IT’S a new-look Cork County hurling championships this year, a much later start and broken into two sections, Senior Premier and Senior A.
Both sections will be run on a round-robin basis, 12 teams in each with three groups of four teams with the top two qualifying for the knockout stages.
There is huge potential in both sections and the margin for error is reduced quite a lot with just the two of the four teams from the groups progressing.
The Premier Senior championship gets underway tonight and what an opener we have on our hands, East Cork rivals Midleton taking on Sarsfields.
Premier: Midleton v Sarsfields,
Páirc Uí Rinn, 7.30pm:
Two of the more fancied sides in the competition going head to head, a repeat of their clash in the final of 2013 which Midleton won due in the main to the brilliance of Conor Lehane that day.
Seven years on he remains a key figure for a Midleton team that has, it could be said, underachieved since.
Ben O’Connor is now the team’s coach and that will add to the interest on how they will perform.
Paul Haughney, Luke O’Farrell and Tommy O’Connell will be vital to their cause too.
Sars are the fancy of many this season and will start slight favourites here. Danny Kearney is now a club only player while brother Willie is a key defender as is Conor O’Sullivan.
Brother Eoin and Jack O’Connor are fine hurlers too and they might just shade this one.
Premier: Blackrock v Erin’s Own, Páirc Uí Rinn, 5pm:
The Rockies must be better than they were last season and the belief is that they will. John and Niall Cashman and Michael O’Halloran must lead by example against an Erin’s Own team that did not have a good 2019 season either.
This is a tough group including Bishopstown and Newtownshandrum and this game is so important.
Martin Bowen is back at the helm in Caherlag and he’ll get the best out of them.
Robbie O’Flynn is their marquee forward while veteran Eoghan Murphy can still do a lot of damage.
There is a belief in Church Road that the Rockies time is not far off again and winning an intermediate title last season was a big boost.
They might shade this one.
Premier: Douglas v Ballyhea,
The potential of Douglas is undisputed but it’s all about delivering. A first title is always the most difficult in any club but they are one of the more fancied sides again.
Eoin and Alan Cadogan, Mark Harrington and Shane Kingston still backbone the team while Ballyhea will look again to Pa O’Callaghan and Maurice O’Sullivan as well as Liam O’Connor and Pa Morrissey.
Douglas should not underestimate them and the North Cork team reached the last eight last season This might be closer than expected but Douglas should prevail.
Premier: Glen Rovers v St Finbarr’s, Páirc Uí Chaoimh, 7.30pm:
This game brings back so many good memories of great clashes. The Glen are in the ascendency again where bragging rights are concerned and will be favourites here.
Patrick Horgan is capable of winning a game on his own and how the ‘Barrs counteract him will be key.
Cathal Hickey won’t be beaten easily in goal while Brian Moylan and Donal Cronin have bagfuls of experience Aidan Fitzpatrick is at the helm now in Togher and will get the best out of them and players like Damien and Jack Cahalane, Glenn O’Connor, Billy Hennessy and Colm Keane can deliver.
Could be very interesting in front of a paltry attendance but the Glen get the nod.
Verdict: Glen Rovers.
Premier: Newtownshandrum v Bishopstown, Glantane, 3pm:
Newtown lost by just a point to the Glen last season having earlier beaten Blackrock. They will be slightly fancied here against a ‘Town team that also lost by just a point in their quarter-final against the ‘Barrs.
Bishopstown will look to the tried and trusted Shane O’Neill, Pa Cronin, Tomas and Brian Murray while Newtown’s dangerman will be Jamie Coughlan.
Conor Twomey is a mainstay in defence and this has the makings of being a very close encounter.
Newtown get the tentative vote.
Premier: Na Piarsaigh v Carrigtwohill: Caherlag, 3pm:
Carrigtwohill were in the last four last season although well beaten by the Glen in that game but it was nonetheless an encouraging season.
Tomas Hogan, Liam Gosnell and Jay Horgan will be key again while Na Piarsaigh will want to do better this time, losing to the Barrs in round three.
But they have the material in Daire Connery, Chris Joyce, Cian Buckley and Eddie Gunning but Pa O’Rourke is a long-term injury absentee.
They get the vote.
Verdict: Na Piarsaigh.