After twice needing their goalkeeper to keep them in the championship, Clough-Ballacolla will be hoping to return to top form this Sunday when they face Borris-Kilcotton in their semi-final meeting.
For many, the performances against Castletown-Slieve Bloom have been taken as a sign that Ballacolla are vulnerable, but it’s worth remembering that they go through games like that around this stage of the championship every year. When they won in 2009, they were seconds away from being knocked out by Mountrath, before getting away with a draw. A year later they failed to turn up in the semi-final and were well beaten by Rathdowney-Errill, and last year, they were almost beaten by Castletown-Slieve Bloom in the quarter-final, but just about survived that day too.
Recent history has shown that they don’t let near misses like those against Castletown-Slieve Bloom affect them too badly. Remember they dismantling of The Harps last year? That is reason enough alone for Borris-Kilcotton to be on high alert.
John McEvoy has set about putting his own stamp on the team in John O’Sullivan’s absence, and he made a number of positional switches for the replayed quarter-final. With more time to bed into their restructuring, Ballacolla should benefit from that extra game, and will come to the semi-final as favourites. For Borris-Kilcotton, a victory here would mean an awful lot more than a place in the semi-final.
The decision to join up a couple of years ago has brought some success and final places for some of their other teams, but a spot in the senior final would silence any remaining doubters of the landmark move. Even a semi-final place is a step forward, but that desire to push on will be a potent force that Ballacolla will have to be aware of.
In spite of all that, however, Clough-Ballacolla look to be the more balanced and dangerous side. If past form is anything to go by, they should rebound impressively from their scare in the quarter-final and book their place in a third final in four years.