DEFEATS to reigning county champions Nemo Rangers and Blackrock, a well as a trimming for county contenders Glen Rovers, meant that the opening rounds of the Premier Senior Hurling and Football Championships started with a bang on the past two weekends, although one of the biggest takeaways from the opening round of the hurling championships last weekend has to be the positive results obtained by the counties top dual clubs.
Douglas’ scalping of the Glen was certainly one of those results, while up in Mallow the Barr’s were busy dismantling a fancied Charleville outfit, and Bishopstown pulled off somewhat of a surprise by drawing with favourites Newtownshandrum in Fermoy.
In the Senior A competition dual club Kanturk were able to field half a dozen of the Walsh clan in their eleven point win over Bandon, while in the same competition Newcestown were only denied a win over highly rated Fr. O’Neill’s thanks to Joe Millerick’s last gasp equalising goal.
And that’s before we even mention Nemo Rangers’ conquerors Valley Rovers, who followed up that eyebrow raising victory with a three point win over Inniscarra at Ovens in the Premier Intermediate Hurling Championship, with former county man Chris O’Leary rifling over eleven points in the triumph. In the same grade newly promoted Éire Óg proved to have far too much firepower for former senior side Youghal, with current and former county footballers Colm O’Callaghan and Ciaran Sheehan scoring 2-0 and 0-3 from play respectively.
Douglas do not have too many players on both teams at present, with inter-county panelists Brian Hartnett and Nathan Walshe the only two players who started on both sides, but their victory over Glen Rovers was preceded a week earlier with a comfortable win over Carrigaline in the football. Éire Óg pretty much rely on the same crew for both codes, and while they started off life in the Premier Senior Football grade impressively with a 1-15 to 1-9 win over Carbery Rangers they are sure to be stretched considerably in the coming weeks. I’m sure they would not have it any other day though.
Newcestown did lose their opening round top-tier clash against county finalists Castlehaven on the opening weekend, and they too will feel the full effects of fighting on two fronts in the coming weeks. Even Castlehaven will feel some of that pain given the three Cahalane’s hurling involvement with the Barr’s.
Kanturk had beaten St. Nicholas with ease the week before in the Premier Intermediate Football Championship by 2-13 to 0-3 just to drive home the fact that playing hurling and football should not prevent a club from getting up and running in both codes.
In the 2020 hurling championship the manner in which Glen Rovers took St. Finbarr’s apart on the opening night of the championship seemed to suggest that the days of dual clubs competing on two fronts was at an end, as a fully focused, well-drilled hurling outfit’s commitment to the small ball left them with a huge advantage when it came to first touch and sharpness, but these last two weekends have thrown that line of thinking right out of the window.
Perhaps the results of the past two weekends are merely aberrations. You could well argue that training in two codes possibly aids a club on the fitness front, but the results certainly fly in the face of the perceived notion that splitting commitments detracts from sharpness, and particularly so in hurling.
Of course, we can probably expect to see the dual counties begin to struggle as they go deeper into the championships, and especially so if they are actually doing well in both codes. It might well be in the latter stages of the championships where the sharpness begins to become a real issue, as the clubs who can fully focus on one sport or the other start to come into their own, while staleness becomes a real issue for the dual clubs.
That remains to be seen, but it will be fascinating to see how these dual clubs fare in the coming rounds with both big and small balls.
On top of that the defeats to Nemo, the Rockies and the Glen mean that there are some seismic clashes heading down the line. Nemo’s Round 3 meeting with Douglas could end up being a straight knock out affair, for instance, while Round 3 in the hurling will see Blackrock and Glen Rovers face off against St. Finbarr’s and Newtownshandrum in what could be similar circumstances.
This all sets us up nicely for what will hopefully be a fascinating series of club championships.