It might not be as prestigious anymore but the little All-Ireland still has great appeal

It might not be as prestigious anymore but the little All-Ireland still has great appeal
Imokilly's Bill Cooper shoots from Midleton's Cormac Walsh last season. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

THE debate, for now anyway, is over, the well-documented proposals, A, B and C have been voted upon and now it’s time to get down to some serious action on the field of play.

Once upon a time it used to be known as Cork’s Little All-Ireland, the battle to determine who would emerge at the end of the season with the cherished Sean Og Murphy Cup.

The city clubs, well three of them, in particular, ruled the roost back then but the landscape is much changed now.

The dominant force in the more recent past has been East Cork, both at club and divisional level with Erins Own, Sars, Midleton and Imokilly all putting their inscription on the old trophy.

Erin's Own's Eoghan Murphy gathers the ball from Ballymartle's Eoghan O'Leary. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Erin's Own's Eoghan Murphy gathers the ball from Ballymartle's Eoghan O'Leary. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

However, at the beginning of a new season, one that begins in earnest next weekend there is renewed optimism across the city and county and quite a few of the participants will be cautiously optimistic that this can be their year.

There are those from the older generation that might still favour a straight knockout championship where the slightest margin of error is ruled out from the outset.

Those games might have contained a more cut and thrust approach where there was no safety net of a second game unless it was a replay.

Well, we have moved on a good distance from that and that is for the better.

You just couldn’t have players breaking their backsides in preparation for months and then the whole thing was gone up in smoke after just one game and you spent the rest of the year going to the beach on a Summer Sunday.

No, what we have now is much better and here in Cork from 2020 onwards it will, hopefully, get better with the new formation, Proposal A which was adopted by the decision of the Cork County Board delegates.

However, that’s for next season and this weekend we can, hopefully, look forward to some cracking games.

That applies to all the grades. Who can go on to succeed Charleville as PIHC winners and Cloughduv as junior winners.

The burning question in the senior grade is, of course, who can stop Imokilly from completing a hat-trick of titles.

They have their early season work done already as have UCC in the divisions/colleges section and we won’t see them in action again until maybe August.

The clubs now have the stage to themselves and we could have some crackers on Friday, Saturday and Sunday of the weekend.

The pick of the opening games in the SHC seems to be the collision of Midleton and the Glen, two of the more recent winners of the trophy.

This is a repeat of their clash from last season when Midleton edged it by a point in the third-round, 1-18 to 0-20.

Not for the first time the focus of attention will be on two of the best forwards in the country, Patrick Horgan on one side and Conor Lehane on the other.

That’s not being disrespectful to the other28 players but when you have two of the best in the business in opposition it can all boil down to which one of them has the bigger say.

In Midleton’s 2013 victory, Lehane was the showstopper with a haul of 2-10 in their final win over Sars.

In the Glen’s 2015 and 2016 victories Horgan was a massive scoring influence on both final days.

A quality forward on either side can make the difference and that has been illustrated down the years.

When Midleton won in 2013 with a young team the expectation was that they’d win another one or two more but that hasn’t happened.

They reached the final last season but fell well short of their own high standard and were a well-beaten docket at the finish.

However, they will use that heartbreak this season to try and make up for that and there are some of the finest, young hurlers in the county coming to the forefront for them.

The Glen will always be the Glen, a great club with a great history and they are building again after their 2015 and 2016 wins.

There is a strong blend of youth and experience in the side and when you have warriors like Graham Callanan and Paddy Cunningham still putting it in, they will not be found wanting in trying to uphold the great traditions of the club.

Sars, have won more titles in the past 11 years since any other team, four since 2008 and that is some going.

They have lost in finals as well but they remain a very formidable force, some of the thinking being that they represent the biggest threat to Imokilly’s dominance.

They go in against Kanturk this weekend and will be hot favourites but nothing is a given.

The ‘Barrs are now into their 26th year without a title and for a club of that stature, that is a pity.

They showed great promise last season when ousting a very fancied Douglas team but they could not carry the form of that day forward.

They’ll be hot favourites, however against Carrigtwohill and any genuine hurling person would love to see the blue-clad brigade challenging again at the business end of the season.

Douglas and Bride Rovers could well be another of the opening round’s best game.

Mark Landers will drive the Rathcormac side on and traditionally they are a side no opposition fancies going in against.

A lot of very good, young hurlers are emerging in the club and there is still a solid backbone to the side.

Douglas will be very wary going in here and Riverstown next Saturday night might well be worth a visit for this one.

Na Piarsaigh had a season to forget in 2018, gone in the second round but the word from Farranree is that the ship has been turned away from the choppy seas it found itself in.

They face Killeagh on Sunday and this could be an interesting one, both sides with a lot of good youngsters.

This is a big weekend for Cork club hurling and for us, the older generation, there are some great memories from the Cork SHC and, hopefully, we’ll have a lot more in the weeks and months that will follow.

Yes, there is something special about Cork’s Little All-Ireland.

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