WHEN the Cork County Board correctly reduced from three to two the number of teams that would progress from the group stages of the senior hurling championship, it added more pressure for the participants.
It meant that first-game losers would know that another loss would all but end their season.
And that’s the way it is for a number of clubs in the Premier SHC this weekend. It’s a make-or-break situation.
Premier SHC, Midleton v Ballyhea, Fermoy, 7.30pm
Having lost to Sarsfields and Douglas, respectively, the pressure has increased on Midleton and Ballyhea. Midleton were disappointed to lose to their east Cork rivals, when they seemed to be in the driving seat.
However, they will take positives from the game and will be favourites here. Ballyhea made Douglas earn their win and Midleton should not underestimate them.
Conor Lehane was in good form for Midleton last week, while Luke O’Farrell posted a good goal. Pa Callaghan and Kevin Copps are big players for Ballyhea, but it’s hard to oppose Midleton.
TOMORROW: Premier SHC, Sarsfields v Douglas, Páirc Uí Chaoimh, 7.45pm
Sars were impressive in their win over Midleton and will be fancied here, too. Danny Kearney filled the centre-back slot very well, while Liam Healy was outstanding. James Sweeney did well, too, and both got great scores.
Douglas had Alan Cadogan in splendid form against Ballyhea, while Shane Kingston and Mark Harrington got good points, too.
The top spot in the group is on offer here and Sars should take it.
Premier SHC, Erin’s Own v Bishopstown, Páirc Uí Rinn, 7.30pm
Bishopstown lost a very significant lead against Newtown last Sunday and recovering won’t be easy. Erin’s Own came back strongly against Blackrock in their opener, but lost out by a few points.
There’s a lot of experience on both teams, with Brian and Tomas Murray, Pa Cronin, and Diarmuid Lester key for the ’Town.
Robbie O’Flynn was in top form for Erin’s Own, while Cian O’Connor, Stephen Cronin, and goalkeeper, Shay Bowen, are big players, too.
Erin’s Own might shade this one.
Verdict: Erin’s Own.
Premier SHC, Glen Rovers v Carrigtwohill, Cobh, 2pm
The Glen were outstanding against the ’Barrs, while Carrig’ got a fine point against Na Piarsagh.
The Glen, however, will be very fancied here, especially as Patrick Horgan is in sublime form.
Simon Kennefick got two great goals last weekend and, overall, this is a strong Glen unit.
Carrig’ were disappointed not to take full points against Na Piarsaigh, but Liam Gosnell, Tomas Hogan, and former Cork great, Niall McCarthy, who came in as a sub, did well.
They’ll take a lot from that game, but the Glen get the vote.
Verdict: Glen Rovers.
Premier SHC, St Finbarr’s v Na Piarsaigh, Páirc Uí Rinn, 2pm
A make-or-break tie for the ’Barrs, who were very poor against the Glen, making hardly any impact up-front.
This is a huge game for the club and the players just have to stand up and be counted.
Na Piarsaigh depended on a last-gasp point to draw with Carrigtwohill and they must be better, too.
They’ll look to Evan Sheehan, Shane Forde, Daire Connery, and Kevin Moynihan, while the ’Barrs will look again to Eoin Keane, Eoghan Finn, Damien Cahalane, brother Conor and Billy Hennessy.
A huge game for both and a must-win for the Togher team.
If the ’Barr’s improve significantly, they might get the win, but they must be a lot better this time.
Premier SHC: Blackrock v Newtownshandrum, Mallow, 2pm.
Newtown will be buoyant after their victory over Bishopstown, all the more so because of the manner of it.
They showed great character and the Rockies face a big test here.
These two met again last season and Newtown ended the Rockies’ season.
Win or lose here, both will still be in the chase, but a win for either and they’ll be through.
Jamie Coughlan, Dermot McCarthy, Conor Twomey, Cormac O’Brien, and Jerry O’Mahony are vital for Newtown, while the Rockies will look again to Alan Connolly, outstanding last week, Ciaran Cormack, Tadgh Deasy, and Stephen Murphy.
Could be the match of the weekend, with the Rockies just about taking it.