After all of their struggles before their IHC success in 2008, this is one of the last places Colt want to find themselves.
Having lost four finals in ten years before they got their reward of a place in the SHC four years ago, the plan was to stay up for as long as they could and build on the success. They started well down that road, ruffling a few feathers in their first year up, but life became tougher at the top end of hurling in the county, and they eventually made the drop back down to intermediate level last year.
The manner in which they went down will have had them worried as well. The club had no win in either league or championship last year, and after a season like that, it could have quickly lead to an even greater downward spiral. In times like this it can be hard to keep players around, especially for rural clubs, but it is to Colt’s credit that they have come back so impressively in 2012.
They won seven games in the league, securing a place in the semi-final, and falling just a point short of a place in the final when they lost out to Mountrath. They have breezed through the championship so far as well, their closest call to date being a six point win over Clonaslee St Manman’s in the quarter final. In their other games, they beat Camross by twelve points, Clonad by nine and Rathdowney-Errill by ten. Make no mistake, they are a side bang in form.
For Borris-Kilcotton, their second team has been one of the strongest at intermediate level over the last two years. This is their second championship final in two years, and they also contested the ACHL Division 2 final back in July, only losing to Mountrath by two points.
The club have become synonymous with talented young hurlers, many of whom will feature on Sunday, but this is a well-balanced team. They have found a good mix between some of their exciting young hurlers coming through, as well as a few battle-hardened older players who have plenty of experience at this level.
Goalkeeper Eoin Fleming has been one of the most consistent players at any level in the county this year, catching the eye with the Laois U-21s and turning in a string of top class displays at minor and intermediate level for Borris-Kilcotton. In front of him, the full-back line of captain Ronan Kelly, Paul Drennan and Owen Drennan will provide plenty of cover for the young stopper, while wing-back Stephen Finan is another example of the excellent young hurlers coming through the ranks.
Up front, minor star Daire Quinlan has been providing most of the scores, but again they have a nice blend of youth and experience, with older players like Frankie Cullinan and Niall Jones dovetailing with the younger players like Quinlan, John Wall and Emmet Jones.
For Colt, Chris Murray will be the main man for them once again. The talented attacker has been their main scoring threat for the last five years or so, and they will need him to deliver once again in the final. While Murray is undoubtedly their best player and main source of scores, what Colt have shown this year is that they are a stronger team. The semi-final win over Rathdowney-Errill proved that, with seven of the eight players from midfield forward scoring from play.
It was much the same story in the quarter-final win over Clonaslee, and it this strong team work is the bedrock on which their success has been built this year.
Borris-Kilcotton will provide stiff opposition in the final, but throughout this championship campaign, Colt have looked assured and confident, and they will bring those qualities into the final.
There’s not much to chose between the teams in terms of personnel, but Colt just look to be in ominous form, and that tilts the game in their favour.