NEWCOMERS to the Cork County SHC, Kanturk will have Newtownshandrum for company in the opening round next season.
They are, of course, the first club from the division of Duhallow to feature in the SHC and this encounter is a clash between two clubs who are geographically not that far apart even if they operate in two different divisions.
The Duhallow team are on the trail of the All-Ireland club IHC this season and they will be involved very early in the new year when they play the Ulster champions in the semi-final.
The meeting with the former kingpins of the Cork SHC in the noughties will be a huge occasion for the club.
The reigning champions Imokilly face Muskerry in their first defence of the title in the Divisions/Colleges section and the East Cork side may be even stronger next time with the inclusion of players like Colm and Anthony Spillane from Castlelyons and Youghal’s Bill Cooper.
One of the more appetising ties in next season’s championship openers will be the clash of Killeagh and Douglas.
The East Cork team created a huge shock when they ousted one of the title favourites last season and the city team will be on a revenge mission here.
Killeagh reached the final of the SHL a few weeks ago and are considered to be a team with a lot of potential going forward.
This will be one of the ties of the first round.
No draw in any of the hurling competitions in Cork would be complete without an East Cork derby and we got one with the pairing of Erin’s Own and Bride Rovers.
This will be a fierce battle for supremacy between two teams who have a lot of very good hurlers in the ranks.
Erin’s Own were beaten after a replay this year by Imokilly and will be among the more fancied sides again in 2018.
However, they will be very wary of the threat that Bride Rovers will bring because, historically, the Rathcormac team are always teak-tough competitors.
Midleton came out of the draw drum last night alongside Bishopstown and there will be a realisation with the Magpies that 2018 represents a huge season for them after failing to build on the platform that they laid in 2013.
The champions of 2015 and 2016, Glen Rovers will tackle Ballymartle in their opener and won’t find the Carrigdhoun team easy opponents.
Beaten finalist’s last October, Blackrock will be hoping to go one better this time and will start favourites to defeat Carrigtwohill.
They will certainly be hoping that the old adage, having to lose one before you win one applies next season.
St Finbarr’s, despite being in the relegation zone, were a bit unfortunate last season and really frightened the lives out of the Glen when they lost to a late, late goal.
There will be cautious optimism in Togher that they can take care of the challenge of Newcestown in their first-round tie.
Beaten semi-finalists, Na Piarsaigh have Bandon for company in their first-round encounter and this will be a repeat of their 2017 quarter-final clash which was won by the city team on a scoreline of 3-16 to 1-10.
The Northside team were not that far away this season and they have a lot of good, young talent at their disposal.
Bandon more than justified their elevation to the top flight and will want to build on that.
Sars finished the season on a very high note, winning the SHL and the county under-21 title and they will probably be second favourites behind Imokilly in the betting lists.
They won’t take the challenge of Ballyhea lightly but they will be odds on to progress.
In the colleges/divisions section which two teams will emerge from, UCC will be strongly fancied to overcome Carrigdhoun and will be the favourites alongside Imokilly to emerge from that section.
CIT will, however, be right on their coat tails in that regard and the Bishopstown students will be well fancied to see off the challenge of Carbery in their meeting.
Duhallow will be weakened considerably by the loss of the Kanturk contingent and they will face Avondhu in their first game.
Overall, there are some very interesting first-round games to look forward to and with an earlier start to the campaign next season the teams will be getting down to business earlier too.
A lot of questions will be
but the biggest one of the lot will be, who can topple Imokilly and prevent them from doing two on the trot, something that they did in 1997 and 1998.