John Horgan: Premier SHC champions Blackrock proved they'll take stopping

After an excellent display to knock out St Finbarr's, the Rockies collide with Douglas in the quarter-final
John Horgan: Premier SHC champions Blackrock proved they'll take stopping

Mark O'Keeffe of Blackrock has a shot on goal despite the best efforts of Glenn O'Connor of St Finbarr's in the PSHC at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

WHEN Blackrock lost their opening group game in the Cork County PSHC the pressure on them in their bid to retain the title was applied that little bit more.

They were the champions and they were up there to be shot at, something that Erin’s Own succeeded in doing in that first assignment.

The big question that was posed then was, how would they react to that loss?

Well, they have provided a very firm answer and their mission of getting out of what was a difficult group has been accomplished.

They are where they set out to be at the outset, making the knockout stage of the competition and firmly back on track to retain the title. The road ahead will not be easy and to lift that old trophy again they will have to surmount three potentially very difficult hurdles.

There are no guarantees in a championship where all the big guns are still standing, but how the Rockies have come through their last two encounters against Charleville and the Barrs last Sunday suggests that they won’t be easily relieved of their crown.

The sun shone gloriously at headquarters and for a half an hour we got a decent battle between the old foes from Church Road and Togher.

Only a few points divided them at the interval and the potential was there at that juncture for a game that might remind us of what these clubs produced in an era long past.

But it wasn’t to be and similar to what the Rockies did against Charleville down in Banteer, they struck for two quick goals and those scores effectively ended the game as a meaningful contest.

The final quarter or so became a damage limitation exercise for the Barrs and they did convert a few tasty points, it was all too little and too late.

The Barrs could not breach the Rockies defence for a goal over the hour and and the latter’s rearguard coped admirably with what was thrown at them.

Barrs full-back Jamie Burns challenges for possession against Alan Connolly, Blackrock. Picture: Larry Cummins.
Barrs full-back Jamie Burns challenges for possession against Alan Connolly, Blackrock. Picture: Larry Cummins.

Last season their strength in resources was a telling factor and the resolve within the squad seems to be strong again this time.

Alan Connolly was in the right place at the right time for his brace of goals and his effectiveness from the dead ball was always evident while goalkeeper Gavin Connolly was very solid.

For the Barrs, the lengthy wait, now stretching to 29 years, for a title goes on, but from the position that they found themselves in last time, when relegation became an issue, they have put their foot forward with a lot more positivity.

Lead

They will reflect on a fine opening win over Charleville, but losing a substantial lead in drawing against Erin’s Own will be something that they will regret.

The younger players, players from last season’s Premier minor victory will be a year older and a year wiser next season and within the confines of Togher there must be that bit more room for cautious optimism.

For the Rockies, though, it’s upwards and onwards.

The big winners over the weekend were Sarsfield’s who find themselves in a semi-final, thus avoiding a potentially tricky quarter-final.

They have been hugely impressive in seeing off the challenges posed by Carrigtwoill, Na Piarsaigh, and Midleton last Sunday and in his first term as team boss, Barry Myers must be very well satisfied.

Tougher tasks lie ahead, but it’s definitely been a case of so far so good in Riverstown. They now have to be looked upon as serious title contenders.

Douglas will have similar reasons for satisfaction at a job well done in topping their group, a group that at the outset looked to be quite tricky.

Being consistent from one game to the next has been a problem in the past for Douglas teams but three wins from three will boost the confidence levels considerably and their quarter-final collision with the Rockies now becomes a game loaded with potential and one to eagerly look forward to.

In fact, all three quarter-finals have to be looked upon as games that will be difficult to predict the outcome of.

The Glen survived by the bare minimum against Newtownshandrum last Sunday, but emerging from such a close run encounter will do them no harm at all and, in fact, should bolster them that bit more for their duel with Imokilly.

No championship would be complete without an East Cork derby and we’ll get one with the clash of Midleton and Erin’s Own. An East Cork derby, being realistic, should have an East Cork venue and Carrigtwoill would be ideal for this one but whether that happens or not remains to be seen.

There’s still a lot of hurling to be played in this championship but the group stage has been a resounding success.

The seven teams now remaining in the chase for the pot of gold are all fairly well battle-hardened now at this stage.

Sars, Blackrock and Imokilly might be looked upon in a more favourable light than the others, but the reality really is that there’s not a whole pile separating any of the seven contenders.

From what we have seen thus far, it’s a wide-open championship.

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