Cork senior club hurling has struggled to compete in the Munster arena 

Cork senior club hurling has struggled to compete in the Munster arena 
A dejected Eoin O'Farrell of Blackrock after the match. Picture: INPHO/Cathal Noonan

THE Munster Club SHC continues to be a bridge too far for Cork club teams and the ever-lengthening famine is now extended by another year.

Over the past number of years, this competition has become one of the most fiercely fought on the GAA calendar and the current one is no exception.

Sadly, however, from a Cork viewpoint, it’s a case of being on the outside while the rest are going at it hammer and tongs for the coveted prize.

Over the past two Sundays, Ballygunner from Waterford have been involved in two gargantuan struggles with Thurles Sarsfields and Sixmilebridge and on both occasions, they have come out on the right side by the most meagre of margins.

Those present in Walsh Park for both games will tell you that the struggle for supremacy in those games was as good as was witnessed in any inter-county game.

And the best may be yet to come with the final next Sunday week between Na Piarsaigh from Limerick and the Waterford champions.

Na Piarsaigh have had, by far, the easier route to the final, one very lopsided encounter at the Gaelic Grounds last Sunday against Blackrock.

They went into this game as odds-on favourites to triumph and that was based very much on the fact that the Rockies hadn’t come out of Cork as champions.

That put them at a disadvantage immediately and it would be a similar story with any other team.

Losing your own county final is a shattering experience, all the more so because on the day, the Church Road outfit could have snatched the win.

After all, the game was in the balance right up to the death when Imokilly crashed home a last-gasp goal to finally secure the title.

Nobody really expected the Rockies to defeat a very highly rated Na Piarsaigh last Sunday, a team that were All-Ireland champions very recently and are one of the favourites to be very involved again at the business end of the campaign on St Patrick’s Day next year.

However, the expectation was that Blackrock might make a match of it for some length of time before coming up short.

That didn't happen of course and the game was effectively over after 20 minutes when the Limerick City team had opened up a considerable lead.

Blackrock just were not at the races and the margin between the sides at the end was vast, 22 points to be exact.

Tadhg Deasy of Blackrock in action against Alan Dempsey and Eoin Smith of Na Piarsaigh. Picture: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile
Tadhg Deasy of Blackrock in action against Alan Dempsey and Eoin Smith of Na Piarsaigh. Picture: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

Would the story have been different if Blackrock arrived on the Ennis Road as Cork champions?

Who knows, but it’s very difficult to regain the level of intensity required in this hugely competitive Munster club arena when you are not a champion in your own county.

Na Piarsaigh are a crack team, loaded with Limerick inter-county players from different grades.

It was the same story in the Cork final, Imokilly had present and past Cork players on duty while the city team had none of those marquee names.

Ballygunner are the same, four or five star Waterford players in their line-up and that ultimately makes a big difference.

Cork club teams in the senior provincial arena are finding it increasingly difficult to impact and that’s a worry.

There were mitigating circumstances for Blackrock but would any other Cork club team have come out of the Gaelic Grounds last Sunday with a victory?

Now the stage is set for one hell of a Munster final between the two best teams and the likelihood is that we’ll get another blockbuster of a game.

Twenty four hours earlier, paid a trip to Castletownroche for what was effectively the final of the Cork County PIHL between Fr O’Neill’s and Charleville.

Again we got a very one-sided game with Fr O’Neill’s turning in a very impressive display to land the trophy, named in honour of one of their great clubmen, Haulie Donnelly.

O’Neill’s are plying their trade in the higher tier of the intermediate grade for the first time in a few years and it’s a very young team, 11 of the side is U21.

They were very unlucky to exit at the hands of Ballinhassig in the championship in the Summer but with players of the calibre of Deccie Dalton, the four Millericks, Mark O’Keeffe, Cillian Broderick and others, they are a team to keep an eye on going forward.

It was a fine way for them to end the season and things could get a lot better for them in the Cork County U21 championship.

They play the Rockies tomorrow night in what could be one of the best games thus far in a championship that is now running far too late.

We'll have to wait until after tonight to discover who will represent Cork in the Munster junior club championship after the draw on Sunday with Brian Dillon’s and St Catherine’s.

They replay tonight and the winners are out again next Sunday against Tipperary’s Ballybacon-Grange.

Whether it’s Dillon’s or St Catherine’s that’s going to be a big ask and, let’s face it, a situation that is really not acceptable.

The Munster club championship now dictates everything of course but playing a county JHC final on a Tuesday night does not feel right and it will certainly lessen the celebrations for the winners and for the youngsters who follow the team.

But that’s the GAA world that we live in now and it’s very much a case of taking it or leaving it.

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