OVER the past 40 years we have witnessed at least one new force emerge per decade to become major players in the Cork Senior Club Hurling Championship picture, with there being a few clubs potentially building towards becoming the next big thing right now.
For a quarter of a century the Cork Senior Hurling Championship was pretty much a closed shop, as it was a virtual carve up between Blackrock, Glen Rovers and St Finbarr’s.
From 1958 to 1983 the three city sides won every one bar three, with two UCC titles and one from Avondhu being the aberrations during this period.
1983 was the year that Midleton arrived to break the city cartel, with that being the first of four titles they won up to 1991. And while the Magpies were the first side to freshen up the competition, they certainly were not the last.
The early 90s saw the arrival of both Na Piarsaigh and Erin’s Own to the top table, with the Glounthaune sides title in 1992 being sandwiched in between the 1990 and 1995 victories for the Wazzies.
The Barrs and the Rockies managed just a title each in that decade, whereas the Glen ended it completely empty-handed.
The landscape in Cork had very much changed, and it changed even further with the arrival to the summit of a little club from North Cork by the turn of the millennium.
Newtownshandrum went from losing the junior county final in 1992 to being crowned senior champions in 2000, in what was a meteoric rise.
Key to this journey was the presence of the excellent O’Connor twins, Ben and Jerry, with the pair being instrumental in the village annexing another three titles by 2009, with the All-Ireland club title won in 2004 being their crowning glory.
One might have expected them to drift out of the senior ranks once the O’Connor’s retired, but to their credit, they have remained a competitive force since, even if they have not added any further titles.
Erin’s Own were back for more in 2006 and 2007 before their near-neighbours Sarsfield’s became the next dominant side in Cork club hurling, with four county titles won between 2008 and 2014.
Since then the Glen got their hands back on the Sean Óg Murphy Cup for a couple of years until the baron of Imokilly had things all their own way for three successive years before Blackrock won their first title in 18 years last year. We could well be set for a period where the old guard dominate once more, but there are signs that a number of clubs are set to become major players on the senior scene in the coming years.
The last three All-Ireland Intermediate Club Hurling finals have been graced by a Cork club, even if Kanturk’s 2018 victory was the only Rebel win, but the three finalists Kanturk, Charleville and Fr O’Neill’s all look like having big futures at senior level in the next decade.
Kanturk retain ambitions of making a big breakthrough at Premier Senior level, even if it is four years now since their Premier Intermediate crown.
Last year they were involved in a classic in the Senior A grade, losing a high scoring semi-final encounter in Mallow last year to eventual champions Charleville, by 2-26 to 3-18, while prior to the championship restructuring they lost to Newtownshandrum and Ballyhea in 2018 and 2019 at senior level.
The move of Anthony Nash to the South Liberties club in Limerick will certainly be a loss, while stalwarts such as Aidan Walsh and Lorcán McLoughlin are not getting any younger, although the seemingly limitless supply of Walsh’s should mean Kanturk stay competitive.
Colin and Tommy Walsh were on the Cork minor panel last year and can be expected to join the rest of the clan on the first team.
Charleville and Fr O’Neill’s played out a highly entertaining Senior A Final last year at Páirc Uí Chaoimh, with the north Cork side edging it by 1-23 to 4-13, so they get first dibs at Premier senior level this year.
While inter-county star Darragh Fitzgibbon may be their go-to man, they have a strong squad, and they will be looking to add a Premier Senior title to the Senior A and Premier Intermediate victories of recent years.
Fr O’Neill’s will have been incredibly frustrated to miss out last year, but they have a very young squad at their disposal, and with Ger Millerick back from injury they should be even stronger.
As long as Declan Dalton keeps putting up huge personal scoring tallies they will be favourites to emerge from the Senior A grade, with perhaps Kanturk being their major threat.
Newcomers Blarney may have something to say about that. Last year they recovered from a Group 3 defeat to Castlelyons to take full revenge in fine style in the final, with Cork star Mark Coleman almost outshooting the entire Castlelyons side with fourteen points in the 1-20 to 0-15 victory.
They are far from a one-man team though, with U20 stars Shane Barrett, Padraig Power and Declan Hanlon also in their ranks, so you would imagine the next decade should be an exciting one for the Muskerry club.
With so many hurling hotspots emerging throughout the county it will be a surprise if we do not get a new name on the Sean Óg Murphy Cup in the next decade.