THERE was always a decent chance that two teams who came across each other at the group stage of the championship would meet up again further down the line when the stakes would be much higher.
And that has come to pass in the Cork County PIHC with Blarney and Castlelyons.
The two collided at the group stage in early August and now they will face each other again in the final the weekend after next.
In that group game, Castlelyons came out on the right side of the scoreline, winning by a couple of points with Cork star Colm Spillane contributing 1-5 from play in his attacking role with the club.
But what transpires one day may not the next one and there is a perception that it’s very difficult to defeat the same team twice in what is a short enough space of time.
There is also a widely held belief that a team that loses the first day learns more in that loss than the winners might.
Conversely, the team that wins the first day will be saying to themselves, we beat them once and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to do so again.
Blarney and Castlelyons are in the county final and they deserve to be there. Castlelyons are unbeaten in this championship with four wins from four games played while Blarney have exhibited their character and ability in their victories.
Last weekend both sides played some superb hurling in going through to the final, Castlelyons against Courcey Rovers and Blarney in their 17-point win over a previously very impressive Carrigaline team.
Blarney’s victory came on the back of their fairly sensational comeback against Ballincollig when they trailed throughout that game and at one stage were nine points in arrears.
Ballincollig must surely be thinking now that if they had cemented their numerous advantages throughout that game they might now be preparing for a final.
But no game is done until the fat lady sings and Blarney’s belief and character saw them come out on top and consign their opponents into reflecting on what might have been.
The prize is now immense for themselves and Castlelyons, elevation to the Senior A championship next season and giving their clubs a much higher profile.
No doubt, both sides will have learned bits and pieces from their first encounter last month and there will be an awareness of how influential Colm Spillane was that day.
Putting the key Cork defender into an attacking role has certainly worked the oracle in the East Cork club.
Last Saturday, against Courcey Rovers, he had a quiet enough opening 30 minutes but thereafter he was hugely influential.
His aerial ability was seen to great effect and he split the sticks with some terrific points.
However, he was overshadowed by his brother Anthony who delivered 1-6 from open play and that return will have been taken note of by the Cork management representative present on the day.
Of course, that tally was bettered that night by Padraig Power for Blarney with a haul of 3-2 against Carrigaline while it was equalled by Mark Coleman.
Nobody had envisaged the margin of Blarney’s victory in that game, after all Carrigaline had been playing at the top end of their game in their previous encounters.
What you have on both the Blarney and Castlelyons sides is a set of scoring forwards that can make a huge difference.
Blarney have Power, Shane Barrett, Declan Hanlon and further back Mark Coleman. Castlelyons have the three Spillane brothers, Alan Fenton and others too.
So trying to curb the attacking threat that is contained in both teams will be prioritised by the respective management teams in the next 10 days or so.
Both sides too have a lot of very experienced operators in other sectors, the likes of Joe Jordan and Paul O’Leary for Blarney and Colm Barry, Niall O’Leary and Tom Carroll for Castlelyons.
Last Saturday, at both games, you had 200 or so supporters present and compared to having none at all, that made a huge difference.
You had some sort of an atmosphere and in both instances that helped, The numbers in the stands are nowhere near what they should be but as they say, half a loaf is better than having no bread at all.
It won’t be any better for the final but once the game gets underway and both sides go at it at full tilt we should get a final to remember, in keeping what is a premier competition.