THE Cork county hurling championship swung back into action last Sunday night, with two second-round games, and it will intensify over the coming weekend, with more games in the second- and third-rounds.
Imokilly remain the favourites to win the title, for the third year running, and whilst that tag is justified, it’s no racing certainty.
Plenty of other teams will have a say on whether they can accomplish what would be a unique feat. The last club to do so was St Finbarr’s, back in 1980, ’81, and ’82.
A couple of doubles have been achieved since by the Rockies, the Glen, Midleton, and Erin’s Own, and Imokilly did it as well, in 1997 and 1998. The two best club sides in the more recent past have been Sarsfields and Newtownshandrum, who have four titles each to their credit since 2000, but they failed to put back-to-back titles together.
Even retaining a title is very difficult, as both of them found out, not to mind winning three years running, so we’ll just have to wait and see how Imokilly get on in their quest.
The two games over last weekend, and the outcome of them caused some surprise.
Newtownshandrum versus Newcestown was pencilled in as one that, in all probability, would go right to the wire, whilst Killeagh were confidently expected to see off Carrigtwohill.
Newtown’ got the better of Newcestown, but the manner of their victory really caught the eye. They drove home six goals in their seven-point triumph.
One has to go all the way back to 2013, and Avondhu against Carbery, since a team in the Cork SHC fired in six goals, the north Cork team winning that game 6-15 to 0-13.
Putting six goals past a team like Newcestown — a side never easily beaten and one that ran Imokilly so close last season — was a considerable achievement for Newtown’ but, of course, it guarantees nothing in the next round, against the Rockies.
Jame Coughlan banged in a hat-trick last Sunday night and set up two more, so Fergal Ryan, Wayne Sherlock, and the rest of the Rockies management will have taken particular notice of that.
This is a much-changed Newtown team from other times, with very good players, like Ryan Clifford, Jack Herlihy, Cathal Naughton, and others no longer involved.
And in a small club, the loss of players like that can be huge, but Coughlan remains one of the best club hurlers in the county.
They would still be down the pecking order in the list of contenders, but this was a message that they haven’t gone away.
Carrigtwohill, a team annihilated by the ’Barrs in their opening round, scored just eight points against a Killeagh side that gave a fine account of themselves in losing to Na Piarsaigh by just three points in their opener.
The reports coming out of the Carrig camp, during the week, were not great and there was certainly no great optimism about, even if it was an east Cork derby.
But one thing we do know, being from east Cork, is that there has always been a spirit and character in Carrig’, going back all the years to the great teams of the ’60s and the great men who wore the jersey.
And who will ever forget that day of days, back in 2011, when they took home the old trophy to the village?
This was a huge win for them, a huge win for the club itself, and fair play to them, and their joy in the aftermath was justified.
They’ll not win the county, but this will lift a lot of things in this great club. They had Keith Ricken at the helm and what a 24 hours it was for him, after Portlaoise on Saturday, with the Cork U20 footballers, and how impressive were his words, afterwards, when reflecting on the win over their east Cork neighbours?
He’s first and foremost a Vincent’s man, but he’ll give a 110% to whatever team he’s involved with.
Carrig’ have Bandon up next and the west Cork team will not take them lightly.
The old championship is still thriving.