THE business end of the Cork County SHC has arrived and it’s make or break time now for the eight teams still standing.
Three of the more fancied runners, Douglas, holders Glen Rovers and Midleton have all fallen and the opportunity to re-mount is gone now.
One thing is for certain, though, there will be a new champion crowned next month and it’s worth having a look at the eight now vying for the big prize.
UCC: We’ll start with them because they are fresh in the mind after their victory over Midleton last Sunday night.
The UCC management team sent out a powerful unit against the Magpies and if the same team arrives against Sarsfields next Sunday, they will be formidable opponents for the former champions.
However, UCC teams can change from week to week and there is always uncertainty regarding their composition.
They were very good against Midleton and with the same starting 15 next weekend Sars will have their work cut out.
History is against them being outright winners but you’d be very wary of them now.
SARSFIELDS: The main fancy now in a lot of quarters, all the more so after recent events when other fancied teams fell by the wayside.
A lot of this team have numerous county medals stored away and it’s a case of having been there and done that.
They know how to win on the big occasions and the infusion of some fresh blood has worked the oracle.
They are very determined to regain a title that has evaded them now for two years and to make their own point as well with the changing of the management team.
ERIN'S OWN: The Caherlag outfit will be hoping that the old adage of having to lose one before you win one will apply here.
They have had a mixed campaign to date, losing to Midleton in a game that was not knockout and not being overly impressive against Duhallow.
However, that’s not a bad place to be, going into a quarter-final with lots of scope for improvement.
The message, however is, must do a lot better to get over Imokilly.
IMOKILLY: Now the championship dark horses, a squad of players that have put in a huge amount of preparation.
They have played numerous challenge games outside the county and are backboned by present and past Cork hurlers.
Seamus Harnedy, Brian Lawton and Paudie O’Sullivan are key players and the clubs involved with them are out of their own championships, Cloyne, Fr O’Neill’s Castlelyons etc.
Erin’s Own will have to be at their very best to oust them.
BANDON: Last year’s PIHC winners have done remarkably well thus far and the step-up has not been a factor for them.
They had a splendid win over Ballymartle and were desperately unlucky to lose out to the Rockies earlier.
They are now in bonus territory but they’ll believe that they can reach a semi-final at the expense of Na Piarsaigh.
One negative for them is that they have a lot of dual players and that could create its own problems if they were to progress.
But it’s so far, so good for them.
NA PIARSAIGH: Buoyant after eliminating the Glen but, at the same time, they know that result will stand for nothing if they don’t build on it.
They will be favourites against Bandon because of their greater experience at this level.
But that gives no guarantees at all and they might have to play even better to see off the challenge of the West Cork team.
This could be a dogfight to the death.
BLACKROCK: Going quietly about their business but they’ll be thinking that there is a place in the final at least up for grabs from their side of the draw.
They have no real standout players like before but these players know each other very well from minor upwards.
They are nicely balanced too.
Worth maybe an outside bet to reach the final.
NEWCESTOWN: Probably the outsider of the eight still standing. However, you write off any Newcestown team at your peril and historically they are very obstinate opponents.
Obviously, Luke Meade will be a key figure for them and there’s always a great club spirit about them.
The Rockies will tread very warily against them and if there was to be a surprise it might occur here.