WITH no club championship activity until August, the Red FM Senior Hurling League takes on that bit more significance for the clubs.
The competition this season has changed quite a lot in so far as there is a cut-off point in mid July for the group stage and the County Board plan to have it concluded in its entirety before the championship resumes.
That will mean, of course, if Cork continue to progress in the championship arena the clubs will have to continue to line out without their inter-county players. Some clubs don’t have any representation on the Cork squad while others have quite a few players involved.
That situation gives the various team management groups the opportunity to give all their players a chance to put their hand up for inclusion when the championship gets up and running again.
Sars are the holders of the title and on the trail of three titles on the trot and going quite well in that quest. They were clear leaders in the Division 1 table, having played 10 games, winning seven, drawing one and losing two.
Next best were the Barrs, playing eight games, winning six, drawing one and losing two putting them on 34 points.
Na Piarsaigh are going quite well too, playing eight, winning six and drawing two and on 32 points.
They are followed by Bride Rovers, Bishopstown, Midleton, Newtown and the Rockies.
At the basement, Ballinhassig had just two draws from seven games, putting them on 12 points with Douglas just above them with one win and two draws from six outings and on 12 points.
Both, obviously, will need to step it up a bit if they are not to be involved in a relegation battle.
There’s an added incentive for the clubs this season in so far as they get one point for turning up and four points for the win.
Na Piarsaigh selector Bill Kelleher believes that the secondary competition is more structured this time and believes the County Board must take credit for that.
“To be fair, we now have a start time and a proper cut-off time with the top two teams making it through to the final.
“I believe that all the clubs have bought into the new structure and the games are running along nice and smoothly.
“From our perspective, it’s giving us an opportunity to try out the younger members of the squad and here in Piarsaigh there is far more interest this year.
“Obviously, clubs are playing without their inter-county players but everybody is in the same boat.
“We have four games to play, I think, against Douglas, Bishopstown, Sars and the Barrs and, of course, it’s all leading up to our championship game with the Barrs in August.
“That’s going to be big city derby and I am sure no effort will be spared by either of us in trying to get a result in that game.
“But it’s so far, so good where we are concerned and the important thing is that the players are getting regular games.”
Sarsfields club secretary Jim Murphy was in full agreement, telling the Echo that the Riverstown club have always put great store into the league.
“We have, we have won it for the past two years and we are going well again this time.
“There’s a nice financial reward for the winners of 4,000 euros and that is money put back into the club.
“Here in Riverstown we have an awful lot of players participating now and the SHL certainly provides them with the opportunity of getting meaningful game time.
“We don’t have our Cork players but others are now getting their chance to stake a claim, players on the fringes etc.
“We’d be a strong supporter of the SHL and we try our best in it all the time.’’ And, of course, it’s all a building exercise towards their big championship showdown with Douglas in August.
“That’s the big game for us and Douglas will say the same. This league is perfect preparation towards that because we know that we will face a huge challenge from Douglas.
“It would be nice to be going into that game with another league title behind us but we will see how it goes and take every game as it comes along.”