Glen, Midleton and Sars remain the teams to beat in the Cork hurling championship 

Glen, Midleton and Sars remain the teams to beat in the Cork hurling championship 
Midleton's Luke O'Farrell is tackles by Erins Own's Stephen Cronin and Killian Murphy. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

THE Cork County SHC has been very fragmented up now, a stop, start campaign since the opening games last May.

That’s perfectly understandable of course given Cork’s protracted run through Munster and into an All-Ireland semi-final.

The picture is becoming a bit clearer now and the draw for the fourth round of the competition on Wednesday night gave the remaining clubs more of an insight into what lies ahead.

All the big guns, bar Douglas, are still firmly in contention although the ‘Barrs were desperately unlucky to lose to the Glen in the second round.

Killeagh’s win over Douglas last weekend has been the big talking point thus far, one team odds on and the other, a rank outsider.

And it was the rank outsider that came up on the rails to deservedly get their noses in front at the winning post.

This was a great illustration of the uncertain nature of the championship and of course one can go back six years when the greatest outsiders of all time, Carrigtwohill came through the field to secure a memorable triumph.

A triumph of that nature probably won’t occur again but it certainly can provide the wind beneath the sails of those who are well down the list of contenders every season.

So what can we expect to transpire over the next couple of weeks and who will still be standing when the business end looms larger on the horizon.

Sarsfields' Jack O'Connor wins the ball from Glen Rovers' Stephen McDonnell. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Sarsfields' Jack O'Connor wins the ball from Glen Rovers' Stephen McDonnell. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

The Glen are still very much in the equation to make it three-in-a-row but a CIT victory tomorrow night would end that.

The champions have been a bit of a mix this season, excelling in defeating Bride Rovers in their opening round but in losing to Sars and drawing with CIT, they have not really reached any great heights.

Now, however, with their Cork players fully concentrated on club affairs, the expectation is that they will be much better but this replay with the students still represents a huge challenge.

Playing any third level college is always a trip into the unknown and this CIT team, it must be recalled, defeated Douglas earlier in the season.

Now the Douglas defeat by Killeagh puts that result into a different light but this is a potential banana skin again for the champions and they know it.

Killeagh must come back to earth quickly after that stunning win against Douglas and they are now going into a game with Carbery in the unfamiliar position of being hot favourites.

They should be okay but Mark Landers will be impressing upon the players that there’s no given in any game in this championship.

A win on Sunday night would see them going in against Sars in the next round and that would be an appealing prospect for all of East Cork.

One of the best games in the next round could very well be the clash of Bandon and Ballymartle.

This has the makings of an old fashioned battle between two clubs who will spare nothing in their efforts to get the better of each other.

Ballymartle are the more seasoned team at this level but Bandon have learned fast in the grade and they’ll believe an extension to their season is possible.

Ballymartle, however, have a lot done thus far in the championship, two wins over St Finbarr’s and Bishopstown and the loss to the Rockies.

There will be no quarter asked or given here.

Midleton didn’t build on the success of 2013 but there is a belief that there’s a much better focus this time.

It’s been so far, so good and they should be strong enough to overcome UCC.

But, at the same time, they’ll be mindful of what a fully focused UCC could bring to the table and, similar to CIT, they will have players who can hurl with the best.

Erin’s Own and Duhallow might be interesting too, Duhallow, alongside Imokilly, the strongest of the divisional sides by far and if their Kanturk and Charleville contingent are on board, they could cause last year’s finalists a lot of problems.

The Rockies, Imokilly and Newcestown will take the luck of the draw in getting byes into the last eight in a championship field that is now as wide open as it has been for some time.

Last eight prediction Blackrock, Imokilly, Newcestown, Glen Rovers, Erin’s Own, Midleton, Ballymartle and Sarsfields.

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