The John Horgan column: Novel feel to Imokilly and Rockies in the county final

The John Horgan column: Novel feel to Imokilly and Rockies in the county final
Imokilly's Ger Mellerick racing onto the ball from Sarsfields' Daniel Kearney during the Cork SHC semi-final replay at Páirc Uí Rinn on Saturday. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

SO it has all come down to one hour’s hurling in Páirc Uí Chaoimh next Sunday between two teams with 34 titles between them.

However, there is a great imbalance in that number with the Rockies claiming 32 of those titles and Imokilly with just two.

But that’s all past tense and, whilst tradition and achievements may stand for quite a bit, next Sunday’s final will start on a very level playing field for both.

Neither side would have been on the list of leading contenders at the season’s outset and there would be a lot of surprise that the title now rests between them.

But, it has to be said, both are deserving finalists and whilst their route to the final hasn’t all been plain sailing, they have got over the line on each occasion when the difficult questions were put.

Imokilly have had a more strenuous journey to make and next Sunday’s final will be their seventh championship game of the campaign.

The Rockies, on the other hand, have played two games less to get to this point and their run has been more straightforward, four games, four wins.

Imokilly had to face replays against Erin’s Own and Sarsfields but it’s not about the miles you travel, the final destination is all that matters.

Imokilly have had to take out two leading contenders in Erin’s Own and Sars and on both occasions, they probably shouldn’t have required a second game.

Their replay with Sars last Saturday night was a pulsating affair, loaded with goals and great viewing for the attendance.

When push finally came to shove in the final minutes they were finally able to put their opponents away, mainly due to the excellence of their bigger names in Seamus Harnedy, Brian Lawton and Paudie O’Sullivan.

Those three did the bulk of the scoring on a night too when their sometimes fragility in defence was exposed again.

At least two of the four goals conceded should not have occurred and, whilst they are compensating at the other end of the field for those mistakes, there might come a time when you would pay a very heavy price for giving away those type of goals.

The Rockies will have been able to have a good, long hard look at this Imokilly team in the two games with Sars and shrewd men like Fergal Ryan and Wayne Sherlock will have learned a lot.

Of course, there are many in the corridors of power who would much prefer not to have a divisional team competing on the final day of the season.

Outside of Imokilly this season, the rest of the divisional participants made a very poor effort.

Duhallow might be excluded from this but club matters finally caught up with them.

The East Cork unit have been the exception for a long time now and this season alone under the management of Fergal Condon, Jimmy Smiddy, Derek Barrett, Ciaran Cronin and Sean Harnedy they have played near on 20 games between challenges and championship.

They set out their stall early on and that type of an effort deserves the reward they have not got now with a place in the final.

All on eyes on Blackrock's Stephen Murphy as he goes past Na Piarsaigh's Cian Buckley. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
All on eyes on Blackrock's Stephen Murphy as he goes past Na Piarsaigh's Cian Buckley. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

The Rockies' progression to the final will be seen in a positive light too and a reward for all the hard labour put in over the years at juvenile, minor and under-21 level.

They don’t possess any really what you would describe as big names but they have a collective work ethic and a great understanding that has been gained from coming up through the ranks together.

Now as we await the final frontier to be crossed, the question might be posed concerning the overall standard of the fare on offer.

And, immediately, you would have to say that it is up quite a bit on other years.

Some of the games have been hugely competitive, just a point or two separating the teams in a lot of instances.

Late, late drama has been the order of the day too and some of the lesser lights created their own headlines.

A few of the perceived bigger guns fell away far too early for their liking and you had the heartbreak that the Barrs endured against the Glen.

The big negative which a few of my colleagues are blue in the face from writing about are the numbers on jerseys.

Surely be to god in this day and age it’s not too much to ask teams to be able to identify the numbers on the backs of their players.

Imokilly’s participation in the final, of course, gives players from clubs who could never entertain the chance of a county senior medal that opportunity now, players from places like St Ita’s, Cobh, Castlemartyr, Aghada, Lisgoold, Russell Rovers, St Catherine’s and Carrignavar.

And no doubt the management will be stressing this during the week, you are getting one shot at this, take it because it might never occur again.

Jimmy Smiddy and Derek Barrett were players when the title last wended its way east and they’ll impress upon the players the unique opportunity that has been presented to them.

The Rockies in a county final are of course a very dangerous animal with their rich heritage and they too will want to become a proud part of that.

Wouldn’t they just love to be able to take the old trophy back to village again?

Later on, in the week we’ll give our own assessment of how it all might pan out.

It’s a huge day in the lives of the players involved, not one of them before has come remotely near being on the podium on the final day.

Now is their hour.

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