THE countdown to the start of the Cork County SHC intensifies with every passing day and with that there is always a sense of anticipation.
It’s a much-changed championship now from what it once was. Long gone is the city dominance of it and long gone too are the crowds who were in attendance.
Long gone too are the days when the champions impacted on the provincial stage and here’s a quite staggering statistic, only two Cork club teams have been successful in the Munster Club Championship arena in the past 32 years, Midleton in 1987 and Newtownshandrum twice in the 2000’s.
Both clubs won the All-Ireland as well in that time but it’s been a paltry return on both fronts.
Now as we get ready to embark on another campaign it might be worthwhile to reflect on matters over the past 12 years.
We say 12 because that takes in Sarsfields return to the top table of Cork hurling after a very lengthy absence, 51 years to be exact.
Since their breakthrough in 2008 they have been a constant presence at the business end of the vast majority of campaigns.
Youth was given its fling that year, having won the minor title the year before, quite a few of those players were elevated on to the senior stage and whilst it was a gamble, it worked the oracle as they defeated near neighbours Bride Rovers by just a point in the final.
That outcome was the launching pad for some great success and they subsequently won the title three more times in a quick space of time.
They never managed to retain it but they were a powerful force in that time and, of course, they still are.
They didn’t win a provincial title but that should not take away from what they achieved at home.
Of course, that victory of theirs in 2008 marked the beginning of a very successful era for East Cork clubs and the divisional unit.
Carrigtwohill, Midleton and Imokilly shared six titles between them and it took the Glen in 2015 and 2016 to break their stranglehold.
Carrigtwohill’s victory in 2011 has been well documented, rank outsiders but coming through the field to pass the post in first place.
When Midleton won the title in 2013 there was a perception that they’d become a force again for a while and win at least one or two more titles.
But that has not happened and they have disappointed quite a bit in some of the years since They lost a final to Imokilly a few years back and came up short against them last season too, allowing the divisional team to build up a substantial advantage before pegging it back.
But the damage had been done.
Now Ben O’Connor has been brought in to try and get them back on course The Glen’s victories in 2015 and 2016 were a breath of fresh air, all the more so because of what transpired in 2014 when they never turned up against Sars in the final.
They were written off in some quarters after that defeat but that great, old spirit of the club was reinvented and the team that blew them away a year earlier were now at the receiving end a year later.
That 2015 victory was a masterclass, superbly led on the field by Graham Callanan and by Richie Kelleher off it, it was the Glen in all their finery.
They retained the title a year later and lost narrowly to Imokilly last season.
Huge credit must be given to everyone in Blackpool for turning the ship around after it ran aground in 2014.
Since then it’s been all Imokilly, winning three-in-a-row and going for four in a few weeks time.
It does not sit easily in some quarters that a divisional team is so dominant and some might not have them in the championship at all.
That’s an argument we won’t go into again but the East Cork division has been so successful because of how well they are organised.
True, they have some strong club units to draw from but that’s the case in all divisions.
It does not happen with the others anymore because the organisation and the effort is not the same as it is in Imokilly.
So what will this season’s delayed championship bring? Who knows how teams will react on the opening weekend to playing in front of 200 people.
It will certainly be strange but the Cork County SHC is something we always look forward to.
This time it’s a two-tier championship played on a round-robin basis.
That will bring its own dimension and with just two teams emerging from the groups, the margin for error is lessened considerably.
The Round-Robin format in the province has been a spectacular success and maybe our own championship will be too.
And at the end of it all if there’s a new name on the trophy that hasn’t been there for quite some time, all the better.
We look forward to it.