Vital games down for decision in Round 2 of senior hurling championship

THIS weekend the second round of the Senior Hurling Championship takes place. In group one (the winners group) table toppers Naas will take on Ardclough on Saturday, while Coill Dubh will face 2011 finalist Confey the same day. In the losers group Éire Óg/Chorra Choill will meet take on Clane on Thursday while and holders Celbridge will meet their neighbours Leixlip on Friday evening, writes Ruth Chambers.

THIS weekend the second round of the Senior Hurling Championship takes place. In group one (the winners group) table toppers Naas will take on Ardclough on Saturday, while Coill Dubh will face 2011 finalist Confey the same day. In the losers group Éire Óg/Chorra Choill will meet take on Clane on Thursday while and holders Celbridge will meet their neighbours Leixlip on Friday evening, writes Ruth Chambers.

This year’s format, which was in operation back in 2010, will see the top two teams in the winners group and the top team in the losers group go through to the semi final, while the third placed team in the winners group will play off with the second team in the losers group to determine the fourth and final semi final spot.

Currently Naas and Coill Dubh sit in the top two places respectively in the winners group and this weekend they are expected to pick up another two points against Ardclough to make it four from four.

Ardclough, who will be without the services of the influential Martin Fitzgerald, won their preliminary round encounter with Leixlip but in the first round proper they were beaten by Trevor Carew’s Coill Dubh. Goals from Mark Delaney and Damien Behan broke Ardclough hearts. Fitzgerald chipped in with four points and his presence will be sorely missed.

Naas have enjoyed a superb start to the 2012 championship. They got the better of Clane in the preliminary round but it was their victory over 2011 runners up Confey in the first round that had people sitting up and taking real notice of the side from the county town.

In a game played in Celbridge the team in blue and white came away with a 4-12 to 3-6 victory over Confey, who beat champions Celbridge in the opening round. Naas appear to be a team in real form at present and it’s difficult to see how Ardclough are going to get the better of them this weekend, although free taker supreme, Conor O’Hehir remains a doubt having picked up a ham string injury while starring in Kildare’s U.21 Leisnter final win over Meath last week.

The meeting of Coill Dubh and Confey could very well be the clash of the round. Confey got the better of champions Celbridge in the preliminary round after a replay in Leixlip but then fell to Naas, while Coill Dubh have beaten Eire Og and Ardclough. Confey will be eager to get back to winning ways but on paper at least there’s potential to be very little between the sides and don’t be surprised if this one finishes deadlocked.

In the losers group Clane and Éire Óg will meet on Thursday evening in Naas. Clane lost out to Naas in the opening round and also suffered defeat, to Celbridge in the first round proper. Their opponents ÉÓCC, on the day that Seanie Johnston took all the headline, went down to Coill Dubh in their opening fixture.

Thursday’s encounter also has the potential to be a tight one and a lot will depend on the form of dead ball specialist Deckie O’Toole from an ÉÓCC perspective, while Mattie Dowd will be key for Clane. The all white side really put it up to Celbridge in the last round and many will expect them to pick up their first win of the campaign this weekend. Only if they manage to tighten up things at the back that is.

The champions will take on Leixlip on Friday night and it’s very difficult to look beyond the Hazelhatch Road side for this one. Leixlip are seriously lacking in fire power in attack and their shooting in the last round against Eire Og was awful. They did manage a draw that day but Celbridge will be a total different kettle of fish and will have too much in the tank for the side in maroon.

From the outset Celbridge were strongly fancied to lift the Sean Carey Cup for the first year on the trot and they still might. However, their form has been better and at present Naas are looking like dark horses. Of course there’s plenty of hurling left and the fat lady hasn’t sang.