Cork senior hurling group of death to set pulses racing at club level

Only two from Blackrock, Charleville, Erin's Own and the Barrs will emerge
Cork senior hurling group of death to set pulses racing at club level

Charleville defender Darren Butler is tracked by Eoghan Murphy, Erin's Own, in the 2019 SHC clash, won by the North Cork side. Picture: Larry Cummins.

WHEN you go four long months without any GAA action of any description then even the club championship draws can be enough to raise excitement levels, and especially so when the league structure throws up a potential ‘group of death’ in the Premier Senior Hurling Championship.

Group C definitely looks like being this year’s ‘group of death’, with reigning champions Blackrock drawn with Senior A kingpins Charleville, last year’s semi-finalists Erin’s Own and old rivals St Finbarr’s. The Rockies only had four points to spare over Erin’s Own in the opener to last year’s championship, with Alan Connolly announcing himself at this level with a 1-9 haul. The champions may have a stronger panel but they would not expect to have everything their own way against the Glounthaune crew.

Alan Connolly of Blackrock excelled last season. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Alan Connolly of Blackrock excelled last season. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Charleville could be anything. Premier Intermediate champions in 2018 and Senior A champions in 2020, there is no sign they have plateaued, and they will really fancy having a right go at this level, with their group encounter with Blackrock being an obvious barometer of where they are at right now.

And the Barrs, who were starring down the barrel of a relegation final last year, before a big win over Carrigtwohill bailed them out? They will be hoping to bounce back this year. It was noticeable that the backing of youth that day in Carrigaline is what propelled them to victory, and we can expect these young players to backed to the hilt by returning manager Ronan Curran, although they could not have imagined three tougher games to test their senior health this year.

While Blackrock will start as favourites in this group, it would be no surprise if no team won all their games, meaning there could be a right lunge on the final day to emerge.

Group A see Newtownshandrum lumped into a city shootout with Glen Rovers, Douglas and Bishopstown. The Glen will start favourites, and with the likes of Simon Kennefick, Robert Downey and Luke Horgan all a year older they will be looking to atone for their extra-time defeat to the Rockies in last year’s decider.

Douglas are going to be a big danger to everyone they face. For years they were seen as potential challengers, only to flatter to deceive, but last year they showed, for the first time, that they could get the most out of their big-name forwards, while putting up sufficient resistance at the back to challenge. Last year they beat Midleton, and came up just short against Sars and Blackrock. With Alan Cadogan, Shane Kingston and Brian Turnbull up top they are going to take a bit of handling.

Group B also looks interesting, and it brings another rematch from last year. Midleton failed to get out of their pool last year, on the back of a three-point loss to Sarsfields, and a one-point defeat to Douglas. They will have felt very unlucky to get eliminated so early and will look forward to another crack at Sars. With Conor Lehane now fully focused on club duty, the Magpies will hope their star forward can return to something close to the form he showed in 2013 when he scored 2-10 in the final to propel them to county glory.

Gone from the Cork panel, Conor Lehane will be a real threat for Midleton. Picture: David Maher/SPORTSFILE
Gone from the Cork panel, Conor Lehane will be a real threat for Midleton. Picture: David Maher/SPORTSFILE

Sars will be favourites in the group given how dominant they were in last year’s group of death, when their brilliant young forward line racked up 8-62 over the three games, and they will have been chomping at the bit to get back into action ever since they fell flat in the quarter-final derby defeat to Erin’s Own.

Na Piarsaigh will also hope to have a say in who emerges from Group B, and their meeting with Carrigtwohill will be particularly interesting, given that they drew last year.

Carrigtwohill must become less reliant on Liam Gosnell for scores if they are not to become the whipping boys of the group.

The Premier Senior Football draw was probably not as exciting given that it threw up a bizarrely similar one to last year’s draw, so on that basis alone we will expect Nemo Rangers, St Finbarr’s and Castlehaven to dominate their groups.

It would be great for the championship for someone like Ballincollig or Newcestown to emerge as a force, but right now it looks a carve-up between the big three.

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