OVER the past 12 years the Cork County Senior Hurling Championship has been the preserve of the few rather than the many.
Since 2008 just five clubs have been successful, Sarsfields, the Glen, Newtownshandrum, Midleton and Carrigtwohill.
Sars have won it on four occasions, 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2014, the Glen in 2015 and 2016 while Midleton landed the silvereware in 2013. Carrigtwohill were the unlikeliest but deserving winners in 2011 while Newtownshandrum took the honours in 2009.
On the other three occasions, 2017, 2018 and 2019, Imokilly have ruled the roost. In that time the Glen were the only club side to retain the title.
Newtown, similar to Sars, did not retain the title despite the fact that they won it four times since the turn of the century in 2000.
So the accomplishment of the Glen in putting back to back titles together was a fine achievement, all the more so because of what had happened in 2014 when they got trounced by Sarsfields.
Now with the clubs taking precedence over the counties in the coming months we pose the question, who might finish top of the pile this time.
Could there be a bolter from the back again like Carrigtwohill in 2011 when they laughed at the pre-season odds of 100/1.
The answer to that is very unlikely. In a previous column, we stated that the All-Ireland SHC was more wide open now than ever before with nine of the 10 participants all believing that they can win it.
Have we a similar amount of teams in the Cork SHC having that same type of belief?
Maybe we have and more but, realistically, it’s difficult to look beyond the few again, Imokilly, going for four-in-a-row, Sars, the Glen, the Rockies and Midleton.
In the next bracket, we’d include Erin’s Own and Douglas with the Barrs and Na Piarsaigh making an impact.
The Barrs have now gone 27 years since last landing the big prize and that’s a lifetime in Togher for a club of their stature.
They did reach the semi-final last season, losing by two goals to Imokilly and with a new team boss in Aidan Fitzpatrick, there will be no shortage of determination.
But have they got the type of balance that’s required to take the process to a successful conclusion?.
It’s been 18 years since another very big gun were top of the pile, the Rockies last being successful in 2002.
They were in the final a few years back against Imokilly but fell that bit short when the big questions were posed.
Losing last season to Newtown was a very big setback but winning the lower tier of the IHC will have given the club, in general, a much-needed impetus.
They have a lot of hurlers in the ranks down in Church Road now and they should be there or thereabouts again sooner rather than later.
Martin Bowen is back in charge in Caherlag with Erin’s Own and he’s going to raise the bar for them.
They did not have a productive season in 2019, gone in two games to Charleville and Kanturk, things will have to be better and they should be.
As we stated in a previous column, Imokilly will find things that bit more difficult this season because it’s more condensed and there could be an issue with some clubs in getting players released if that club is in the frame for honours.
And replacing key forwards like Paudie O’Sullivan and Deccie Dalton is a fairly big ask.
The Glen were very close last season and there’s no reason why they can’t be again this time.
And when they lose a final they have already illustrated how well they can recover.
Ben O’Connor will be a big addition to the Midleton backroom team and they should be in the hunt too.
They’ll need a big return from Conor Lehane, just like it was in 2013 when he almost singlehandedly won the title for them in the final against Sars.
For the past few years we have been talking Douglas up before a championship ball is pucked but each year they have not delivered Their potential is undoubted but potential wins nothing. It’s time for them now to finally start producing the goods.
The championship could certainly do with a new face and being without for so long now a Barrs, Rockies final would generate huge interest, a throwback to days of old and because it would an end a famine that’s lasting too long now in both clubs.
Maybe it will happen but the smarter money would still be on one from Imokilly, the Glen, Sars and Midleton.
The games will be coming a lot quicker this time because of the shorter time frame and that could make a difference.
And in the preparation stakes, the ground is a lot more level, all teams are starting out after a lengthy period of inactivity and they’ll have to hit the ground running a lot quicker with the margin for error lessened.