WITH Imokilly, the champions for the past three years, having been dethroned, the Seán Óg Murphy trophy will have a change of address for the next 12 months.
It will be one from Church Rd in Blackrock, UCC on the Western Rd, Erin’s Own in Caherlag, or the Glen in Blackpool.
When this weekend is completed, that four will be reduced to two and we will know who the contestants will be in the final of the Cork County SHC.
Neither of the two semi-finals is easy to call and both Erin’s Own and UCC will be all out to prevent an old-fashioned city final between the Glen and the Rockies.
Two fascinating semi-finals are surely on the agenda.
From the outset the Glen have been one of the fancied sides to be still standing.
Their level of consistency since re-emerging as a powerful force six years ago has been remarkable and what we have right now is a confident bunch of players who believe their time has come again.
Team boss Ritchie Kelleher deserves extra praise for staying the course and he is getting the maximum from the players.
They went through the group stage unbeaten and went straight through to a semi-final and in a very competitive group that in itself was an achievement.
This is a side with an excellent balance from outstanding goalkeeper Cathal Hickey out. Right throughout the field there is a hard core of battle-hardened players who have been through a lot together, savouring the joy of victory and overcoming the disappointment of losing.
In the campaign to date, various players have stood up to the task, putting what might have been a low-key performance one day behind them to star the next day.
Players such as Hickey, Brian Moylan, Donal Cronin and Stephen McDonnell are vastly experienced while the presence of one of the country’s best forwards in Patrick Horgan has been a constant plus.
Add in Simon Kennefick and Conor Dorris and you have a top blend.
Erin’s Own exhibited fierce character in getting out of the group when at times all seemed lost. Defeating Sarsfields will be a massive boost going in here and they too have that hard core of experience in Shay Bowen, Stephen Cronin, Shane Murphy, Eoghan and ‘Hero’ Murphy, Maurice O’Carroll, Sean Kelly and others.
Cian O’Connor is a splendid young defender, James and Robbie O’Flynn are hurling very well and any side remaining now will be very wary of them.
There have been a few surprises so far and it won’t be another one if they prevail.
But the tendency is to come down on the side of the Glen on the basis of Horgan’s presence and of their greater consistency.
Verdict: Glen Rovers.
There is a growing belief that the Rockies’ time is here again. They got to the final in 2017 and their younger players are older and wiser now.
Last season did not go according to plan but they have reinvented themselves very well and full credit to Fergal Ryan for the job he’s doing. They are unbeaten and came through well last week against a Douglas side that many had fancied.
The return to full fitness of Michael O’Halloran made a huge difference in that outing. In Gavin Connolly in goal, Gary Norberg, the Cashmans, Jamie Ryan, Stephen Murphy, Ciaran and Cathal Cormack, Shane O’Keeffe and Alan Connolly, there’s a very decent unit of players.
They won’t be short on confidence but will realise when you face UCC, you are facing a potentially very dangerous outfit, more than capable of defeating any side.
Dylan Desmond is a fine keeper while the likes of Paddy Caddell, Paddy O’Loughlin, Mark Coleman, Shane Barrett, Shane Conway, and Mark Kehoe are all players of quality.
Eliminating Imokilly, and how they did it, will have shown them what they can do in this championship. Of course, finalising a starting 15 can sometimes be difficult. But it’s been so far, so good for them this season and the Rockies will be ultra-cautious going in here.
It won’t be a huge surprise if they come through but the Rockies have been doing everything right up to now and their levels of confidence must be growing all the time. It’s hard to oppose them.