Cork hurling: Charleville and Fr O’Neill’s will set the pace as season gets going

Cork hurling: Charleville and Fr O’Neill’s will set the pace as season gets going
Declan Dalton of Fr. O'Neill's winning a high ball from Jack Meade of Charleville. Picture: Denis Minihane.

IT’S been christened twice already, the group of death and the North Cork Championship.

What we are referring to is the group contained in the Cork County Senior A hurling championship featuring Charleville, Mallow and Fermoy.

For good measure, throw in Bandon and with just two teams from the four emerging into the knockout stages of the competition putting the tag, group of death on it is very appropriate.

In fact, of all the groups in both tiers of the senior championship, this one could well be the most interesting and it would take a very wise person to predict the outcome or what it might be.

Financially, it would be a bonanza too for the County Board if things were normal and attendances were not limited to just a few hundred.

Can you imagine what attendance the meeting of Charleville and Mallow would generate or any of the other local derbies in this group in the division of North Cork.

Chaarleville and Bandon would probably be the favoured two to reach the knockout stages based on the fact that they were both playing senior hurling in more recent times.

Charleville were involved in one of the best games in the championship last season against Glen Rovers in Mallow, a game that went into extra time before the Glen got home by the skin of their teeth.

One recalls the relief on the face of Glen Rovers boss Richie Kelleher afterwards when he was very honest in his assessment in stating that his team were fortunate to survive.

The Glen, as we all know, went on to reach the final before going under to Imokilly in a game that went right to the wire.

If Charleville can build on their first season in the top flight then they could be a very formidable outfit.

Bandon are more of an established senior side and had a great win over Newcestown in the first round last season.

However, they were on the wrong end of a surprise defeat in round three to Carrigtwohill who subsequently reached the semi-final.

Mallow and Fermoy, it would be fair to state have underachieved in the Premier intermediate grade and both were eliminated from that competition in round three last season.

In fact, Fermoy footballers have overtaken the hurlers in the North Cork town.

Mallow are installed each year as one of the more fancied sides in the premier intermediate grade but have not been able to justify that tag.

In both cases, of course, there is the dual mandate and that has not helped the cause.

Ger Manley is at the helm in Mallow this season and he will want to get the extra few yards out of them that might make all the difference.

Fermoy took a heavy beating from Fr O’Neill’s last season out in Ballynoe but we all know what O’Neill’s achieved subsequently.

Denis Ring is in charge again and there’s no better man in terms of experience and getting an insight into the opposition.

In an interview in this paper during the week, he acknowledged that the margin for error in the group is minimal.

“We will have to hit the ground running and see what happens. Our first game is against Mallow, a big skilful side.

“We may be neighbours but we have not played Mallow for years and whilst we know their players, we are not familiar with each other on the championship stage.’’ 

Ring will have his homework done on Mallow and vice-versa, Manley on Fermoy.

Overall, this senior A championship might well provide fare that is equally good or even better than its premier counterpart.

A lot of the teams in it would have played each other at premier intermediate level but the stage is elevated now.

Fr O’Neill’s were probably the one team that benefited from the extended break due to the health situation.

They had been on the go for the best part of the past 12 months and a championship game in April would have been a big ask.

Whereas in the Premier senior championship you could boil it down to maybe four teams who would be likely to end up as champions.

In the Senior A competition, it is this observer’s belief that it’s a lot more difficult to boil it down to that number.

If a gun was put to the head one might be inclined to suggest that Charleville and O’Neill’s are at the front of the grid.

More in this section

Sponsored Content