NEXT weekend promises to be one like no other in the history of Cork GAA – until the following one, of course.
Across Friday, Saturday and Sunday, a total of 30 hurling games will be played as the group stages culminate in premier senior, senior A, premier intermediate, intermediate A and lower intermediate, leaving eight quarter-finalists to battle it out.
With so many games having been played in such a short space of time, it’s not easy to keep track of the state of play in the various groups and so we are going to take you through them one by one to examine the various permutations that can be realised with the final rounds of fixtures.
Today, it’s premier senior and senior A, with the three intermediate grades covered on Tuesday.
GROUP A: Sarsfields have beaten both Midleton and Douglas to earn qualification for the quarter-finals and, with the Magpies and the city side playing each other, the winners would be unable to overtake Sars as the head-to-head record would be in the Glanmire club’s favour.
As a result, they are guaranteed to top the group and Ballyhea will finish bottom, but the North Cork outfit will hope to win to have a chance of avoiding the relegation play-off.
Ultimately, the Midleton-Douglas game is a play-off for second place and a quarter-final spot, though Midleton have a better scoring-difference, meaning that they would advance with a draw.
GROUP B: Similar to group A, Blackrock have top spot secured as they have beaten the two other sides that can still qualify. Currently, the Rockies have a scoring difference of 16, which is 11 better than Sars, so they will hope to secure the semi-final spot that goes to the group winner with the best record.
Their opponents, bottom side Bishopstown, have a scoring-difference of minus-five compared to minus-22 for Ballyhea, so they will be favourites to miss out on the relegation game.
Otherwise, it’s a straight shootout between Erin’s Own and Newtownshandrum for second, with the Glounthaune side having the edge on the side they beat in the 2007 county final in terms of scoring-difference.
GROUP C: The only top-tier group where first place isn’t already decided, as current table-toppers Glen Rovers (four points) meet second-placed Na Piarsaigh (three). The Glen have a scoring-diffrence of 16 and so another big win could give them the semi-final spot but anything other than a defeat will guarantee them top spot.
A draw would be sufficient for Na Piarsaigh to finish second and of course a win for them would leave them top and the Glen second.
However, if the Glen were to win, Carrigtwohill – currently on one point – could qualify if they were to beat St Finbarr’s and effect a turnaround in scoring-difference.
Currently, Piarsaigh have a difference of 12 and Carrig minus-2, so a 14-point swing is needed. The Barrs have a scoring difference of minus-26 and so they look like being in the relegation play-off unless they can get a big victory.
GROUP A: Wins for Kanturk against Newcestown and Cloyne have guaranteed them first place and they will look to secure a semi-final spot against Killeagh, who have lost to the other pair.
Newcestown will take on Cloyne with the advantage in scoring-difference, so a draw would suffice to send them through but otherwise, it’s effectively a knockout game for a quarter-final spot.
GROUP B: Charleville have beaten Mallow and Bandon and currently top the group ahead of their clash with Fermoy, who share second place with Bandon but have a better scoring-difference.
A win or a draw will give Charleville first place, though a Fermoy victory would bring them level on points with the 2018 premier intermediate champions. If Bandon were to then overcome Mallow, there would be a three-way tie at the top and scoring difference would come into play.
By the same token, if Charleville and Mallow were to win, there would be a three-way tie for second place. If Fermoy and Mallow won, Fermoy would be top and Mallow would finish third ahead of Bandon thanks to the head-to-head records. Victories for Charleville and Bandon would leave them first and second respectively.
GROUP C: A similar scenario to group B, with the leaders facing one of the sides tied for second place. Fr O’Neills have seen off Kilworth and Bride Rovers already and will be top if they avoid defeat.
In such a scenario, victory for Bride against winless Kilworth would give them second with a Kilworth victory resulting in a three-way battle for second based on scoring-difference.
Wins for Bride and Ballymartle would have the top three level, while victories for Ballymartle and Kilworth, currently third and fourth respectively, would see them finish first and third with O’Neills in second.