John Horgan rates the teams in the mix for the Cork Premier Senior Hurling title

Midleton, Sars and Douglas have set the early pace in Rebel club hurling
John Horgan rates the teams in the mix for the Cork Premier Senior Hurling title

Brian Hayes, St Finbarr's, has a shot on goal stopped by Erin's Own. Picture: Larry Cummins.

WITH two rounds of the Premier SHC round-robin completed, all the leading contenders remain in the chase for the ultimate prize in November.

Some have been more impressive than others but the only objective of all the participants is to get into the knockout stages.

Blackrock and the Glen made things that bit more difficult for themselves in the opening weekend of the campaign by losing to Erin’s Own and Douglas respectively but they are back on track now after their victories over Charleville and Bishopstown.

Charleville have now lost twice in the competition and therefore cannot make it through. Down in the splendid complex of Banteer on Saturday night, the Rockies faced a potentially tricky assignment against the Avondhu side.

There’s always been a belief that when you take the city teams down into a country venue the challenge becomes that bit more difficult. The pitch at the Duhallow venue was in pristine condition but it rained heavily before the game and throughout the first half which added to that challenge.

Jack O'Callaghan (Charleville) and Niall Meaney (Blackrock) collide in the Co-Op Superstores Premier SHC at Banteer. Picture: John Tarrant
Jack O'Callaghan (Charleville) and Niall Meaney (Blackrock) collide in the Co-Op Superstores Premier SHC at Banteer. Picture: John Tarrant

Charleville were well beaten by the Barrs in their opening game but at half-time they trailed the county champions by just a point. They missed a few decent enough goal opportunities before the Rockies struck for a brace of goals in a very short space of time after the interval. Both were well executed by Alan Connolly and Tadgh Deasy and it was comfortable for them through to the finish.

Of course, they are not out of the woods at all yet and what it all means is that the final game against the old foes from Togher will decide everything.

The thinking would be that Erin’s Own should defeat Charleville, no certainty of course, and secure one of the qualifying places from the group with the Barrs and the Rockies battling it out in a potential blockbuster to take the runners-up spot.

The Barrs are on three points, good going for a team that struggled so much last season but they will have been disappointed to lose a 10-point lead against Erin’s Own.

What it all means, of course, is that one from the Rockies, Barrs and Erin’s Own will not have their championship season extended.

Douglas had a fine win over the Glen in their opener but the big question in the aftermath of that game was, could they back that result up against Newtownshandrum?

The answer was a firm yes and they are in a good place now before they face Bishopstown in their final group game. Another win there and they will be one of two teams going straight into a semi-final.

Douglas' Shane Kingston and Newtownshandrum's Ryan Fallon under the dropping ball. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Douglas' Shane Kingston and Newtownshandrum's Ryan Fallon under the dropping ball. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

With Shane Kingston in sublime scoring form, they have moved up the list of leading contenders.

Midleton are going very well too, in stark contrast to last season when they failed to get out of their group.

The East Cork team have plenty of scoring forwards, Conor Lehane, Luke O’Farrell, Sam Quirke and Cormac Beausang who was outstanding against Na Piarsaigh last weekend with a haul of seven points from open play.

Paul Haughney is getting good scores too for them and Tommy O'Connell marshalled the defence superbly at centre-back against what must be said was a weak Na Piarsaigh challenge.

The big game in that group is still to come, Midleton against Sars and once there's a winner in that game they'll secure the other semi-final spot.

It’s still early days and trying to call who might lift the old trophy at the end of it all is immensely difficult. We are repeating ourselves here from last week in stating that there does not seem to be a standout team.

That’s not a bad thing and it certainly makes things far more interesting than Waterford, where Ballygunner are dominant, or Na Piarsaigh in Limerick.

In Cork, it’s a bit of a lottery right now in trying to nail down a winner and Imokilly and UCC have not yet entered the equation.

Imokilly are believed to be putting in a big effort to regain the crown and we all saw how UCC performed last season before losing an epic semi-final to the Rockies.

The all-city derby of the Rockies and the Barrs and the all East Cork battle between Midleton and Sars are now eagerly awaited next month.

Provided Erin’s Own defeat Charleville the collision of the Rockies and Barrs is a knockout game with no margin for error.

The old championship might not be what it was in days of yore but it’s still one that we all still enjoy.

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