FOR 45 minutes of their third-round victory over Midleton, Imokilly gave a timely illustration of why they have been Cork SHC title holders for the past two years and why they are favourites to complete the three-in-a-row in the latter stages of next month.
In a game that was seen as a big banana skin for the East Cork divisional unit, they blitzed the team they had beaten in last season’s final with some sublime point-taking and seemed to be sauntering towards the finish line.
But it proved to be not as simple as it looked and a four-goal blast from Midleton in a 10-minute spell made things very uncomfortable for the reigning champions.
However, they upped the ante again and ran out fairly comfortable winners in the end.
However, team boss Fergal Condon, whilst delighted with the handsome return of 0-34, was not happy with the concession of those four goals.
“No, not at all, we took our eye off the ball and got complacent and gave away some sloppy goals. In the end it did not matter but it was something that annoyed all of us, players and management and on another day you could have been severely punished.
“But it happened and we have got on with it since, addressed it in training and, hopefully, it’s something we won’t allow to happen again.
“We were delighted with the result against Midleton, 34 points is great scoring but you have to be fully concentrated for the 60 minutes and in this championship you can be punished if you are not.’’
Since that victory over Midleton, Imokilly have had a couple of challenge games that provided the panel with useful game time.
“Yes, we played two games, one against De La Salle from Waterford and we had a good game with Éire Óg Nenagh last Sunday in Mallow.
“We were without some players in both games because they were in action with their clubs, the O’Neill’s and Castlelyons lads last Sunday but we had Paudie O’Sullivan back and Dan Mangan and that was a big boost for us.
“Obviously, that gives us more options and more headaches too in selecting the first 15 but that’s something you want, plenty of competition.
“Everybody wants to play in this squad we have a strong one and there’s a great desire among all the players.’’
Now it’s Sars, another opponent from within the division and Condon is expecting a mighty challenge.
“Look, there’s fierce talent throughout the Sars club, that was emphasised last week when they qualified for the semi-final of the intermediate championship.
“There’s a rich vein of talent in that club, all the way up and we know that they’ll be all out to stop us on Saturday.
“We also know that if we don’t play for any period in that game they are the one side that will really take advantage.
“They have players who have four county senior medals, very experienced and some very good, younger players too.
“We played them in the semi-final two years ago, beat them by 4-17 to 4-10 after a replay so they know all about us.
“They’ll hurt you if you are not right.’’ Win their next three games and Imokilly will be champions for the third year running, but that’s not even mentioned in East Cork, according to Condon.
“Others might talk about it but our only focus is the next match and as that happens to be Sars they and nothing else are what we are thinking about.
“How can you talk about another title when there’s still three games to be won to do that. We’ll go in against Sars confident but very cautious too because you are coming up against a very serious opposition here.”
With the availability again of O’Sullivan and Mangan, the Imokilly management have a few big calls to make in advance of Saturday’s game. Will the status quo prevail from the win over Midleton or will there be alterations to the attack?
O’Sullivan’s scoring record for the champions over the past few years has been phenomenal, scoring 10-79 but whether he starts or not, his availability after missing the Midleton game through injury is a huge boost.