The John Horgan column: This is the most open hurling championship in years

The John Horgan column: This is the most open hurling championship in years
Michael Cahalane, Bandon, in action during the game against Ballymartle. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

THERE are many on Leeside who have the viewpoint that third level college teams should not be allowed to compete in the Cork senior hurling and football championship.

Their bone of contention is that players from outside the county have the opportunity of winning titles in their own place and therefore it’s not right that they are allowed to play in the Cork competitions.

Last Sunday night there were seven players from Waterford and Tipperary involved in the win over Midleton with eight from Cork contributing handsomely too to the victory.

It was one of the best games of the championship and Midleton were desperately disappointed to lose.

Everybody has their own viewpoint about UCC and Cork IT’s participation in the county championships but those who do not want them in it should be mindful of the contribution that these two institutions make to the game of hurling, in particular, in the county.

Midleton's Luke O'Farrell takes on UCC's Shane Hegarty in the Cork SHC round four game on Sunday night. This is the most open hurling championship in some time. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Midleton's Luke O'Farrell takes on UCC's Shane Hegarty in the Cork SHC round four game on Sunday night. This is the most open hurling championship in some time. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

If you were to go through the list of Cork All-Ireland medal winners down the years it’s a safe bet to suggest that quite a few of them went through those two academies.

Playing with UCC and Cork IT too gives young players from small clubs the opportunity of playing senior hurling, something that would probably never happen with their clubs.

Nine times out of ten neither college make a significant impact in the championship, illustrated by the fact that UCC have only twice ever won the SHC title while Cork IT have never won it.

Gaelic games is a huge part of life in both institutions and they take great pride in their participation.

The biggest bone of contention people have is that from one Sunday to the next the composition of their teams is up in the air and very much dependent on what’s going on in other counties.

One day UCC could have a star-studded team and the next one they could be minus most of them.

On the day that they have all their big stars, a Cork club team who has put in a huge effort could lose out while the next one to come up against them could saunter to victory.

If the UCC team that lined out against Midleton stays intact they must be considered serious title contenders.

Sars, next weekend, will be very wary of them but being forewarned is forearmed because there was a very strong balance to the side that ousted Midleton.

From a Cork viewpoint, the performance levels of Conor Spillane, Mark Coleman, David Griffin and Darragh Fitzgibbon were noteworthy.

Anyway, the stage is now set for four potentially, very good quarter-finals next weekend.

Is there a clear favourite now for the title?

The viewpoint here is that there’s not and we are now in the midst of a championship that is wide open.

Of the eight remaining teams, Sars, Erin’s Own, Imokilly, because of the huge effort they are putting into their their preparations and the UCC team that lined out last Sunday night would be the four who might head the betting list.

Na Piarsaigh will be buoyant after their win over the Glen while Bandon will believe that they can go another mile or two.

The general consensus would be that four more fancied teams, Sars, Erin’s Own, Imokilly and now UCC are in one half of the draw In the other half you have the Rockies, who will be quietly confident that they now have a great chance of at least reaching a final.

Na Piarsaigh will think along similar line while two two outsiders, Bandon and Newcestown will have their own train of thought and neither will be easily overcome.

Two big guns, the Glen and Midleton, fell over the past two weekends and a few more will go next weekend.

The picture in the PIHC is now much clearer of course with just two teams remaining and the collision of Kanturk and Mallow in the final is brimful with potential.

Mallow have not been successful at intermediate level since 1972 while Kanturk, of course, won the lower intermediate grade four years ago.

Now they are an hour away from playing senior hurling next season and that is a tantalising prospect.

Kanturk would not have been one of the more fancied teams at the outset this season but they have arrived in the final on merit.

Mallow were under a lot of pressure going in against Cloyne last weekend, having lost their two previous semi-finals in 2015 and 2016.

It would be very difficult to come back from losing another one but their second-half display ensured that wouldn’t happen.

Cormac Murphy was in superb form for them in attack but the real star of the show was Aaron Sheehan.

A return of 1-5 from play in a county premier intermediate semi-final is very good going indeed.

Mallow is a club crying out for success to match their wonderful facilities at Carrowkeal.

Maybe their time has come to return to the top table of Cork club hurling but Kanturk will provide a huge obstacle in the final.

They have now taken out two very fancied teams in Charleville and Ballinhassig and when you have Anthony Nash in goal you won’t concede too many green flags.

Over the coming weeks, we could be in for a feast of hurling and the fact that there’s so much uncertainty regarding where the honours will go adds to the intrigue.

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