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07 Oct 2022

Great window of opportunity for all in semi-finals of Offaly Senior Hurling Championship

Great window of opportunity for all in semi-finals of Offaly Senior Hurling Championship

Great window of opportunity for all in semi-finals of Offaly Senior Hurling Championship

THE Offaly Senior Hurling Championship will have a thrilling, compelling conclusion with champions St Rynagh's gone and a new team certain to contest the final.

St Rynagh's shock elimination by Shinrone in the quarter-final has opened up the championship for everyone else.

The semi-finals take place next weekend with Belmont and Shinrone clashing in Birr on Saturday and Birr taking on Kilcormac-Killoughey in Tullamore on Sunday.

Shinrone have only reached one final previously, a 1960 defeat by Drumcullen while Belmont have never competed there. The presence of a new team in the final will be like a breath of fresh air to the championship and it will attract great interest in it with a bumper crowd.

It also creates a great chance for Kilcormac-Killoughey and Birr – the winners of this semi-final will be the favourites.

It has been a good championship to date. Not all of the hurling has been out of the top drawer but there has been some mighty games and shocks – last year's beaten finalists Coolderry went out in the group while the demise of four in a row seeking St Rynagh's created a real window of opportunity for everyone else.

Belmont v Shinrone: Saturday, September 17 in Birr at 5pm

The meeting of Belmont and Shinrone will create massive interest in both clubs as well as with neutrals. It is a huge opportunity for them and they will never have a better chance of reaching the final.

Belmont are slight favourites. They have been more competitive over a few years and have been very close to reaching the final on occasions.

Shinrone, however, will be very close. They have improved significantly in recent years and were beaten in the semi-final last year. Their win over St Rynagh's was a huge one, their biggest in recent years and their confidence will be flying now.

Belmont have a number of players playing senior football with Ferbane and this is a complication that Shinrone haven't had to contend with. That helps Shinrone but the football power and pace of their dual players is an asset to Belmont and as the weather gets trickier at this time of year, they will be very difficult to beat,

Belmont are favourites by virtue of their earlier win over Shinrone. They beat them by 3-18 to 2-14 in the last group game and that win was more comprehensive than the final scoreline suggests as they had the game won in the first half. It was just to decide who topped the group and went straight into the semi-finals but the nature of their defeat raised questions about Shinrone – ones that they answered emphatically against St Rynagh's.

There is just a massive chance here for both sides. In many ways, there is a strong case for Shinrone but Belmont's strength and power could counter some of their strengths and their skilful, fast hurlers – Shinrone hit a lot of ball into very impressive full forward Ciaran Cleary in the quarter-final but Belmont won't mind that tactic and the border side will have to vary their game more.

It will be very interesting to watch how this unfolds.

Verdict – Belmont.

Kilcormac-Killoughey v Birr: Sunday, September 18 in Tullamore at 4pm

With St Rynagh's and Coolderry gone, Kilcormac-Killoughey are the new title favourites but it is a very tenuous role. It is based on recent history rather than recent form and Birr have an excellent chance of returning to the county final.

Birr were very good in their quarter-final win over Ballinamere. They controlled the game from start to finish and it was their best display in some time. It suggests that they could be ready to end their lengthy famine but no one will be making definite predictions about that.

Of the remaining four teams, Kilcormac-Killoughey are the only one who have won the title in the past ten years. That as much as anything else is the reason for maing them favourites but on recent form, you can make some sort of a case for Birr – the quarter-final will help Birr while Kilcormac-Killoughey qualified direct for the semi-finals as group winners.

It has been a strange year for Kilcormac-Killoughey. A changing of the guard is taking place for them – some players have moved on, others are in the end game of long careers and it is a transitional period for them. They have an outstanding array of talent coming on and should be a really formidable force when minors Adam Screeney, James Mahon, Daniel Hand, the Kavanaghs, Ter Guinan et-al come of age.

K-K could be about to embark on a period of dominance but they are not ready for that. Yet they now have a great chance of winning a “bonus” title, one that they would not have been counting on.

Their form, however, has not been certain. They have won their four group games and that is all that can be asked of them but they have been quite unconvincing in some of them – it is not clear yet that they will be able to find the extra gear they will need to win.

There was only a point between K-K and Birr in the first round and it should be another very close game. Some factors suggest K-K can win – they have a very strong half back line and Birr do have a couple of light players, albeit exciting skilful ones. Birr have the top forward in Offaly in Eoghan Cahill, his first cousin Lochlann Quinn is settling in well to the team and their display against Ballinamere was excellent.

You just wouldn't know what way this one will go and what way the teams will perform. K-K are well capable of bad days, there are plenty of doubts about them but they are masters at winning games at this level and the odds favour them, slightly.

Verdict – Kilcormac-Killoughey.

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