SATURDAY: PIHC final: Blarney v Castlelyons, Páirc Uí Chaoimh, 7pm.
ELEVATION to senior status is the big prize on offer for these two clubs in this showdown at headquarters.
Carrying the tag of being a senior club carries a lot of benefits insofar as attracting new members into the equation etc is concerned.
Castlelyons are probably the slight favourites on the basis that they are unbeaten en-route while Blarney had just one defeat. But it will be very much a level playing field when they emerge next Sunday, Castlelyons hoping to take up from where they left off in their semi-final victory over Courcey Rovers and Blarney in a buoyant mood after a very emphatic victory against a previously unbeaten Carrigaline.
The manner of that victory caught some people by surprise because Carrigaline had been going great guns at the group stage.
This game, of course, is a repeat of an earlier meeting at the group stage when Castlelyons emerged victorious by a couple of points.
No doubt, Blarney will be hoping to reverse that result here and it’s often stated that when two sides meet up again not that long after the initial clash, the losing team on day one could hold more aces.
In other words, if you believe it, you learn more from losing than you might do from winning.
That is the theory of some but in truth there’s very little between these sides.
Blarney had to exhibit great character to reach this stage as they were staring down the barrel of a gun against Ballincollig when they trailed by nine points at one stage.
In fact, they were nine down with just seven minutes of regulation time remaining.
But somehow and calling on all their reserves of energy and resilience they managed to extricate themselves from the mess that they found themselves in and a few late, late goals signed, sealed and delivered the deal in that great encounter.
And they certainly took it on from there, easily accounting for Carrigaline to find themselves now putting the finishing touches for this final showdown.
This is a fine Blarney side with an excellent mix of youth and experience.
Young guns, Shane Barrett and Pádraig Power excelled for UCC last weekend and are two of the brightest prospects in the county.
Mark Coleman is a splendid Cork hurler and will be a cornerstone of that team for many years to come.
Declan Hanlon is another fine player as is Patrick Crowley.
Joe Jordan and Paul O’Leary bring the experienced dimension to the side and if they hurl as they did against Carrigaline they will be very hard to stop.
But Castlelyons will be bringing their own strong credentials to the table and this is a side well drilled by team boss Ciarán McGann and coach Johnny Crowley You could say that they have done everything right up to now and they pretty much have.
They gave the Rockies second team a fair trouncing in one of their group games and there is a very strong spine to the team.
Jack Barry is a fine ‘keeper who commands his area very well while in front of him his brother Colm is one of the best club full-backs in the county and very experienced with three county senior medals with Imokilly.
In front of him at centre-back, Niall O’Leary has a lot of qualities and marshals that half-back line very well.
The move from defence to attack has worked the oracle where Colm Spillane is concerned and in the second-half against Courcey Rovers he really came to the forefront when it was most required.
His brother Anthony really put himself in the spotlight in that game with a haul of 1-6 from play while another brother, Michael contributed handsomely too.
Eoin Mawe and Kieran O’Leary are playing very well too in a side that certainly won’t be short on confidence.
No doubt, after their initial meeting, both management teams will have learned bits and pieces and will try to use them on Sunday.
Getting into the final of this championship represents a fine achievement in itself given the quality of some of the other sides.
Now it’s the final frontier for both, the one that really matters and is so difficult to make a forecast on.
Castlelyons have been excellent thus far and might have that extra bit of balance, both in defence and attack but it will be very close.