THE MUNSTER Club SHC gets off the ground next Sunday, with Midleton heading for Walsh Park to take on Ballygunner.
It’s the second time in two years that the winners of the Cork County Championship won’t be competing, and their place taken by the runners-up.
It was the Rockies last year after they lost the final to Imokilly, and it’s a similar scenario this time with Midleton losing to the divisional unit.
It is far from an ideal situation, of course, and when you are not going in as your own county’s champions it is extremely difficult.
One can easily appreciate how difficult it might be to motivate yourself for a game that is coming so soon after losing a county final.
The draw hasn’t been kind to the Cork teams either. The Rockies had to travel to the Gaelic Grounds last season to tackle a crack Na Piarsaigh side, and the Cork team is away again, this time in Walsh Park, against a Ballygunner team that has proved itself head and shoulders above the rest in Waterford in recent times.
The one plus for a team in this situation — the one that the Rockies were in last season and now Midleton — is that few expect them to win, on the basis that they won’t be motivated enough. It’s very much a case of having very little to lose and a lot to gain.
Midleton have won this competition twice in the past, 1983 and 1987 so there is tradition there where the club is concerned.
It takes a good bit of time to get over losing a county final and the Magpies can approach this game in Walsh Park in two ways.
They can fulfil the fixture, go through the motions, and hope for an honourable defeat or they can decide to throw caution to the wind and have a right cut off the champions of Waterford.
Knowing the history of the club and the men that currently run the team, the likelihood is that it will be the latter, and they’ll put the disappointment of last Sunday week behind them and decide to give it their best shot and see how far it brings them.
Are Ballygunner a better side than Imokilly? Very unlikely — and their recent history in the competition is not good, runners-up on eight occasions after winning it for the only time in 2001.
Midleton will have learned a lot from losing to what was a crack Imokilly team, and if they get a positive start next Sunday who knows what might happen.
Cork’s recent record in this Munster Club Championship is not good, Newtownshandrum being the last winners in 2009.
In fact, we haven’t had a team in a final since.
That’s in stark contrast to the days when the competition was almost the sole preserve of Cork teams.
Just look at the record, Blackrock five times winners, the ‘Barrs four times, the Glen three, Newtown three and Midleton twice.
The Rockies won it five times in the 1970s — 1971, ’73, ’75, ’78 and ’79.
That, of course, poses the question, why are Cork clubs not doing the business now?
After all, we have been producing strong county champions, Sars, in particular, four times county champions since 2008 but failing to even get to a final.
The once powerful city clubs don’t impact to the level that they once did and the standard of the domestic championship has dipped too.
There is not the same cutting edge in games that was there in the past, and clubs don’t have the outside influences that they once had either.
Sars were very unlucky a few years ago when they lost in extra time to Kilmallock in Kilmallock and, there’s no doubt, the clubs from other counties are better coached and organised now.
The Cork clubs of today don’t possess the same number of household names of long ago either, and maybe their focus is concentrated a lot more on just winning the Sean Óg Murphy Cup.
Which brings us to the question, should divisional sides like Imokilly be allowed to participate in the provincial club competitions?
The point was made after last Sunday week that if UCC had won the county they’d have been allowed to enter the Munster club with maybe only a few Cork-based players on board.
However, UCC are regarded as a club unit, as are Cork IT.
It would certainly be very interesting if Imokilly were allowed to participate, and how they would get on against the best from Tipp, Limerick, Waterford and Clare.
That won’t be happening, of course, the word club is emphatically stressed in the competition and that’s the way it will stay.
Finally this week, very shortly a Cork team of the year will be constructed from the senior championship campaign.
This has now become a very popular feature of the GAA year in the county and the sponsorship of Rearden’s in Washington Street has helped considerably to enhance it.
Selecting 15 players from 37 games played is no easy task — although in these situations now the emphasis is very much on the latter rounds of the competition as it is with the All-Stars nationally.
For obvious reasons, Imokilly are going to dominate the selection again after their title retention but there will still be a lot of debate surrounding a number of positions and those who will fill them.