John Horgan reviews the epic Cork hurling semi-finals; next up Glen v Midleton

Champions Blackrock are gone as Glen look for a first title since 2015 and Midleton to bridge the gap to 2013
John Horgan reviews the epic Cork hurling semi-finals; next up Glen v Midleton

Glen Rovers goalkeeper Cathal Hickey in action against Sarsfields at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

THE general consensus in advance of last Sunday’s double-header at Páirc Uí Chaoimh was that it would lead to a Blackrock and Sarsfields Premier SHC final.

That was based on the belief that the Rockies, the title holders, had hit form at the right time. And Sarsfields had swept through the group stage, amassing some very high tallies which catapulted them straight through to the last four.

It didn't quite pan out that way: Blackrock losing out to Midleton and Sars unable to counteract the Glen Rovers' hunger and aggression. In both cases, the two teams that entered the winning enclosure did so deservedly and have set the stage for a cracking final.

Firstly, to Midleton, they might not be overly happy with the concession of 3-19, which is enough to win a lot of games but conversely, in putting up 4-22, they illustrated the scoring power they possess. Based on their loss to Sars in their final group game, many were unsure of their true form.

When the East Cork rivals collided then they were both already through, so too much might have been read into it altogether. Midleton had an extra game to play in the quarter-final against a gritty Erin’s Own side and that battle-hardened them. That victory was ideal preparation for last Sunday.

Midleton's Sean O'Meara shoots from Blackrock's Stephen Murphy during the Co-Op Superstores Premier SHC semi-final. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Midleton's Sean O'Meara shoots from Blackrock's Stephen Murphy during the Co-Op Superstores Premier SHC semi-final. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Their scoring power up front was well-heralded and it proved so again with Conor Lehane, Cormac Beausang, Ross O’Regan and Luke O’Farrell all securing very important scores. There are many who would prefer to see Tommy O’Connell playing a forward role but he has settled in very adequately to the centre-back slot and was hugely effective.

The Rockies might have posted three goals but Midleton got one more and that was key. Beausang was brilliant, delivering 1-4 from play and his efforts in this championship and in this game, in particular, won’t have gone unnoticed. Lehane remains a class forward and he is a hugely important player in this Midleton set-up.

Where the Rockies are concerned, it was another illustration of the difficulty in retaining this championship.

Okay, the Glen did it in 2015 and 2016 and Imokilly won three-in-a-row but many very good sides in the past, like Sars and Newtown in their times of dominance, didn't.

The Glen’s level of consistency since winning in 2015 after losing heavily the previous year has been maintained and it is something that must be recognised; deservedly in their third final in a row.

Last Sunday they had to dig deep to see off Sars and the difference between the Glen team from opening group game loss to Douglas and the one now preparing for the final is vast. You would not have put too much on them after that hammering from Douglas but the manner with which they regrouped thereafter has to be admired. 

They saw off Bishopstown, toughed it out to defeat Newtownshandrum by a point before doing something similar against Imokilly after Patrick Horgan had been dismissed. Those two victories must surely have been worth their weight in gold.

Ian Lynam is certainly getting the response that was required after that early loss and that club spirit has shone brightly again.

Horgan was simply sublime again last Sunday, in the list of Glen greats and there are so many, he ranks up there with the very best. The goal that he drilled home was a score of real majesty and he certainly lit up a dark November day with his tally of 1-11.

Rob Downey was a very commanding presence at centre-back while there were important scores from Simon Kennefick and Dean Brosnan.

Glen Rovers' Simon Kennefick and Sarsfields' Craig Leahy tussle for possession. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Glen Rovers' Simon Kennefick and Sarsfields' Craig Leahy tussle for possession. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

There was very little, hardly anything at all between the two teams and extra-time seemed very probable. But the Glen revved up the engine that bit more in the game’s dying embers and that got them over the line.

Overall, it was a very satisfactory day at headquarters. We got two compelling encounters, embellished with some fine individual performances and some terrific scores.

Are the two best teams in the final? You would have to say a firm yes, both had to overcome defeats earlier on but when the big questions were posed, both the Glen and Midleton had the required answers.

Ben O’Connor and Ger Fitzgerald have got the response that they desired from this bunch of Midleton players after they failed to emerge from the group stage last season.

In the Glen Field and in Clonmult Memorial Park there will be a real spring in the step for what lies ahead next Sunday week.

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