The June weekend sees the return of the Cork County Senior Hurling Championship. It will be an interesting championship as always.
Over the last few years it has been one of the most open championships in Ireland. There are a number of teams capable of winning the title and clubs have shown that the ability to put a momentous run together can give everybody a chance. So let’s preview this weekend’s ties:
Erins Own v Na Piarsaigh
This is potentially the tie of round one. Both clubs have the potential to go far in the championship and many would say that they have underachieved in recent years. Na Piarsaigh last won a county in 2004 and they have struggled to build on this success. They have had a number of good underage sides but they are yet to see any return on this at senior level. Erins Own won back to back counties in 2006 and 2007 which was a very good achievement but they have gone backwards since.
Erins Own won the Senior Hurling League last season and this may provide this current group with more confidence and belief. They have had similar league campaigns so far and the first round tie really could go either way. There are some very good battles to look forward to like Killian Murphy against Padraig Gould and it’s a very even contest all over the field. A very tough one to call but I’m going to go for Erins Own to edge it ever so slightly.
Blackrock v Kileagh
It’s a big season for Blackrock. They have been close to the relegation end of the championship in recent seasons but have fought hard to preserve their senior status on each occasion. They are a very young team. They invested a lot of time in their underage structure and have been victorious at minor and under-21 levels in recent years. Will this be the season that they begin to impact on the senior championship again? We will have to see.
Kileagh are a side that have been doing well to compete at this grade for the last few years. They will always be a tough opposition for any side. They are a passionate group who will always provide a hard, physical game. I’m going to go for Blackrock to win here. It is a draw that they will fancy themselves to win and it may be the template for their first championship run in a few years.
Sarsfields v Ballinhassig
The county champions against the newcomers. Sars most definitely have the best squad in the county. They have a very strong panel of very good hurlers who would make most teams in the county. They are a very impressive outfit but at the same time they are beatable. They will start this season as favourites but they are yet to secure consecutive county titles and it will remain to be a challenge for them.
Ballinhassig return to the senior ranks after one season out. We have seen teams get relegated from various grades in various codes and find it very difficult to get back to the highest level again. Ballinhassig bounced straight back from premier intermediate and it says a lot about their character and desire. They were a good senior hurling team prior to relegation and I would imagine their main aim will be to preserve their status. Sars will be favourites to win the first round tie and while it won’t be easy by any means I think they will prevail.
Bishopstown v Courcey Rovers
This will be an interesting tie. Bishopstown really reflected the openness of the Cork hurling championship last season. They went from a relegation final replay in 2011 to a county final appearance in 2012. They easily could have won the championship last year and they will have their sights set on going that extra step in 2013. They have had an indifferent league but the championship will be their primary aim this year.
Courcey Rovers had a very respective first senior campaign last season. A good win over Blackrock secured another year in the top flight and their loss in a local derby with Ballymartle saw them eliminated but they would have been happy with their performance. They will be looking to push on this year and they will have no fear of Bishopstown this weekend. If Patrick Cronin displays his excellent club form again I would favour a Bishopstown win but it is another hard game to call.
Douglas v Midleton
Douglas had a disappointing finish to last season when they were well beaten by Bishopstown. They looked to have made strides last year and their exit was a disappointment. Their dual commitments always makes it difficult to get momentum going and their poor football showing against Ballincollig puts a lot of pressure on players to deliver for the hurlers.
Midleton are a very young team with huge potential. To be honest I think they have been a disappointment in recent season. I would have expected a team with their quality of hurlers to have at least contested a final if not even won a county championship. This is a big year for Midleton. They have the potential to have a big impact on the championship and one wonders if or when their time is going to come.
Ballymartle v Newtownshandrum
This is another interesting clash. Ballymartle have performed very well since their promotion from premier intermediate in 2010. The sides met in the opening round a few years ago when Newtowshandrum only just shaded the tie. Ballymartle were very close to a county final appearance last season and their league form shows that they are still carrying momentum.
Newtownshandrum are under the management of Ger O’ Loughlin this season but their appears to be slight unrest in the club as players like Ben O’ Connor, Jerry O’ Connor and Pat Mulcahy have lined out for the clubs junior team recently. It will be a tight clash and I fancy Ballymartle to progress. It will be interesting to find out if teams will change jerseys for this seasons clash. The last clash saw teams play in almost identical jerseys.
Glen Rovers v St. Finbarr’s
Possibly the greatest rivalry in Cork hurling continues when these sides meet in the first round for the second consecutive year. While both sides aren’t as strong title contenders as they were when the rivalry began, a contest between the sides will always have an edge to it. Last season the Barrs had a comprehensive victory over the Glen. The Glen beat Cloyne to avoid a relegation final while they Barrs were well beaten by a very strong C.I.T (Cork Institute of Technology) outfit.
Both sides have had relatively poor league campaigns so far but everybody knows that league form will go out the window ahead of this championship clash. The Glen had a very disappointing season last year and will be eager to bounce back. The Barrs have had a very good habit of getting the job done in first round games over the last few seasons and I think this one is very tough to call.
Bride Rovers v Carrigtwohill
The last of the first round clashes has the look of a ‘dogfight’ about it. Even the most loyal Carrigtwohill supporter will admit that they were very fortunate to win the county title in 2011 and they gave a respectable defence of their title beating Glen Rovers before falling to eventual county champions, Sarsfields.
Bride Rovers were in the relegation final last season and it was with the second last puck of the game that they manage to stay a senior club. A debatable free was saved with two points between themselves and Cloyne and the rebound was buried to the net. The final whistle blew after the resulting puck-out and Bride Rovers remained a senior club. They were very luck to stay up. This season may see another struggle to stay up if their league form is anything to go by. I think Carrigtwohill will do the business here in what should be a physical encounter.