HAVING failed to qualify for the knockout stages of last year’s Co-op SuperStores Cork Premier SHC, Midleton can all but seal their spot in this campaign’s quarter-finals if they overcome Na Piarsaigh at Páirc Uí Rinn tonight (7.30pm).
Last week, the Magpies enjoyed a 0-24 to 1-14 Group B win over East Cork neighbours Carrigtwohill and they face a Na Piarsaigh side coming off the back of a 2-28 to 2-12 defeat to Sarsfields. Last year, any hurling club across the five senior and intermediate grades that claimed four points ended up qualifying for the knockout section and Midleton manager Ger Fitzgerald is pleased that the side have given themselves a platform to build upon.
“I think it’s important to get off to a positive start,” he says.
“While we’ve lots of things to work on – and we will work on – we were very pleased to get the win.
“You throw that into the mix, with the fact that it was a big local derby, and it was a very positive result for us.
“It was great to be back playing but it was also great to see supporters coming to the matches. I think that that had a positive effect on the GAA community as a whole.”
In 2020, Midleton were also in the same group as Sars, who beat them in the opening game. While they got back on track with a victory against Ballyhea, they came up short in a winter-take-all clash with Douglas for second place behind the Riverstown side. Last year was also the first with Ben O’Connor on board as Midleton coach and Fitzgerald believes that the extra time afforded to them this time around has been mutually beneficial.
“Certainly, it’s a big help,” he says.
“Everyone knows each other that little bit better and Ben’s more familiar with the lads.
“We’ve had loads of time to do a bit of work, so we’d be very pleased with that. Certainly, we wouldn’t be using it as an excuse for anything that happened last year, but it’s an advantage to have had the extra time that we have this year.”
On a micro level, time is shorter this week, given the Friday night setting for the game against the city side, but Fitzgerald is looking forward to it.
“For us, it comes a day or two quicker than a lot of the other games,” he says.
“We’re looking forward to it – we were waiting a long time for the championship to kick in and, now that it has, we’re delighted with it.”
There is one game in the senior A hurling championship tonight, with Blarney and Kanturk taking on each other in a Group A tie in Mallow (8pm). Both sides won last week, against Fermoy and Bandon respectively, meaning that the winners of this clash will be in a near-impregnable position in terms of qualification.
In the intermediate A championship, Newtownshandrum is the venue for the Group C meeting of Kildorrery and Meelin (7.30pm). In their openers, Kildorrery drew with Cloughduv while Meelin came up short against Midleton’s second team.