Hurling clubs from East Cork and the city will be the leading contenders for the Seán Óg Murphy cannister

Hurling clubs from East Cork and the city will be the leading contenders for the Seán Óg Murphy cannister
Midleton's James Nagle is tackled by Blackrock's Ger Regan. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

THE Cork County SHC swings into action this weekend with a preliminary round clash featuring Erin’s Own and Ballymartle.

Despite the perception that the championship is not what it used to be, the days when the big city clubs, the Barrs, the Glen and the Rockies tore strips off each other and the rest tried to reach the heights that they did, there is still a buzz of anticipation at the beginning of a new campaign.

The games of today might not contain the cut and thrust of a bygone era and the aforementioned three don’t figure as prominently on the winner’s podium as they used to.

The championship also might not feature the household names of yesteryear when club players were nearly as well known as today’s inter-county stars.

However, the skill factor, the speed and movement of the players, the preparation stakes, and so on, are much greater now and the list of runners and rides contain more potential winners.

East Cork is now the dominant region where the more fancied teams are concerned with Sars, Midleton and Imokilly leading the way.

In the modern era, Erin’s Own won a few county titles too and only the Glen have carried the city flag with any great distinction, winning two great titles in 2015 and 2016.

Those two occasions were extra special for an iconic club and it was well worth the admission fee alone to witness the emotional scenes in the aftermath and the subsequent homecoming to Blackpool.

One has no doubt that it would be a similar story in Togher or in the hurling homes around Church Road if the Barrs and the Rockies could bridge a gap that is all too long in those places.

Of course, hope springs eternal and the Rockies contested a final two years ago and that has provided optimism going forward.

The Barrs had one or two good days last season but came up short in the quarter-final against the Rockies.

But things are beginning to stir again in the city and that is necessary to make the championship more competitive.

Douglas have the necessary potential to challenge the best, Na Piarsaigh have a lot of very good young players coming through as well and the club itself will have been boosted by the win of the footballers at the weekend over Aghada.

At this point in time, you would have to suggest that Imokilly, Sars and Midleton are the front runners again for the ultimate prize but it would be a positive for Cork hurling, in general, to have a city club up there alongside them in a more challenging position.

The Glen lit the fuse a few years ago, set the standard and had the desire. You must recall the base they were coming from, a trouncing in the 2014 final by Sars.

So, in winning for the next two years they exhibited a resolve that should be the wind beneath the sails of the others.

The belief is the city clubs are narrowing the gap and there is cautious room for optimism.

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