THE group stages of the Cork Premier SFC concludes this weekend, and with an identical format to its hurling equivalent in play, it means that every side has something to play for in their final game.
One club side is going to emerge as top seeds, with city rivals St. Finbarr’s and reigning champions Nemo Rangers looking the two most likely to nab top spot right now, and the semi-final berth that comes with it.
Castlehaven might have something to say about that though, and a big win over Ilen Rovers might see them emerge as top seeds yet, but with eight and 11 points to make up on the Barrs and Nemo, respectively, it would have to be some win at Ballydehob.
The Barrs pretty much have Group 1 sown up, as they have a seemingly insurmountable +19 scoring difference, thanks mainly to the shooting exploits of Steven Sherlock and Cillian Myers-Murray. Even a defeat to Clonakilty should not see them kicked off top spot unless there was a bizarre sequence of scorelines in both games in the group.
Ballincollig should have too much for Carrigaline in the other game in the group, especially given the impressive form they displayed in the 2-17 to 1-10 win over Clon the last time out, and a win of any description should be enough to see the Village through to the quarter-final as group runners-up.
Castlehaven would appear to have Group 2 at their mercy as they only have group whipping boys Ilen Rovers to face. You cannot make a case for any other result but a comfortable Haven win here, which means that the other game between Newcestown and Carbery Rangers should be a straight shoot out for a quarter-final berth.
This could well be a tight affair at Ballinascarthy, with Newcestown hoping to follow up their Senior A Hurling exploits from last weekend by securing another county quarter-final qualification. Their superior scoring difference means that a draw would be enough. Don’t be surprised if that is a possibility as this one heads into the final ten minutes, in what could be one of the games of the weekend.
Group 3 resembles Group 1 in that Nemo Rangers can afford to lose to Douglas and still emerge as group victors, even if you would not be rushing to the bookmakers to put on such a bet. The reigning champs have been in impressive form thus far, with Luke Connolly, unsurprisingly, showing his inter-county class up top, ably assisted by the likes of Mark Cronin and Paul Kerrigan, two players at opposite ends of their senior careers.
Douglas could only kick three points in their defeat to Valley Rovers, even if they did manage three majors as well. They would appear to be yet another club that are struggling to fight on two fronts, as two of their best finishers Alan Cadogan and Shane Kingston are dedicating themselves to the small ball at present.
Without them in the line-up you just cannot see where Douglas will conjure up enough scores to hurt the Nemo rearguard, so the Capwell side should emerge from the group undefeated. The motivation of trying to secure an automatic semi-final spot should be enough to ensure they remain sufficiently focused to get the job done at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
The other group clash at Ballinora between Valley Rovers and Bishopstown should see a victory for a Valley Rovers side who were extremely impressive the last day when registering 1-14 against Douglas, and it must be noted that they pushed Nemo all the way in round one as well. A win over relegation-threatened Bishopstown would secure a much sought after quarter-final spot for the Innishannon side.
The relegation final will be between the worst placed of Carrigaline, Ilen Rovers and Bishopstown, who are extremely tightly bunched, with only two points separating the three sides on scoring difference at present. Each score kicked and every one conceded will have huge implications for all three sides this weekend.
Ilen Rovers would appear to have the toughest assignment on paper, as they face the might of Castlehaven, but Ballincollig and Valley Rovers, who are two likely quarter finalists in their own right at this juncture, will be no easy tasks for Carrigaline and Bishopstown either. Calculators will be at the ready at these games.
The top seeds will head straight to the semi-final, while the other two group winners, along with the three group runner ups will join divisional kingpins Duhallow in the three quarter final ties, meaning there should be three tasy looking knock out games to decide the last three semi-final spot.
Duhallow saw off UCC. in a very high scoring contest in the divisional/colleges section final, on a scoreline of 4-20 to 6-12 in Glantane.
You would imagine that the Covid-19 crisis has not been conducive to effective training at divisional level, a theory that would appear to be supported by the demise of the Imokilly hurlers in the hurling championship.
Yet if Duhallow can continue to harness the considerable attacking talent that exists in north west Cork then they will be a serious threat to the likes of Nemo, the Barrs and Castlehaven further along in the championship.
They might have to work on not shipping six goals per game though!