THE school of thought in quite a few quarters in advance of the clash of Imokilly and Midleton in the Cork Senior Hurling Championship was that if the holders were going to be halted in their quest for three titles on the trot, this was the game when it might happen.
They hadn’t played championship hurling for four months, they were coming up against a side that should have been highly motivated after their loss to the same opponents in last season’s final and they had a far more recent championship game under their belt against Ballymartle.
At the very least, the club team would really rattle the champions cage in Carrigtwohill on Sunday night, it was perceived.
One could say that they did when they smashed in four goals in a 10-minute spell in the second half to reduce what was a one-time 14-point gap down to just three.
For a few fleeting moments, we thought it was really game on, but Imokily exhibited one more time why they have been champions for the past two years and why they are red hot favourites to take back the trophy again.
They simply reinvented themselves with a few more points and as they say, that my friends was that.
Credit to Midleton for securing those goals and for giving the huge attendance at the splendid venue something a bit more to talk about as they headed back to the four corners of the division.
In the end, Imokilly had put up 34 scores as against 20 for Midleton and while Fergal Condon, Sean Harnedy, Jimmy Smiddy, Derek Barrett, and Ciaran Cronin will be very annoyed with the concession of four goals at a time when they were just sauntering to victory, this game was all about the power and the awesome, attacking potential in the team.
They went in here without five of last season’s winning team and it must be noted that three of them were superb defenders in Colm Spillane, Ciaran O’Brien, and Niall O’Leary.
Maybe their presence might have prevented some of those Midleton goals.
Paudie O’Sullivan was marked absent from the attack too and he scored 2-1 in the final of 2018.
But the relentless pursuit of another title goes on and while there are no guarantees at all going forward, all the more so after Croke Park last Sunday afternoon, the east Cork team are going to take some stopping now.
Their score-taking last Sunday night was simply a joy to behold from Deccie Dalton, he didn’t feature in the final line-up last season, Seamie Harnedy and Brian Lawton, in particular, who had a splendid match.
John Cronin and Mark O’Keeffe were two of the rest of the scorers and 34 points, 24 from play is some return.
Midleton, despite their four-goal comeback, will be fiercely disappointed and their lethargy prior to that was baffling.
The question will now, of course, be posed, who can halt Imokilly in their tracks?
Can they be beaten, of course they can, Dublin were regarded as near-invincible going into Croke Park against Kerry and we all know how close they were to being beaten.
Of the eight sides still standing in the SHC, the Glen and Sars would be the two most favoured sides to halt Imokilly.
Sars were delighted to get past Douglas last Saturday night in a contest that never ignited.
Douglas again did not realise the potential in their team and that has to be a worry for them.
For Sars it was all about getting the job done and they did that without being overly convincing.
Of their 19-point tally, 12 came off the placed ball with just seven coming from open play.
That might be something they’ll look to address before the quarter-final.
But there’s reason to believe that there’s more in this Sars team.
There’s a hell of a lot of experience in the side and that’s backed up with previous county titles.
They defended resolutely against Douglas, got their right men to do certain jobs and having got this game out of the way, one that they were extremely wary of, they’ll be all the better for it.
Overall, the games over the past weekend did not set the pulses racing but Ballyhea and Bishopstown will be delighted with their efforts.
For Ballyea, in particular, to be in the last eight is a huge achievement coming from the base they were at after being absolutely hammered by the Rockies.
Who would have thought then that they’d be in the last eight and that the Rockies would be gone for the year.
They are still rank outsiders but they’ll be in the top-flight of the SHC next season and that’s a great boost for them.
Bishopstown had a poor championship 12 months ago, winning just the one game against Kanturk but now they have beaten Newtownshandrum and UCC, two fine victories for them and two that will give them plenty of confidence going forward.
In many ways it’s turning out to be a strange championship. The pairings for the third-round decreed that some of the more leading fancies would depart as Douglas and Midleton did over the weekend.
The Rockies had already departed which meant that three of the so called bigger guns had been silenced.
Not too many would have envisaged that Ballyhea and Carrigtwohill would have made it into the final eight but they have and credit to them for that.