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 Cian Buckley, Na Piarsaigh, gets away from Adam Murphy, Bandon. Picture: Jim Coughlan.
Cian Buckley, Na Piarsaigh, gets away from Adam Murphy, Bandon. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

No let up in the hurling action as the six teams left in the Cork SHC will fancy their chances of glory

HANDS up if you can tell us who will lift the Seán Óg Murphy Cup on October 22.

There are six teams now left in contention in what is a wide open battle for the Cork Senior Hurling Championship, with two quarter-final replays on the horizon next weekend. All of the sides involved will feel they could pick up enough momentum to climb the steps of the revamped Páirc on county final day, especially as holders Glen Rovers and perennial contenders Midleton are out.

Na Piarsaigh and Blackrock will clash in an appealing all-city hurling semi-final, but Imokilly and Erin's Own, and Sars and UCC, must meet again in a double-header on Saturday at Páirc Uí Rinn from 5.30pm. We could yet see rivals Erin's Own and Sars colliding, or a unique Imoilly-UCC semi. 

 Padraig Gould, Na Piarsaigh, challenges James Walsh, Bandon. Picture: Jim Coughlan.
Padraig Gould, Na Piarsaigh, challenges James Walsh, Bandon. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

The performance of the weekend came from Piarsaighs, with the northsiders proving their win over Glen Rovers was no fluke, with an emphatic 3-16 to 1-10 dismissal of a fancied Bandon. Goals from Padraig Guest and Shane Forde, who threatened throughout up front along with Padraig Gould and Dayne Lee, saw them put up a serious total given the wild weather and the heavy pitch.

Christopher Joyce did a good job when switched onto Michael Cahalane, while Eddie Gunning, Eoin Moynihan and Cian Buckley offered a solid base from the base. Ronan Crowley was Bandon's main threat and goalscorer, but apart from a brief period in a first half, they were outhurled.

The Rockies got the job done in a dogfight with Newcestown, Alan O'Callaghan their leading light from centre-forward as he hurled a world of ball and landed 0-6, three from play, in a 1-13 to 1-11 victory. An early goal from Michael O'Halloran gave them a platform, while Shane O'Keeffe and John O'Sullivan were also attacking threats. Newcestown keeper Kieran Kelly was forced into some impressive saves.

 John O'Sullivan, Blackrock, gets away from Darren Heffernan, Newcestown.Picture: Jim Coughlan.
John O'Sullivan, Blackrock, gets away from Darren Heffernan, Newcestown.
Picture: Jim Coughlan.

With Fergal Ryan and Wayne Sherlock on the line Blackrock were as organised as you'd expect at the back, John Cashman leading the way, and they kept Luke Meade on the margins of the game until the last quarter. The West Cork team did come within a point late on, Daniel Twomey, Sean Ryan and Jack Meade landing the scores, but the Rockies held on.

They've struggled to make the business end of championship since losing the 2003 final, having won three counties in the four seasons before that, while Piarsaighs have only made one semi, 2014, since they were county champions in 2004. Blackrock are backboned by youngsters who picked up three U21 counties across five years, but the northsiders have a youthful edge to their side too, including Cork minor Evan Sheehan who landed two points as a sub.   

In the drawn games on Sunday afternoon both Imokilly and UCC left wins behind them.

That was especially the case with the East Cork division in a 2-19 to 3-16 draw, when they shot 11 more wides than Erin's Own. They also saw Paudie O'Sullivan denied by a smart Shay Bowen save when they were five points up after 58 minutes.

Erin's Own, who had stunned Imokilly late on in round four last year, pounced for two goals, a Robbie O'Flynn rocket and a clever finish from Eoghan Murphy to go one up. Added time was loaded with drama, as two Eoghan Murphy frees were just off target and Paudie O'Sullivan hit a wide, before Deccie Dalton converted a free after Seamus Harnedy was fouled. He had however gone for goal, the towering keeper, who hit a first-half penalty, thinking his team were two down.

At times Imokilly were terrific, with Harnedy striking 0-4 from play, Will Leahy, Niall O'Leary, John Cronin and Colm Barry dominating in the air, and Brian Lawton running the show from midfield, as well as shooting 0-3. Erin's Own had a few super-subs though, as Mossie O'Carroll added 1-2, while Shane Murphy and Cian O'Callaghan was also prominent.

Kilian Murphy (Erin's Own) clears the sliotar. Picture: Ger Bonus
Kilian Murphy (Erin's Own) clears the sliotar. Picture: Ger Bonus

Their neighbours Sarsfields needed a late burst of 1-2 to reel in UCC, though like Imokilly they tried to engineer a goal late on thinking they were two down, before Ray Ryan ensured they'd get a replay.

The College were 0-18 to 0-13 up after 58 minutes and had a great spread of scorers, all inter-county stars. Darragh Fitzgibbon, Mark Coleman, Michael Breen and Jamie Barron managed two points apiece, while former Cork senior Rob O'Shea was a link-man and free-taker, with Conor Gleeson at centre-back, and Colm Spillane a powerhouse at full-back. Eoghan Clifford from Cloughduv, a Cork minor last year, came on and nabbed a point.

With Tom Devine, their goalscorer in shocking Midleton a week earlier, unavailable, UCC lacked a focal point at 14 and that opened the door for Sars to battle back.

Sarsfields' Eoghan Murphy drives out. Picture: Ger Bonus
Sarsfields' Eoghan Murphy drives out. Picture: Ger Bonus
Eoghan Murphy, Paul Leopold, Craig Leahy and Tadhg Óg Murphy kept battling, with sub Eoin O'Sullivan making a massive impact, scoring a point and getting fouled for two frees, and another replacement Gavin O'Loughlin setting up Cork U21 Jack O'Connor for his goal. 

This is a new-look Sars, with Wexford panellist Éanna Martin gone up the country, Cian McCarthy transferred to Douglas and the likes of Kieran 'Fraggie' Murphy and Michael Cussen retired. Their starting full-forward line was U21 and another game will stand to them.

No doubt though UCC have the class in their squad to progress, depending on whether their Waterford contingent are all available. Their presence in the championship might irk plenty of Leesiders, and they have little or no following, but the talent is there to win a county.

The semi-finals are pencilled in for Sunday week, possibly at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

UCC's Tipp star Michael Breen. Picture: Ger Bonus
UCC's Tipp star Michael Breen. Picture: Ger Bonus