THE really serious stuff starts now and any mistakes will be severely punished by elimination from the championship.
The knockout stages of all the hurling championships begin next weekend, the ante is going to be upped considerably.
If the knockout stages produce a similar level of entertainment that the some of the games in the group sectors did, then we could be in for some cracking encounters.
We are down to the last seven in the Premier SHC and one thing is certain, at the end of it all we will have new champions for the first time since 2016 after Imokilly’s bid for four-in-a-row was scuttled by UCC.
UCC were fully deserving of their victory over the East Cork divisional unit but the trick now is to try and repeat that type of performance against Na Piarsaigh.
He same will apply to Douglas in their collision with the Rockies, can Douglas match and perhaps better the display that the produced in eliminating Midleton?
That will be the big challenge for both UCC and Douglas, finding that type of consistency that would catapult them into serious title contenders.
We are not saying that they are not serious contenders already but more evidence will be required to show they have what it takes to win a county, in the case of UCC, for the first time in 50 yyears and where Douglas are concerned, for the first time ever.
Douglas have been caught between two stools for a long time now, trying to balance both codes, going from hurling to football week after week and failing in both.
It’s a different situation this time with former dual players, Eoin and Alan Cadogan and Shane Kingston now fully concentrated on the small ball and that is making a difference and may very well continue to do so going forward.
There is always uncertainty right up to the last minute regarding the composition of a UCC team and that will continue to be the case because of players having commitments with their own clubs.
You really never know what you are going to get from UCC. On their best day and with a full hand to choose from they are a match for any side.
But history has shown that is not always possible, evidence being the fact they have not been successful in the county championship arena since 1970.
The odds are often stacked up against them but the players that were on duty against Imokilly and the ones that were introduced during the course of the game showed what they are capable of.
Na Piarsaigh have been a mixed bag thus far, fortunate enough to get a draw against Carrigtwohill on day one, very good against the ‘Barrs in their second game and subsequently poor against the Glen.
But it was a difficult group to emerge from and they succeeded in that objective but it’s probably fair to say that they have to be more consistent from game to game and within games.
No business end of any county campaign would be complete without an East Cork derby and we have one in the collision of Sarsfields and Erin’s Own.
This is a sort of neighbour going up against the fellow living maybe a few hundred yards down the road.
Many would consider the Caherlag outfit to be fortunate enough to be still in the chase.
That is based on the fact that they should not have beaten Bishopstown and not drawn with Newtown, the outcome in the latter the difference between qualifying and not.
Whatever the merits or demerits of those two situations, the fact is very simple, Erin’s Own exhibited tremendous resilience in both those games to get something out of them.
Money could not buy that type of character and they deserve great cedit for that.
Yes, they will be underdogs going in next weekend against Sars but there’s a lot of battle-hardened players on this team who know what it takes on days like this.
One thing is for certain, if Sars did build up a significant advantage they would not take anything for granted because this Erin’s Own team won’t lie down until the last whistle sounds.
One of the most impressive sides up to now have been the Rockies and they are being fancied in a lot of quarters to end a famine going back to 2002 in this championship.
It certainly has been a case of so far, so good for Fergal Ryan and his management team and full marks to Ryan for stating on board after the big disappointment of losing to Newtown last season.
Go through this Rockies team and you have no marquee names like some of the other contenders but what you have is a bunch of committed individuals that work for each other and are beginning to believe in themselves a lot more.
If you were offered a VIP seat for one game next weekend, this is probably the one that you would choose.
That brings us to the Glen who have the luxury of a weekend off because they are already safely berthed in the semi-final.
They will have the opportunity of having a good, hard look at their semi-final opponents or could it work the other way, the team that they will meet on a high after their quarter-final win.
Right now you would have to suggest that the Glen, the Rockies and Sars are more fancied than the other contenders but there’s no guarantees at all.
It has all the ingredients for a weekend of Cork club hurling at its best. It’s been a great championship thus far and it may well turn out to be one of the best for many a long day.
One thing is definite, it has got people talking again.