Cork club hurling championships will throw up a few more surprises yet

Cork club hurling championships will throw up a few more surprises yet

Courcey Rovers' David Duggan battling David McBarron for Carrigaline. After a heavy loss in that game, Courceys have defied the odds to reach the PIHC semi-final. Picture Denis Boyle

THERE are 20 teams and just 10 games now remaining across the five grades of the Cork County Hurling Championship, and the potential is there for a dramatic conclusion to this season like no other.

The Premier Intermediate Championship takes centre stage next weekend with Castlelyons facing Courcey Rovers in one semi-final and Carrigaline squaring up to Blarney in the other.

And you could easily say, without fear of contradiction, that all four have an equal opportunity of taking another step forward in their bid to be elevated to Senior A status next season.

Courcey Rovers continued their remarkable transformation last weekend by overcoming Watergrasshill in the quarter-final. From being near-also-rans going into their final game at the group stage, they are now an hour away from a final.

They went into that final group game against Aghada with no points on the board from two, games and even a victory in that game guaranteed them nothing.

But the gods conspired in their favour and they went through to the last eight against a previously unbeaten Watergrasshill side.

Because of what happened at the group stage, they were underdogs — but they produced another fine effort to secure a semi-final spot.

Colm Daly, Courcey Rovers, picks up this breaking ball as Caoimhín Ó Coileain battles with Sean Desmond of Watergrasshill. Picture: Dan Linehan
Colm Daly, Courcey Rovers, picks up this breaking ball as Caoimhín Ó Coileain battles with Sean Desmond of Watergrasshill. Picture: Dan Linehan

But this is the Premier Intermediate Hurling Championship, you never know what to expect from one game to the next, and taking too much notice of the favourites tag can leave you red-faced. The probability is that the men from Ballinspittle will be underdogs again next Saturday against an unbeaten team in Castlelyons.

But having defied the odds on a few occasions now, they will relish that tag.

It was noticeable against the ’Hill that their young star Sean Twomey came into the fray in the 40th minute after missing the group games through injury.

Having such a good young hurler back in the frame is a considerable boost. Of course, Courceys were defeated finalists in this competition in 2018, losing a thrilling replay to Charleville, so it should be no great surprise that they are chasing strongly again.

That looked like a very unlikely scenario a few weeks ago, but when you are handed a lifeline as they were when they saw off Aghada and the other results went their way, things can only get better.

They have a lot of momentum behind them now and that can make a huge difference as the finishing post looms into view.

You would bet your bottom dollar that this will be a cracking game of hurling against Castlelyons with only a puck of a ball likely to divide the sides at the end.

And it is very likely that it will be a similar situation in the other semi-final involving Blarney and Carrigaline.

Like Courcey Rovers coming back from the brink, one could suggest that Blarney did likewise.

In their quarter-final clash last weekend with Ballincollig, they found themselves trailing by nine points at the interval.

They were still trailing by nine with just eight minutes to go and seemingly facing an impossible task.

They were still four down going into stoppage time, but when the final whistle sounded, they were one ahead.

This could well be described as the mother of all comebacks, and Ballincollig will wonder how they ended up losing that game.

But in a game of hurling, as we have seen so many times, things can change very quickly.

A substantial lead at any stage of a game is no guarantee, and if a team has that inner belief and character no task is insurmountable.

 Liam Jennings, Ballincollig, rises high with Shane Mulcahy, Blarney. Picture: Jim Coughlan.
Liam Jennings, Ballincollig, rises high with Shane Mulcahy, Blarney. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

Obviously, Blarney had those traits in abundance and they are sure to be on a high this week preparing to take on Carrigaline who had a free pass into the semis as a result of their top form at the group stage.

As they say, this should be another belter of a game and the stakes are now very high as far as all four teams are concerned.

The prize is immense, gaining senior status, and once again the PIHC has measured up to all expectations.

At the outset, selecting a winner was near impossible. With just four sides remaining, it remains that way.

Whoever makes it to the final will certainly have earned that right.

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