WHEN the business end of the Cork County SHC is reached, there would be a strong body of opinion that would favour Midleton and Sarsfields being heavily involved.
They would certainly be regarded as two of the more fancied participants but it’s very much a case of wait and see.
The two East Cork teams are in a group that also contains Douglas and Ballyhea.
And with the city team highly regarded as well and Ballyhea more than capable of throwing a spanner in the works, the margin for error is very little, all the more so because only two of the four will be going through to the knockout stages.
Sars and Midleton are first into the ring on Friday night at Páirc Uí Rinn at 7.30pm, a game which will be streamed live on our sister paper The Irish Examiner website. The two heavyweights are well aware of what’s at stake.
Whoever loses will be playing a game of catch-up in the group, fully aware that one more slip-up and their season will be over.
Sarsfields selector, Rory Duggan is only too well aware of what’s on the line at the Boreenmanna Road venue tonight.
“Look, it goes without saying that it is a game of great significance for both teams. This is a very tough group that we find ourselves involved in.
“People might be suggesting that both ourselves and Midleton will be the two teams to qualify but that’s something we are not thinking about.
“Douglas are going to be very difficult in this group, Ballyhea are always sticky opponents so nothing is going to come easy.
“In fact, looking at all the other groups, they won’t be easily sorted either. You have the Glen, Piarsaigh and Carrigtwohill grouped together as well and then Erin’s Own, Blackrock, Newtown and Bishopstown.
“As far as we are concerned, we are not looking at anything else only this game with Midleton."
And he is under no illusions about what awaits them.
“Midleton are a very strong team, they are never far away and they have had it over us a bit in recent times.
“They beat us in the 2013 county final and they have brought in Ben O’Connor as coach and he’s bound to have an influence, that’s an extra challenge for us.
“That happens when somebody new comes in, there’s going to be a bounce and we must be ready for that.
“We have prepared well. We had a few very worthwhile challenge games against Kilmallock and Roanmore.
“But there is a big difference between those kind of games and going in against a team like Midleton “You just don’t know until you go out to play championship hurling."
The former player is just glad to be going back playing hurling again.
“It’s great, it’s going to be different, of course, with hardly anybody watching the game but it’s going to be the same situation for every team.
“It will probably be a bit weird but I am sure the lads will get on with it once the game starts."
Sars will field a very experienced unit with a fine sprinkling of youth as well.
“We will have a good blend in the team. A lot of the lads know what it takes to win a county but Midleton have those kind of players as well.
“Danny Kearney is with us full time now since he retired from the Cork set-up and that’s a plus. He’s a top player, a vital player for us as he has been for years and now he’s fully concentrated on club matters."
The games will be coming thick and fast and there will be very little time to feel sorry for yourself if you lose the opening game, according to Duggan.
“That’s very much the case. If you win your opening game it’s great and it gives you a great chance but if you lose it’s a different story altogether.
“Lose and the pressure is really on going into the second game and we don’t want to find ourselves in that situation.
“We are looking forward to tonight, it’s going to be tough. They know us, we know them so it makes for a great game.
“Hopefully, we’ll come out on the right side.’’
After Friday’s game, Douglas are next up for Sarsfields while Midleton will face Ballyhea.