John Horgan: Blackrock and Barrs will be a hurling highlight this weekend

Knockout stages of the Cork club championships will be decided 
John Horgan: Blackrock and Barrs will be a hurling highlight this weekend

Stephen Murphy, Blackrock, is caught by a high challenge from Billy Hennessy of the Barrs. Picture: Larry Cummins.

FOR some it will be upwards and onwards, for others it will be season ending, while for those at the bottom of each group it will be a fight to avoid losing their status.

That’s what the situation will be next weekend when the final hurling games of the group stage are played out in all the grades of the Cork County Championships.

Intrigue will fill the Leeside air, particularly in the Premier SHC with some major issues to be sorted out. The new format has been a resounding success since its introduction and the clubs across the county have certainly embraced it.

The standout fixture has to be the latest instalment of the great Blackrock and St Finbarr’s rivalry, a rivalry that has endured through the ages. One of them could be out of the championship on Sunday evening while the victor will be highly energised as they go forward.

The stakes could not be higher than they are, the champions from Church Road striving to maintain the defence of their crown with the Barrs hoping to take another step on their long road to redemption.

It’s really a must-win for the Rockies as they currently lie in third place in Group C, a point behind next weekend’s rivals and Erin’s Own.

The situation is certainly in stark contrast to last season when the Rockies were flying high in their group and the Barrs were battling against relegation in their section. But nothing, of course, is sorted yet and it may well come down to scoring difference.

The Barrs will be kicking themselves for losing a 10-point advantage in sharing the spoils with Erin’s Own while the Rockies came away from what was at times a difficult assignment down in Banteer against Charleville with their season reinvented. In very difficult conditions, they struck for two fine goals very quickly to end the aspirations of Charleville.

Action from St Finbarr's and Blackrock's minor meeting this summer: Luke O'Herlihy and Mikey O'Connell, Blackrock, takes on Ben O'Connor and Conor Hurley. The clubs meet at senior this weekend. Picture: Jim Coughlan.
Action from St Finbarr's and Blackrock's minor meeting this summer: Luke O'Herlihy and Mikey O'Connell, Blackrock, takes on Ben O'Connor and Conor Hurley. The clubs meet at senior this weekend. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

As the reigning champions, they will be favourites but the evidence presented thus far would suggest that the gap between the two sides has narrowed significantly.

There does not seem to be any outright favourite in this Premier SHC and the playing field is, you could say, fairly level.

The only group that is already sorted is B with Midleton and Sarsfields guaranteed a place in the knockout stages with two wins from two apiece while their rivals, Carrigtwohill and Na Piarsaigh are sailing in very troubled waters.

The Midleton and Sars encounter will determine who tops their group and for the winners, there could be an avoidance of a quarter-final and a straight passage to the semis.

A Sars victory would give them an excellent chance of that given their superior points difference over the rest in the three groups. They are currently plus 34 while Midleton are plus 25.

Both sides have impressed up to now but with respect, Carrig and Na Piarsaigh fell well short in the games against them. It’s an East Cork derby and one can be sure that no quarter will be asked or given.

In Group A, Douglas are in pole position with two wins from two. For years the dual player problem has been a huge issue in Douglas but now there are only two across both squads. That’s paying dividends with the club’s footballers having two wins from two as well.

In Group A the Glen, Bishopstown and Newtown are still in the chase, the Glen on two points with the Town and Newtown on one apiece. A Glen win over Newtown and they are safely through but they’ll tread warily.

It has all worked out very well in terms that all 12 club teams go into the weekend with something to play for.

The whole concept of any competition that contains a round-robin format is to try and avoid any dead-rubber games and that’s been achieved here.

Back to the Rockies and the Barrs showdown, it’s a game that will evoke memories of past duels between them, although one might be surprised to learn that they haven't met in a final since 1982 when the Barrs triumphed under the captaincy of John Blake.

They are in a much better place now than they were last season but we’ll know a lot more about them after the weekend.

The Rockies and the Barrs, it does not come much bigger than this latest showdown.

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