THE seven teams remaining in the chase for the PSHC will be reduced to four after next weekend.
Three from Douglas and Blackrock, Glen Rovers and Imokilly and Midleton and Erin’s Own will join Sarsfields in the two semi-finals and the expectation is that nothing will be won or lost until the concluding stages of those three games.
All six have impressed at various stages of the group stage of the competition, some perhaps quite a bit more than others.
There is no margin for error now, there’s no safety net that existed in the Round-Robin format insofar as that if you lost one game you could bounce back in the next.
Last season’s finalists, Blackrock and Glen Rovers illustrated that, both losing their opening encounters, the Rockies to Erin’s Own and the Glen to Douglas.
That put both on the back foot immediately but they were able to turn things around and safely make it through to the knockout stage.
That’s the beauty of any competition that contains a group stage, one bad day out can be transformed into a good one the next.
So what is likely to transpire next weekend, a weekend that begins with the all East Cork clash of Midleton and Erin’s Own on Friday night.
In reaching the knockout stage, Erin’s Own have shown their always undoubted resilience.
They began with a deserved win over Blackrock, fought back from a 10-point deficit against St Finbarr’s to gain a crucial point and in their final group game, they secured another point against Charleville which has brought them into this big showdown with Midleton.
They are unbeaten thus far and that says quite a bit about them.
Team boss Martin Bowen has instilled into them a never say die attitude and their recovery against the ‘Barrs was probably one of the main stories from the group stage of the competition.
It’s hard to believe that a number of players that were stars of their 2006 and 2007 title victories are still key figures on the team, players like Shay Bown, Kieran ‘Hero’ Murphy, Stephen Cronin and Eoghan Murphy.
To be still involved at this level 15 years later tells you an awful lot about their dedication to the cause.
When Midleton won the title in 2013 there was a school of thought that believed they would push on and deliver at least another one or two given the age profile of the team.
But it hasn’t happened for one reason or another and last season they did not emerge from their group But they are where they want to be again and began this season’s campaign with easy victories over Carrigtwohill and Na Piarsaigh.
That guaranteed them a quarter-final spot at the very least but they came up rather short against Sars in their bid to try and go straight into a semi-final.
Their main strength is in their attacking prowess that contains plenty of experience in Conor Lehane, Luke O’Farrell, Cormac Beausang among others.
Paul Haughney is a very experienced operator too around the middle while Sam Quirke, Tommy O’Connell and Sean O’Leary-Hayes provide the side with a fine balance.
This game will tell us whether that below-par performance against Sars was just a blip or not.
The double-header on Sunday is heavily loaded with potential, an all-city showdown between the Rockies and Douglas.
The Rockies will start favourites on the basis of being the reigning champions but Douglas have exhibited very good form in winning their three group games, which included a fine win over the Glen.
Winning three games in any group setting has to provide a lot of momentum and on paper anyway, this looks to be the best balanced Douglas side for some time.
They haven’t managed to raise a green flag in those games which might concern some pundits but it has been so far, so good.
Trying to unseat a Rockies team that recovered very well from their opening loss is the acid test and in their two victories, the ability to score goals at critical junctures has been a big factor.
They struck very quickly with a brace against Charleville and did something very similar against the ‘Barrs.
Given what has transpired thus far, there is justification in suggesting that this Douglas team has the capability to ensure that anything the Rockies may get will not be easy.
Imokilly are back hunting again with plenty of the team that has already bagged three medals in this competition.
UCC fully tested them in their opener and it was really a spin of a coin at the end. It was all too easy against Seandún the next day.
With so many of their players still heavily involved with their clubs, that probably rules out the type of collective preparation their opponents Glen Rovers will have but that has always been a similar story and it was in their title-winning years of 2017, '18 and '19. Much will depend on the fitness of Seamie Harnedy and young Ciarán Joyce but the team still has a strong blend to it and strong options.
The Glen will have been galvanised by their win over Newtownshandrum and many of this team know what’s required at this stage as well as going the full distance.
There is still an over-reliance on Patrick Horgan to notch the scores as he did against Newtown but as you move further forward into the campaign a greater spread might be required.
All three quarter-finals are set up just perfectly.