NAAS bid to win an historic triple double in the 2019 Intermediate Hurling Final on Saturday afternoon.
Unparalleled in Kildare hurling, Naas’ Intermediate side are on course to rewrite the annals when they play Maynooth in St. Conleth’s at 3.45pm.
After winning the Championship and League Double in 2017 and 2018, Naas have already won the 2019 SHL Division 2 Final.
In a repeat of last year’s Championship Final and this year’s League Final, standing in the way of Naas’ historic feat is Maynooth who will have to overturn four years of hard luck stories.
Since being relegated in 2014 by default (they were the last Senior team in a policy shift cutting nine teams to eight), Maynooth have unsuccessfully vied to return Senior.
Last winning the Intermediate Championship in 2015, Maynooth have lost three successive IHC/ SHC promotion/ relegation finals.
A change of rules this season means that, where they could challenge for promotion despite not winning the Intermediate Championship, they’ll have to win on Saturday to qualify for a fourth promotion playoff in five years.
Clearly Naas are the form team in Intermediate, after winning consecutive league titles between 2015 and 2019. The threat of three successive doubles should worry a Maynooth side needing a victory.
Where Maynooth have only won two games out of five in this year’s Championship, Naas are undefeated.
But after winning five successive games, which includes a preliminary round and a comfortable semi-final win over Moorefield, Naas will be without Michael Gainey and Brian Tobin for the final.
Sent off, along with management selector Colm McTague, corner-forward Gainey is a blow for Naas, while Tobin has normally been the first substitute into the game.
With ex-Senior players like Richie Ryan and Eoin O’Hehir to the fore, Naas showed their potency in the semi-final.
Despite leading by one-point at half-time, when a Moorefield resurgence reduced the margin, Naas outscored Moorefield 1-7 – 0-1 in the opening fourteen minutes of the second-half.
Maynooth have something to build upon from their semi-final, however. Trailing by five points at half-time to last year’s Junior winners, Maynooth outscored Kilcock by 1-12 – 1-3 in the second-half.
We can expect a high scoring encounter too. Where Ciaran Tobin scored 0-10 in Naas’ semi-final victory, Maynooth’s Cian Forde scored 0-11, along with 1-4 from his brother Tadhg.
In essence, Saturday’s contest will be a well-balanced, acrimonious final that will decided by ball delivery, space and whichever team can limit scoring opportunities to freetakers Tobin and Forde.
By Ian Baker