IT may now be the third tier of Cork hurling but that should in no way diminish its status.
The Premier grade of the Cork County IHC contains some quality teams and the opening weekend of the delayed season should provide us with exciting fare.
As is the case now across the county in all grades, there are some potentially very good games to look forward to.
Courcey Rovers v Carrigaline, Kinsale, 5pm:
Courceys were unlucky to lose to Charleville in a replayed county final two years ago but lost both of their championship games last season.
Carrigaline reached the quarter-final last season, losing a high-scoring game to Kilworth.
Rob O’Shea will be a key figure for them while Sean Twomey has bags of promise for the Ballinspittle outfit.
This one will be a battle all the way and if Courcey Rovers are reinvented, they might prevail.
Verdict: Courcey Rovers.
Aghada v Youghal, Killeagh, 5pm:
There is an East Cork derby featuring Aghada and Youghal in Killeagh at 5pm on Saturday and as with all games like this, it’s difficult to call.
Aghada have had a difficult time recently with the sad passing of club great Kieran O’Connor and they’ll want to do well for him.
They will look to the experience of Will Leahy and Michael Russell to lead by example while Youghal will hope that Bill Cooper is on top of his game.
Others like John Grace, Richie Cunningham and young gun Jake Cooper are other key players but they have had a few difficult years in the seaside town club.
Aghada might be that bit stronger.
Valley Rovers v Ballinhassig, Riverstick, 2pm:
Another Carrigdhoun derby that has all the ingredients of being another hard-fought battle.
Ballinhassig lost both of their championship outings last season whilst Valley Rovers reached the quarter-final after losing their opener to Kilworth.
Chris O’Leary on one side for Valley Rovers and Fintan O’Leary on the other for Ballinhassig will be important contributors.
It’s a case of must do a bit better for both sides.
Verdict: Valley Rovers.
Watergrasshill v Ballincollig, Blarney, 2pm:
Ballincollig lost to champions O’Neill’s in the first round last season, defeated Courceys in round two before losing to Valley Rovers subsequently.
They have former Ballyhea star, Barry Coleman in their ranks this year and his experience could be vital. Cian Dorgan is back hurling as well.
Robbie Bourke, Sean Walsh, Liam Jennings and JP Murphy are a quartet of fine hurlers and they’ll be slightly fancied against a Hill side that will include Shane Óg Regan and Shane O’Regan.
The Hill lost to Fr O’Neill’s in the quarter-final last season but were not easily beaten.
This could be one of the better games.
Inniscarra v Blarney, Coachford, 5pm:
A Mid Cork derby encounter where no quarter will be asked or given. These teams would know each other well given their close proximity and this might be a battle all the way.
As with all games across the county, there is no known form to go on, no league guide as such.
Cork stars, Sean O’Donoghue and Mark Coleman will be on opposite sides here and will, obviously, be key players as will Inniscarra’s Colm Casey.
Blarney have Shane Barrett and Padraig Power in their ranks too and might prevail.
Castlelyons v Blackrock, Lisgoold, 7pm:
Anthony and Colm Spillane will be vital to Castlelyons cause while the Rockies will look to a lot of the players that won the lower grade last season.
With their senior team out first against Erin’s Own, they won’t select until after that.
Castlelyons might nick it.