SATURDAY: SHC quarter-final: Sarsfields v Imokilly, Páirc Uí Rinn, 6.45pm.
THE three-in-a-row seeking champions Imokilly against the four-time winners over the last 11 years. Yes, it’s all set up for what is potentially the match of the year.
Imokilly will start favourites but that stands for little in a game of this magnitude and Sars would love nothing better to thwart them in their ambition of taking possession of the old trophy again.
Imokilly looked near invincible for 45 minutes against Midleton in the third-round, rifling over points from every imaginable angle.
However, a lapse in concentration allowed Midleton in for four goals and from being a stroll in the park for the holders suddenly became a very tricky situation.
But they pushed on again and ran out comfortable winners by six points in the end. But there was an annoyance in the camp over the concession of those goals, some of them very sloppy.
That will have been addressed in training and they have played two challenge games since that night in Carrigtwohill, against De La Salle Waterford and Éire Óg Nenagh.
They have been boosted too by the return of Paudie O’Sullivan and Dan Mangan, adding considerably to their attacking options.
Sars had been extremely cautious going in against Douglas in their third-round assignment but came through in admirable fashion without setting the world alight.
They relied heavily on that occasion on Eoin O’Sullivan’s excellent free-taking but scoring just seven points from play might have been something that was addressed subsequently.
They will be aware of how the Imokilly defence was breached for those goals against Midleton and will try to nick one or two themselves.
Alan Kennedy, in goal, Craig Leahy, Willie Kearney, Conor O’Sullivan, Danny Kearney, Tadgh Óg Murphy are very experienced hurlers while Jack O’Connor, Liam Healy, Luke Hackett and Aaron Myers provide a younger dimension to the side.
They had too much for Douglas coming down the stretch but this will require much more if they are to dethrone the champions. But there’s no side around more capable and they’ll prioritise curbing the obvious threat of Seamus Harnedy, Brian Lawton, probably Paudie O’Sullivan and Deccie Dalton.
Further back, Bill Cooper and Mark O’Keeffe are an industrious duo and there are few if any weak links in this Imokilly team. Colm Barry is an experienced defender and there are alternatives in all sectors spread across the panel.
Sars will be bursting to exploit the slightest sign of lethargy.
Given Sars’ own status it won’t be a surprise if they win but, at the same time, it’s hard to oppose the divisional side and they get the nod.