The John Horgan column: Blackrock and the Glen are the teams to beat

The John Horgan column: Blackrock and the Glen are the teams to beat

David O'Farrell and Michael O'Halloran, Blackrock, putting the pressure on Eoin Cadogan, Douglas. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

I GOT to witness two of the three Cork County SHC quarter-finals over the weekend and in both instances, the outcome was the right one.

The fare in both games was compelling at times, the endeavour too, particularly in the Erin’s Own-Sarsfields encounter where the Caherlag outfit produced the goods when the very big questions were put to them.

Sars went into this game as strong favourites and in our Friday night prediction of the game, we sided with them.

But this was a local derby in every sense of the word and we were dealing here with an Erin’s Own team containing some of the most seasoned players on the Cork club scene, players who have given sterling service down through the years.

The overall scene at the Erins Own against Sarsfields clash at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
The overall scene at the Erins Own against Sarsfields clash at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

In team boss Martin Bowen, they had a very experienced campaigner too, somebody who always gets the maximum from the players at his disposal.

Go through this Erin’s Own team and you have a number of individuals who have given heroically to the club, goalkeeper Shay Bowen, Shane Murphy, Stephen Cronin, Maurice O’Carroll, the Murphy brothers, Eoghan and Kieran ‘Hero’

They were winning county titles back in 2006 and 2007 and their experience continues to be a huge factor in their quest for further progress.

One must remember too that in a few games this year they came out on the right side when maybe they shouldn’t have.

Against Bishopstown and Newtownshandrum they were in deep trouble on the scoreboard but each time that character and inner belief that are such important traits in any side came to the fore.

They only made the knockout stages by securing a last-gasp draw with Newtown but look where they are now, an hour away from another final.

They’ll be underdogs again against the Glen but that will fit easily with them.

They dug very deep last Saturday night at headquarters, their hooking and blocking at times was a joy to behold and of course who will ever forget that standout moment right at the death when James O’Flynn produced a wonderful hook to deny Sars' Liam Healy.

That was a pure magic moment, the difference between shutting up shop for the year and preparing now for a county semi-final.

This Erin’s Own side does not seemingly understand the meaning of the word defeat and they cannot and surely won’t be taken lightly by any side remaining in the chase.

 Sars' Aaron Myers racing away from Erin's Own's James O'Carroll. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Sars' Aaron Myers racing away from Erin's Own's James O'Carroll. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

The big question surrounding the participation of Douglas in their quarter-final collision with Blackrock was, could they replicate the display they gave against Midleton in their previous assignment?

The simple answer is no.

However, in the opening half of that Southside derby with the Rockies they gave as good as they got.

They went toe to toe with them on the board in an opening 20 minutes that was hugely entertaining.

But in these types of games when you have such a decorated club as Blackrock going in against a side striving to reach the final for the very first time, tradition can be a mighty ally.

At half-time, just three points separated the sides in the Rockies' favour and it was all very much in the melting pot.

But when push came to shove thereafter it was the Church Road team who had the extra fuel in the tank.

When the game was still very delicately balanced they shot an unanswered 1-3 and that was the difference in the end.

This is a very well-balanced Blackrock side, there are no marquee names on it but as a unit, they are gelling well.

Their standout performer was unquestionably Michael O’Halloran. Marked absent in the earlier group games, he returned in style here and some of his point-taking was right out of the top-drawer.

He ended the day with a haul of seven, all from open play and having a fully fit O’Halloran firing on all cylinders is a big bonus.

No doubt, Cork team boss Kieran Kingston, watching on from the stand will have taken notice.

Shane O’Keeffe contributed two vital points in the second-half as well while the introduction from the bench of Tadhg Deasy was important too while Stephen Murphy had a fine hour.

 John O'Sullivan, Blackrock, tracked by Steve Moylan and Donnacha Murphy, Douglas. Picture: Jim Coughlan.
John O'Sullivan, Blackrock, tracked by Steve Moylan and Donnacha Murphy, Douglas. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

Douglas will have time to reflect on the outcome and of their tally of wides, particularly in the second-half when they went into double figures.

No club without a history of winning at this level will always find it difficult to make the big breakthrough and so it has proved again for this Douglas team but maybe their time is getting nearer.

So the possibility of an old-fashioned county final is very much on the cards, the Glen against the Rockies.

But that kind of talk is far too premature and since the outset of the competition, a good few big guns and leading title contenders have fallen by the wayside, particularly the holders Imokilly and now Sarsfields.

Midleton and the ‘Barrs didn’t get out of their respective groups so you rule nothing in and nothing out.

One thing we can be certain in stating, this season’s championship has been an outstanding success and whilst we are repeating ourselves here, what a pity that so few got to witness it.

Hopefully, that’s about to change as we reach the real business end of the campaign.

Across the country, the fare has been superb too.

On Saturday we witnessed a terrific semi-final in Kilkenny with Ballyhale-Shamrocks and James Stephens.

We took particular interest in that because of the involvement of James O’Connor, Ballyhale’s team boss and so successful here in Cork with Carrigtwohill and Fr O’Neill’s.

Adding a Kilkenny title would be another significant milestone in the career of a very good operator.

Dicksboro, though, might have other ideas.

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