Trim’s SHC semi-final clash with Kildalkey at Pairc Tailteann on Saturday promises to be a cracker. Photo: GERRY SHANAHAN-WWW.QUIRKE.IE

Trim and Kiltale have what it takes to make final

The race started in high summer, mid-July, and has continued at a steady pace since. The race for the Jubilee Cup that is.

Since they got up and running the 12 teams involved in the quest for the famous trophy have participated in a hectic schedule with games played at a regular rate. That translates into 60 matches involving the teams divided into groups A and B, in addition to two quarter-finals.

Now we are left with just four teams - reigning champions Kildalkey due to face old foes Trim, while Kiltale tackle Ratoath. Ties that should attract decent-sized crowds.

Who will progress joyfully onwards to that final on Sunday 8th October? Who will be left to ponder, with regret, on what might have been? We are about to find out.

Kiltale v Ratoath: Anybody who studies the SHC results todate can only be impressed with the way Kiltale have marched through their campaign undefeated like a rampaging army slicing through a swathe of undefended territory.

Their statistics say it a lot. Played five, won five, 118 points for, 92 against. It's all impressive stuff. Yet statistics can only tell so much, they are by no means the be-all and end-all when it comes to explaining a team's form; their rate of progress. Sometimes just watching how a team plays can be more revealing. The hunger the players portray. The way they hunt for every loose ball. The desire for success.

No matter what criteria you use Kiltale have looked the business this year. Take their game with Kildalkey in the opening round of the championship. It was a contest that was sure to test Kiltale's resolve. They were, after all, confronting the champions.

Kiltale, that day were clinical, ruthless even in the way they went about dismantling Kildalkey's challenge. Not that it went all Kiltale's way. They conceded an opening half goal and trailed 0-7 to 1-6 at the interval. They came out in the second-half, muzzled the opposition attack and rattled over 13 points in a clinical exhibition of point-scoring. It finished 0-20 to 1-12. They were on their way.

Jack Regan scored 10 points in that game, six frees. He is a huge player for them but Kiltale are not a team who rely on the contribution of a few marquee players, no matter who they are. They are a side with real strength in depth. That is demonstrated in the way they possess two of the best goalkeepers around - Shane McGann and Conor Ryan. Every other team would love to have a 'problem' like that.

In every department they have very talented, experienced players fired up, we hazard to suggest, by the feeling they left last year's title behind, only losing out to Kildalkey after a replay. Iarla Hughes, James Kelly, Conor Shirren, Chris Reilly, Mark O'Sullivan, Ross Ryan are just some of their personnel who provide a vast reservoir of experience - and skill.

Kiltale are capable of picking off points from almost any angle or distance. It is a major strength of theirs, making redundant the sweepers so many teams employ to try and bolster their defensive systems. Give a Kiltale player the ball and little bit of space 60 or 70 metres out and invariably there will be a price to pay.

A great deal of vigilance and energy is required to counteract that. Ratoath haven't played particularly well in their campaign so far. They just about made it through the group phase and only secured a semi-final place with a quarter-final defeat of a Killyon side who didn't get out of first gear. So we probably shouldn't read too much into that result.

There is, however, one result Ratoath can take some encouragement from. In round three of their Group A campaign they faced Kiltale. In a fiercely contested tie at Trim Kiltale won - but only by four points, 1-19 to 0-18. With six minutes remaining Kiltale led by only a point and Ratoath had a 'goal' disallowed in injury time. Kiltale had to really delve into their bag of tricks that day.

Podge O'Hanrahan was exceptional for Ratoath in that quarter-final victory over Killyon, a real whirlwind in the midfield area. Darragh Kelly, Daithi McGowan, Cian Rogers, Jack Lanigan are some of the others who are part of a formidable looking side that hasn't sparked into life yet. Not fully.

This semi-final clash might bring the best out of them - but hungry, fired-up Kiltale should still prevail at Pairc Tailteann on Sunday, throw-in is 3.30pm. Verdict - Kiltale.

Kildalkey v Trim: When these two sides met in the earlier stages of the SHC we got plenty of fireworks. Remember? The teams met in round two and we got a full-on contest that was punctuated by ugly scenes under the stand at Pairc Tailteann that proved to be a watermark in the contest. Before the dust up Kildalkey looked the better side. Forceful, assured.

After the players had their little 'tete-a-tete' Trim took control marching on to a 3-23 to 3-14 victory that was every bit as resounding as the final scoreboard-reading suggested. Trim booked their place in the last four by finishing second in Group A, three points behind table-toppers Kiltale and one ahead of Kildalkey.

Both sides met in last year's semi-final and Kildalkey won out on their way to the title. That may not have any bearing on how this latest episode between the teams will turn out but it does give Trim (the 2020 champions) a strong source of motivation. Against that, Kildalkey have reason to be fired to 'put things right' following the meeting of minds in July.

Both teams have so many good hurlers it's difficult to assert that one side is noticeably stronger than the other. The topsy-turvy nature of the games between these two sides suggests a lot will depend on how teams perform on any given day. In their five Group A games Trim's scoring difference was plus 36, Kildalkey's plus eight. Should we read much into this, if anything?

One aspect of this game that could prove crucial is that many of the Trim players were also involved with the club's footballers and played last weekend in a gruelling contest with Na Fianna.

Ballivor, a team that contains many of the Kildalkey players, were out of the IFC before last weekend's quarter-finals were played, giving those players a chance to have a rest. It is no small matter.

One thing can be asserted with confidence - this semi-final at Pairc Tailteann on Saturday at 5.30pm will be close. What we assert with less confidence is who is going to win? I’m opting for the Reds. Verdict - Trim.