 0-9.
Stephen Quirke was the star of the show for St Rynagh’s Og scoring an impressive 1-10 in difficult conditions. A point ahead having played against the wind, they pulled away in the second-half to register a comfortable win.
The side is backboned by a cohort of players who have vast experience at club, county and schools level. The majority of the side hold Offaly minor hurling titles from 2009 and 2010 and with Banagher College a large proportion of the players also won an All Ireland Vocational Schools title in 2010.
While Stephen Quirke lead the way in terms of scoring in the semi-final, Joey O’Connor and the midfield partnership of Damien McLoughlin and Sean Kenny provide much of the drive further out the field. St Rynagh’s Og are currently without the services of Offaly U-21 player Pat Camon who is out injured.
In the First Round they dispatched Shamrocks with ease by 6-19 to 2-8 before a very hard fought quarter-final against St Mary’s where they eventually prevailed by 1-18 to 2-12.
St Brendan’s made a very inauspicious start to their campaign losing to the same St Mary’s team by 2-13 to 0-4.
To their credit they bounced back with a 2-13 to 0-15 win over Kinnitty in the losers group before overcoming Coolderry by 3-6 to 0-9 in the quarter-final.
In their semi-final last Sunday in Killeigh, they rode their luck in the first-half against the wind against Seir Kieran Og and they could have been much further than six points adrift.
To their credit they did come back after half-time to get on level terms and while they struggled to get the scores on the board, a late scoring burst saw them over the line.
Offaly minor star Sean T O’Connor carried the greatest scoring threat last Sunday with four points from play while Tomas Bolger, Eoin Hayes and Colm Mulrooney will all have key roles to play.
A key player in their run to the final has been goalkeeper Paddy Mullins who has kept three consecutive clean sheets pulling off a number of fine saves against Seir Kieran Og.
It will be a busy weekend for a number of players on both sides who will also be lining out with the Offaly Minor Hurlers on Saturday. St Brendan’s Eoin Hayes, Eoin Pilkington, Emmet Nolan and Sean T O’Connor and Matthew Maloney, Conor Clancy and Rian Kelly will all be pulling double duty as Offaly face Meath in O’Connor Park on Saturday evening, 24 hours before the U-21 Final.
Based purely on their respective results against St Mary’s in previous games, St Rynagh’s Og are red hot favourites going into this Sunday’s Final in O’Connor Park which throws in at 7pm.
They have been consistently strong throughout the campaign and they have a winning habit which is always difficult to break. The sides also met in the Minor Hurling Final in 2010 where St Rynagh’s prevailed.
For their part St Brendan’s have bounced back from a poor start to make it to the final showing great battling qualities and digging deep when games were going against them. Having said that they will have to step up their game at least another level if they are to upset the odds this Sunday.