IT was hearts in the mouth for stuff for those clubs trying frantically to avoid being dragged into the relegation play-off in the Co-Op Superstores county premier senior hurling championship at the weekend.
For city clubs, Bishopstown and Na Piarsaigh, the sighs of relief could be heard loud and clear on either side of the Lee, but for Carrigtwohill and Charleville, it’s one final game to preserve their status for 2022.
Before the off, the Town and Newtownshandrum had some respite thanks to their draw earlier in Group A as neither Piarasaighs, Carrig or Charleville had yet to collect anything from their two games.
The Na Piarsaigh-Carrigtwohill game In Group B was a straight knock-out with the winner surviving and the loser left with the dreaded play-off to determine their fate for next season, provided, of course, it didn’t end in a draw.
Bishopstown were playing group leaders and winners, Douglas, who had top slot regardless of the outcome, and were conscious of the importance of scoring difference.
They stood at minus 14, five worse off than Newtown with Charleville vulnerable on minus 21 before they met Erin’s Own in Group C.
Bishopstown always trailed Douglas and never looked like causing an upset so were set to finish the group on one point.
With six minutes left in the Chareville-Erin’s Own tie, the north Cork side enjoyed a four-point lead after 56 minutes, bad news for Bishopstown.
If it had stayed like that Charleville would have moved to two points leaving the other sides threatened with Bishopstown and Carrigtwohill poised for the relegation game at that juncture.
Then, the Glounthaune side rescued not only their quarter-final prospects, but, inadvertently, pulled Bishopstown away from the cliff edge thanks to a late rally which produced a draw at the final whistle.
And the Town can leave a few pints for Eoghan Murphy at the establishment of his choosing because it was a late free from the Erin’s Own marksman which helped keep the club from the western suburbs in the top flight next year.
There was much to fret in the Newtown-Glen Rovers tie, too, because the north Cork club led their city rivals coming down the stretch only for their opponents to snatch a late winner in a one-point success.
That was enough to keep Newtown ahead of Bishopstown in their group, but Charleville’s minus 21 scoring difference condemned them to the relegation issue, seven points worse off than the Town.
Those are the fine margins which separate joy from anguish, title contenders to also-rans and most of all, avoiding relegation.
When it was all done and dusted the final six clubs, joining Imokilly, in the knock-out phase contained four survivors from last and a couple of newcomers in Midleton and east Cork representative outfit.
They take the places of Piarsaighs and UCC, more evidence that by simply standing still you’re liable to be run over by the others.
Ironically, they met in the quarter-finals last season with the students winning by six points before being involved in a thriller with Blackrock in the semi-final, scoring 0-34, but still losing.
What’s left are three mouth-watering quarter-finals featuring a couple of local derbies between neighbours Blackrock, the defending champions, and Douglas and Erin’s Own and Midleton from the east.
And just as appealing is the 2019 county final repeat between the Glen and Imokilly in the other quarter-final.
Last year it was the Glen, who claimed the lone semi-final spot on offer as the best of the three group winners.
This time Sarsfields collected the prize and now await the winners of the Erin’s Own-Midleton in the last-four.
The relegation match in the senior A championship is between Cloyne and Bandon after Ballyhea’s draw with Ballymartle helped them stay afloat for another season.