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Saturday 4 February 2023 Dublin: 9°C
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# Club Finals
Preview: Kilcormac/Killoughey v Oulart the Ballagh, Leinster club SHC final
Nowlan Park is the venue on Sunday, as Oulart-the-Ballagh contest their third Leinster final in a row against Kilcormac/Killoughey.

Leinster club SHC final

Sunday: Kilcormac/Killoughey (Offaly) v Oulart the Ballagh (Wexford), Nowlan Park, Kilkenny, 2pm

Clues from the form guide… Here we go again for Oulart. Three finals on the bounce and while number one got away from them and number two was given away by them, it says so much about their character, their drive, their determination and their desperation that they are back for more.

It’ll be hard to come back down from the high of beating Ballyhale dramatically the last day but they should know better than anyone that they left the pitch after that game without walking up any steps and into the stand.

They are a great story given their own average past that didn’t see them win a county title until 1994 and the average present of Wexford hurling, but there seems a destiny about this group this time around, what with that one point win in the semi-final, following on from a one-point win over Kilmacud in the last eight.

There’s no doubting they’ve had the much harder route to this stage too but Kilcormac/Killoughey will glance back at what Coolderry did a year ago.

It’s no small feat to follow a first ever county title with a run into winter, although they were less than impressive in needing to outscore Rathdowney/Errill 1-6 to 0-1 in the final quarter to make it this far. They didn’t exactly take Mount Leinster Rangers apart in their opening game either, having just five points to spare by the end.

Checking the odds… At this time of year, given the tendency for relatively low-scoring, close games, the bookies aren’t giving the Offaly side a chance. They are 5/2 and being given a four-point head start in the handicap markets, while Oulart are all the way in at 1/3. Even a half-time/full-time win for the Wexford side is well below evens, at 8/11.

A topic for pub chat… With Antrim considering trying to get its clubs to compete in the Leinster championship, should Galway follow them as well, meaning the winners of Munster and Leinster go straight into the All Ireland final? It would also solve Oulart’s recent complaint of playing this game so late in the year when pitches are far from ideal, as such a scenario would allow for the two provincial finals to be played when the All Ireland semi-finals are now played.

On top of that, under such circumstances, we might get to see Tommy Walsh and Johnny Maher on the same pitch. And who doesn’t want to see that!

The game breakers are… How Kilcormac/Killoughey begin for starters as given the huge expectation and pressure on the opposition, the longer they can keep the game close and keep that weight on Oulart the better. For that to happen Ciaran Slevin needs a near-perfect day from placed balls.

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As well as that, even if their actual scoring contribution is limited, Dan Currams and Conor Mahon need to live up to their billing as danger men and win those frees, while the latter along with the Healions need to impose themselves physically on the game, turning it into a battle they get the better in. As for Oulart, they can’t leave it as late as they did in the semi-final, and while their defence is beyond steady and they have a wide-range of scorers, they’d go a long way to finally winning the title if Garreth Sinnott and Nicky Kirwan could run up two decent tallies by themselves.

Gazing into the crystal ball… As much as we admire Kilcormac/Killoughey making it this far, this will surely prove too much. Oulart have been mean against better attacks, have some classy hurlers coming out of defence, are well able for the tough stuff if the game goes that direction and if they can open up a lead, they’ve too many scoring options for this to stay close. For once their supporters can leave without chewed nails and broken hearts.

Verdict: Oulart the Ballagh by six

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