THEY reached the semi-finals last season and topped the Group of Death this year, but Erin’s Own are still considered the outsiders of the seven teams remaining in the Co-Op Superstores County PSHC, which cranks up a number of levels at the weekend.
It’s one of the many mysteries hanging over the three quarter-finals, featuring a couple of local derbies and a 2019 final repeat, starting with two of the east’s finest, Erin’s Own and Midleton, at Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Friday at 7.30pm.
Why the Glounthaune club are considered 12/1 to go all the way and lift the Sean Óg Murphy Cup has probably more to do with their positioning in the championship run-in more than anything else.
Midleton are marginal 4/6 to get the better of Erin’s Own, who, if they did manage to win, which, in itself wouldn’t be classified as a shock, it’s the imposing Sarsfields standing in their way in the semi-final.
The fact that the Glanmire club inflicted a 10-point defeat on Midleton in their final group game, when, it must be said, both had already qualified, has clearly influenced those who like to have a flutter on the county’s glamour hurling competition with Sars taking over from Imokilly as 6/4 favourites with the divisional representatives next at 7/2.
Still, Erin’s Own will happily accept the role of underdogs going into tonight’s game, which has a number of intriguing head-to-head jousts to whet the appetite even more.
For example, will Cork colleagues, Sean O’Leary-Hayes and Robbie O’Flynn, be in one another’s company for the duration and who in the Midleton defence will be handled the task of keeping tabs on Eoghan Murphy? Luke Dineen?
And it’s even more interesting at the other end because Conor Lehane and Luke O’Farrell have been outstanding for the Magpies with 3-31 between them.
So, what will manager Martin Bowen’s thinking be on this particular topic, James O’Flynn on Lehane, maybe, and, possibly, captain Cian O’Connor shadowing O’Farrell?
The Erin’s Own boss is as shrewd a judge of the sport as they come, a bit like Ger Fitzgerald in the opposite camp, and you suspect it’s going to be cat-and-mouse all night.
Go back to another Friday night and the opening game of the championship itself, when Erin’s Own faced the daunting challenge of meeting the holders Blackrock, who were hotly fancied.
And with a resurgent St Finbarr’s and a Darragh Fitzgibbon-inspired Charleville also in the group, it meant defeat would immediately place the losers’ backs against the wall and under pressure to survive in such a highly competitive section.
But, typically, Erin’s Own rose to the challenge to win an epic contest by two points with Murphy and O’Flynn combining for 1-15 of their 2-18 total.
And, yet, there was no guarantee of them emerging to contest the business end of the season, particularly as they drew with the Barrs next time out.
And it was a similar outcome against Charleville in the concluding fixture, but a point was enough to finish level on four points with the Rockies, though Erin’s Own claimed group honours thanks to winning the head-to-head.
It’s nicely poised for the eastern battle with Erin’s Own’s Murphy on 1-23 compared to Lehane’s 0-23 on a night when placed-ball scoring will once again be paramount, especially if there are indicators of the first signs of winter hurling.