LAST season’s Cork County SHC final contestants, Blackrock and Glen Rovers, have work to do to remain in contention in the current competition.
Both were on the wrong end of losses to Erin’s Own and Douglas respectively over the opening weekend of the new campaign and neither could have any great argument about what transpired.
In any Round-Robin format, the loss of your opening assignment adds an extra layer of pressure and the second game becomes ultra important.
In fact, in a four team group a second defeat can, in most instances, mark the end of the road.
Nothing is lost yet for the Rockies and the Glen and they may well be serious contenders again when the knockout stages begin later in the competition.
But they are on the back foot for the moment and there will be a bit of soul-searching in both camps this week.
Erin’s Own had a splendid win over the champions last Friday night and they were full value for the victory.
A few of the starting 15 for the Caherlag side are now very much in the late Autumn of their careers but that mattered little on this occasion.
They continue to be very influential with veteran goalkeeper Shay Bowen top of the list.
He was again in superb form, making a sublime stop from an Alan Connolly penalty, a key moment for sure in the contest and also contributing handsomely to the goal delivered by another veteran, Eoghan Murphy.
Bowen’s lengthy puckouts ofen put the Rockies defence under a lot of pressure and one of them was seized on by Robbie O’Flynn who transferred to Murphy and the result was a smashing goal.
Just three players were involved, certainly no messing about in that fine score.
Mention of O’Flynn, he was outstanding throughout, securing a half dozen points from open play and making a huge contribution to the win.
Sam Guilfoyle hammered home a fine goal too and this was another illustration of an Erin’s Own team upsetting the applecart to some extent.
It wasn’t a major surprise given the pedigree of the East Cork club but the Rockies were favourites and were expected to win.
Last season, Erin’s Own did a job on a more fancied Sarsfields team and that’s why you must always be very wary of them.
They are back on the trail again and will be full of confidence going forward.
Douglas really put the Glen to the sword on Saturday night at headquarters and the Southside unit fully deserved what they got.
They had nine different scorers in what was a massive win over their Northside rivals and defensively and offensively the Glen had no answers.
The older guard of Mark Harrington, Eoin Cadogan and Steve Moylan worked their socks off while Shane Kingston, Diarmuid O’Mahony, Alan Cadogan and Brian Turnbull put up very significant scores.
Harrington’s two early points from centre-back were very big scores and an indication of what was to transpire subsequently.
Now the big task for Douglas is not to make this a one off victory but to gather momentum from it and become serious title contenders The personnel are there for that to happen but it’s all about being consistent from one game to the next.
The other big winners of the weekend were Sars and the ‘Barrs, the latter having a superb win over a Charleville side that they would have been very wary of after their heroics in the ‘A’ championship last season.
This has to be a real tonic for the folk out in Togher after the disappointment of last season when they were convincingly beaten in both their opening games.
They did sign off on a positive note against Carrigtwohill and the Premier MHC victory gave the club a huge lift.
Any genuine Cork hurling supporter will want a club of the ‘Barrs stature challenging at the latter end of the campaign and that now becomes a real possibility if this victory is capitalised upon.
Ronan Curran will have been delighted with this victory.
Sars, under Barry Myers, gave Na Piarsaigh a severe beating and there’s no doubt the personnel is in this team to be major contenders again, all the more so with their potential in front of goal.
Conor Lehane exhibited his class for Midleton against Carrigtwohill and Paul Haughney delivered some precious points too for the Magpies.
Again they have enough quality in the ranks to be contenders and not being out in the cold as they were last season when the knockout stage was entered.
It’s very early days yet but based on the evidence presented over the weekend the perception has to be that it’s going to be a wide open title race.
You might suggest that there’s no really outstanding team, no team that is so far ahead of everybody else that they would be well out in front in the betting stakes.
One thing is for certain, though, this Round -Robin format was a success last season and is certain to be again this time.
For the first-round winners the heat is off that little bit going forward but for the losers last weekend it is most definitely on.
And included in the latter category are last season’s finalists who have work ahead of them on the training ground over the next few days.