Champions Imokilly still have the hurlers to march back to another hurling final

Champions Imokilly still have the hurlers to march back to another hurling final
Imokilly's Seamus Harnedy during the parade before last year's county final. Can they march back there again? Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

THE clubs have shown their hand in the Premier Cork County SHC, having played two games thus far and people are beginning to assess their overall chance of success and how far they might eventually go.

It’s still very early days but the likelihood is that you could put down a couple of names that are likely to end up with the old trophy later on in the season.

For what it’s worth, our choices from the club sides are the Glen, Sarsfields, the Rockies and Midleton. Now we could be all wrong with that assessment and there are others quite capable of having a say as the winning post comes into sight.

That, of course, brings us to the title holders and four-in-a-row seeking Imokilly.

They haven’t entered the arena yet but will be doing so very shortly when they tackle the winners of last night's Duhallow and UCC game, the only other two participants in the divisions/colleges section.

It’s a pity that there are not more of those teams in the chase but that’s the way it is in this very condensed season.

Imokilly are odds on to be the team that will join the clubs in the knockout stages and, despite losing some key players from some clubs who are now participating in the Senior A competition, they are still the fancy of many to add another title to their success story of the past three years.

Maybe they will, maybe they won’t and if they come through their section they are into the last eight meaning that three more wins and they will be champions again.

Easier said than done, of course, and their great run of success is going to end, more than likely sooner rather than later.

In past seasons their preparation began very early in the year, as early as February when they began playing challenge games.

They did so too this year but then it all stopped for a few months because of Covid-19.

And when it all started up again it was the clubs who had the first few bites of the cherry, decreeing that the Imokilly players were fully concentrated in their club competitions.

Some of those clubs who contribute to the divisional team are going very well, clubs like Castlelyons, St Catherine’s and Castlemartyr, to mention just three who are already through to the knockout stages of their competitions.

Others like Aghada are still in with a shout which means that the Imokilly contingent are having to put all their eggs into the club basket.

What Imokilly have achieved up to now has been nothing short of phenomenal and it’s unlikely that their feat will ever again be repeated by a divisional team or any other team for that matter.

But one has a feeling that the longer it goes on the harder it gets and the loss of key players like Deccie Dalton, Mark O’Keeffe, Ger Millerick, Billy Dunne and Paudie Sullivan might be a factor.

They have plenty of more than adequate replacements but fitting in seamlessly might not be easy.

Of course, the hardcore will still be present, Colm Barry, Niall O’Leary, Bill Cooper, Brian Lawton, Seamie Harnedy, Colm Spillane, Will Leahy, John Cronin and others and that still gives them a very solid base.

However, will it be as easy to get players released this time if the players' clubs are chasing glory in their own competitions?

That may not be a problem at all and things will fit into place again as they have done over the past three years.

There is no doubt that, despite the loss of the aforementioned players, Imokilly will still be more than capable of fielding a very strong unit and if the motivation remains as it was, they will be very hard to halt in their tracks This Cork SHC has been a resounding success up to now and the decision to go with a group format was the correct one.

In fact, one cannot see it reverting back to anything else for quite some time.

The same goes for the other grades, all of them have been very competitive and so many clubs are going into the final group games with something to play for.

And those that cannot reach the knockout stages must go hell for leather in their last game to try and escape the clutches of relegation.

In everyday conversation with fellow hurling people, the question is usually posed, who will win the county?

Luke Horgan, Glen Rovers. putting pressure on Carrigtwohill players Liam O’Sullivan and Tomass Hogan in their Premier SHC match at Cobh. Picture: Dan Linehan
Luke Horgan, Glen Rovers. putting pressure on Carrigtwohill players Liam O’Sullivan and Tomass Hogan in their Premier SHC match at Cobh. Picture: Dan Linehan

In an era long gone you’d be correct in saying that it will be one from the three city clubs, the Glen, ‘Barrs and Rockies.

That’s all changed now and it’s far more open although the Glen and the Rockies are leading contenders now and the Glen have more than proved themselves in the past few seasons.

It is this column’s belief that when we reach the knockout stages the battle for the big prize will be fiercely intense.

It’s been a very long time since a team was going for four titles on the trot, the ‘Barrs being the last club in 1980, ’81 and ’82.

They didn’t get the four in ’83 but came back in ’84 to win it again Whatever people's opinions are of the Cork SHC, it is still extremely difficult to win and this season will be no exception.

Imokilly are up there to be shot at again, as they have been but the big question is, can the others knock them off their lofty perch?

Colin Barrett, St Finbarr’s, under pressure from Kevin Moynihan, Na Piarsaigh. Picture: Dan Linehan
Colin Barrett, St Finbarr’s, under pressure from Kevin Moynihan, Na Piarsaigh. Picture: Dan Linehan

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