FOR quite some time now the Cork County PIHC has been recognized as perhaps the most competitive of all the competitions under the jurisdiction of the Cork County Board.
The field of participants is regarded as being a very level one with, at the very least, half of that field all very capable of being first past the post in October.
Last weekend we had the privilege of being present for two superb games involving Ballinhassig and Fr O’Neill’s on Saturday night in Midleton and Charleville and Kanturk on Sunday afternoon at Kilbrin.
The standout feature in both games was the honesty and commitment of the four teams, particularly in the collision between Ballinhassig and O’Neill’s.
There was hardly a dirty stroke in it and both went at it hammer and tongs.
Ballinhassig were the more experienced unit at this level at this point in time and they got the verdict at the end of a pulsating hour’s hurling.
However, if the two sides had required another day out there would not have been a dissenting voice coming out of Clonmel Memorial Park on Saturday night.
To use a well-worn cliche, a draw would probably have been a fair result.
O’Neill’s were not happy at the finish, they felt a crucial free at the death should have gone their way instead of Ballinhassig, the outcome being the lead score for Ballinhassig as the last whistle neared.
It was certainly the turning point in a game that ebbed and flowed all the way through but full credit to Ballinhassig, they seized the opportunity and fired over a superb score from the stick of their outstanding goalkeeper Patrick Collins.
Collins was one of the reasons why this contest was so compelling, his aerial ability was a joy to behold and he was simply outstanding in this game.
Ballinhassig are a bit more streetwise at this level than their opponents were and that was maybe a factor in the end but the memory of this game will be of two outstanding teams giving it their all for the hour and, to use a another well-worn cliche, it was a pity we did not get another instalment out of it.
It was on to Kilbrin on Sunday, our first ever visit to this part of the world in deep Duhallow and, firstly, well done to the host club for having everything in readiness.
Again the fare on offer was terrific. Both sides were fully aware at the outset that they were going to remain in the championship irrespective of the outcome.
However, that did not dilute their commitment to the cause and again no quarter was asked or given.
A lot of people might have come to see young Cork star Darragh Fitzgibbon in action for Charleville and his overall contribution was vast, delivering seven points, five gems from open play and two from acutely angled frees.
This young fellow is a class act and is going to have a lengthy tenure in the Cork jersey and just to briefly reflect on Cork’s defeat by Limerick in the Munster U21 championship final, one has no doubt that if he had not been suspended for that game Cork would have been crowned provincial champions and might well be in an All-Ireland final now.
One, however, must give credit too to his marker for the second-half last Sunday, Darren Browne who did a fine job in trying to curtail his influence.
Mention too of Lorcán McLoughlin who made a huge difference to the proceedings in the latter stages when he was a dominant figure in the middle of the field.
These two sides could well be meeting up again sooner rather than later.
If Charleville overcome Courcey Rovers in their next outing that will be the case but the team from Ballinspittle might have a lot to say about that.
Overall, it was a great day in the depths of Duhallow last Sunday and is there anything better than two teams having a right cut at each other at a country venue before a huge attendance.
There is something extra special about hurling when it’s played at a venue like this.
Because of the game in Midleton on Saturday night, we didn’t get to see Killeagh’s fantastic win over Douglas in the Cork County SHC.
Killeagh were practically written off coming in here against a team laden with quality all over the field.
Shane Kingston was a big loss to the city team but that should not detract in any shape or form from Killeagh’s win.
The combination of Mark Landers as team manager and James O’Connor as team coach certainly worked the oracle here and if this was one of the big surprises of the championship in recent years, it was also Killeagh’s finest win for many a long day.
Now the pendulum swings in the other direction and Killeagh will be installed as favourites to defeat Carbery next Sunday.
They will have to come down to earth quickly from this victory because any divisional opposition carries potential danger.
There’s a lot of young players on this Killeagh team and everyone involved deserves huge credit for manufacturing this quite sensational win.
It just goes to show that the greatest certainty in the sporting arena is its uncertainty.
So on we go and next Saturday night we could have two more absolute crackers on our hands at Páirc Uí Rinn in the aforementioned PIHC.
First up at Páirc Uí Rinn will be Fermoy and Cloyne and that will be followed by Valley Rovers and Mallow.
All four are high on the list of fancied teams in this championship but, barring draws, two of them will be history after this very appealing double-header.
Try and predict the outcome of both, the wisdom of Solomon might well be required.
The county championship season is in overdrive now so fasten the seatbelt.