IF the knockout stages of the Cork County Premier SHC reach the standard that was evident in some of the games in the group stage, then we could be in for a thrilling couple of weeks.
Glen Rovers have a free pass this weekend, already safely berthed in the semi-final after they did the business in their three group games.
Who will join them in the last four is very much up in the air but come Sunday night in the aftermath of the UCC and Na Piarsaigh encounter we will know fully what lies ahead.
Premier SHC: Blackrock v Douglas, Páirc Uí Chaoimh, 2pm.
The most decorated club in the county taking on one that has never tasted success at this level.
On that basis, Blackrock are probably carrying the tag of favourites here but Douglas exhibited their prowess in dumping Midleton out of contention in their last outing.
This, on paper anyway, looks to be the game of the weekend, the Rockies on a winning streak of three games and Douglas with two out of three.
The full concentration of the Cadogan brothers and Shane Kingston on hurling has boosted Douglas considerably and if they can repeat their effort against Midleton, there’s no reason why they cannot carry the process a stage further.
The Rockies have been very impressive thus far with a well balanced bunch of plyers working hard for each other.
Alan Connolly, Robbie Cotter, Dan Meaney, Cathal Cormack and Mark O’Keeffe are hurling at the top end of their game while Niall Cashman and Stephen Murphy are key players too.
Conor Kingston has settled well at full-back for Douglas while Mark Harrington’s experience is vital.
Cillian O’Donovan is a fine prospect and the confidence levels must be high now.
Blackrock are the favourites but this is a wide-open affair.
If Douglas can follow on from the last game they can prevail.
Premier SHC: Sarsfields v Erin’s Own, Pairc Ui Rinn, 7.30pm.
A local derby if there was ever one. Sars have been fancied from the outset and remain so here.
They have stormed through the group stage with a team containing a very strong blend of youth and experience.
Danny Kearney is now settled at centre-back, Craig Leahy, Conor O’Sullivan, William Kearney are very experienced while Liam Healy has been outstanding up front.
James Sweeney and Jack O’’Connor are getting big scores in a side very determined to regain the title.
Erin’s Own displayed great character in defeating Bishopstown and drawing with Newtown and they too have a good blend to the side.
Shay Bowen, Stephen Cronin, Eoghan Murphy, Shane Murphy and Robbie O’Flynn are big players on the side while Colm Coakley is another.
This will not be easily decided and Erin’s Own will be fired up to the last.
Hard though to oppose Sars and they get the vote.
Premier SHC: Na Piarsaigh v UCC, Pairc Ui Rinn, 7pm
Two sides that might be considered outside the leading contenders but, nonetheless, they are right where they want to be.
UCC were very impressive in seeing off Imokilly and have excellent hurlers in Eoghan Clifford, David Lowney, David Griffin, Mark Coleman, Paddy O’Loughlin, Shane Conway and Brian Kelleher.
If they can replicate the display that they gave against Imokilly, they are a match for any side remaining.
Na Piarsaigh have blown hot and cold, a draw followed by a win and a loss.
That was enough to get them through but they must be better here. Gordon Joyce, Chris Joyce, Daire Connery, Evan Sheehan, Craig Hanafin, Shane Forde and Padraigh Guest are all good hurlers but more consistency is required here.
They are more than capable of winning if they play to the level that was evident against the Barrs.
However, if UCC have all the big guns available they get a very tentative vote.
Premier SHC relegation play-off: Bishopstown v Ballyhea, Mallow 2pm
Neither side went well in the group stage, the ‘Town failing to hold on to a substantial lead in two games and well beaten by the Rockies.
Ballyhea did their best but came up short in their three games so there’s an awful lot riding on this outcome.
Pa Cronin, Tomas Murray, Brian Murray, Shane O’Neill, Diarmuid Lester and Conor Hegarty are key players for the ‘’Town while Ballyhea have the talented Pa O’Callaghan to call on once more.
Jamie Copps and the great veteran Maurice O’Sullivan are others that can make a difference but the ‘’Town look tronger and better balanced and should do enough.