John Horgan: Cork hurling benefits from colleges and divisions 

'Imokilly have been flying the divisional flag for a long time now and their five titles backs that up'
John Horgan: Cork hurling benefits from colleges and divisions 

David Griffin of UCC in action against John Cashman of Blackrock in last year's semi-final at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

THE clubs have been showing their hand in the Premier Cork County SHC over the past few weeks and tonight at Páirc Uí Rinn the spotlight falls on Imokilly and UCC in the Divisional/Colleges section.

In a perfect world, both of those teams would be considered strong candidates to be still involved at the business end of the campaign given the talent that should be contained in their squads.

But, of course, theirs is not always a perfect world because of the lack of collective get-togethers and because of a congested club programme which could mean that a lot of their best players are not going to be available at certain times.

With most of the clubs from which these players belong still having something or a lot to play for on that front there might be a reluctance to allow them to play by some management teams.

But, as we saw with Imokilly in their three years of dominance in 2017, '18 and '19 those obstacles were overcome and they were worthy county champions.

UCC’s situation is compounded by the fact that some of their players play with clubs from other counties and hence the reluctance of some team managements there to allow them play, all the more so if those clubs are in strong contention for honours.

But they find a way too, always have and in last season’s championship the Western Road outfit were a breath of fresh air, reaching the semi-final before losing an epic encounter to Blackrock after extra-time. It was probably the best game of the entire championship and UCC gave as good as they got before losing by a point after 80 minutes.

En-route to the semi-final, they ended the dominance of tonight’s opponents and titleholders before seeing off Na Piarsaigh. In a lot of cases in a lot of these games it’s not until late in the day before the team news is available but when the ball is thrown in the players on duty will be giving it their all.

And whatever the starting teams are tonight, the potential is again there for a fine game and on a Tuesday night, it’s surely well worth a visit.

A feature of the clash between them last season was UCC’s very good start and equally strong finish, hitting 0-4 without reply in the opening minutes and doing likewise as the game neared its conclusion. Imokilly have, of course, been flying the divisional flag for a long time now and their five titles backs up that evidence.

The division has always put a strong emphasis on this championship but that has not been the case in some of the other divisions, some not competing anymore.

That’s a pity because there’s talent in every division that contains strong junior and intermediate teams that would make up a fine divisional unit. But the difficulties that all divisional sides face has to be recognised too.

UCC have always taken huge pride in their participation in this championship and those charged with turning out a team strive very hard to do so. 

And, of course, we must never forget the contribution that is made to the inter-county team by players who have worn the UCC jersey through the years and plied their trade there.

The winners of tonight’s tie will face Seandún in the final of that section of the championship and the winners there will find themselves in a county quarter-final.

The city division took the decision to re-enter the competition this season and that has to be applauded. It gives teams from junior and intermediate clubs across the city the opportunity to play at a level they hadn’t done so before.

They have already got two fine wins under their belt, defeating Duhallow and Muskerry.

Imokilly have five title wins to their credit, Avondhu have won it outright three times while UCC have inscribed their name on the trophy twice, 1963 and 1970. Carbery won it once back in 1994 after defeating a very strong Midleton unit in the final.

Imokilly’s Bill Cooper with Paul Haughney of Midleton in the 2018 county final. Picture: INPHO/Oisin Keniry
Imokilly’s Bill Cooper with Paul Haughney of Midleton in the 2018 county final. Picture: INPHO/Oisin Keniry

For any divisional or college team, it’s all about getting off on the right foot and building up a bit of momentum, something that UCC did last season in reaching the last four and Imokilly in their years of dominance.

At the time of writing team selections for tonight’s game were not available but the likelihood is that both sides will contain some very good hurlers which should set things up nicely for a fine game.

Overall, the divisional model has served the county well even if it has had its critics from time to time.

A player from a lower grade club gets his chance to impress on the bigger stage with a divisional side, in particular, and that could lead to something even bigger by getting an opportunity to wear a red jersey.

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