Premier SHC: Midleton and Douglas a tantalising opener as we preview the big games

Reigning champions face one of the top sides from this year's league campaign
Premier SHC: Midleton and Douglas a tantalising opener as we preview the big games

Tommy O'Connell and Pa White of Midleton battle Douglas's Mark Harrington for possession in the 2020 Co-op SuperStores Cork Premier SHC game at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

While there isn’t as much riding on the meeting of Douglas and Midleton as the last time they met in the championship, tonight’s clash at Páirc Uí Rinn is no less intriguing.

Two years ago, the first Co-op SuperStores Premier SHC saw the pair in the ‘group of death’ along with Sarsfields and Ballyhea. With each beating Ballyhea and losing to Sars in their opening two matches, it set up a winner-take-all clash in Páirc Uí Chaoimh in the final round of matches.

Midleton held a slight advantage in that they had the better scoring difference, meaning a draw would have sufficed for them to advance and the sides were level on seven occasions in the second half.

While Douglas pushed 0-18 to 1-12 ahead with points from Shane Kingston and Brian Turnbull, Midleton replied as Pa White (two) and Conor Lehane scored. Down the stretch, there was little to separate them but Turnbull made it 0-22 to 1-18 on 57 minutes and, though Midleton had opportunities to level, they couldn’t find an equaliser. They were out and Douglas advanced.

No doubt Midleton were stung by their early exit, but they bounced back in impressive fashion last year, claiming the county title for an eighth time. Now, they will seek to mount a defence but they do so after a patchy league campaign that saw them finish sixth in Group A, resulting in a place in Division 2 for the revamped competition next year.

Among their results was a 1-17 to 1-11 defeat to Douglas in the opening round, but they will be keen to show that that was not a true reflection. 

While coach Ben O’Connor has departed after last year’s win, Waterford native James O’Connor – who led Ballyhale Shamrocks to the All-Ireland club final – has succeeded him and the nucleus of last year’s team remains.

Douglas built on that win to record eight straight victories, only losing to Na Piarsaigh in their last match after a semi-final spot was assured.

Also tonight St Finbarr’s take on Charleville in Mallow (7.30pm) – with Sarsfields and Blackrock for company in Group C, each will be targeting an important opening win.

Saturday sees a double-header at the Boreenmanna Road, with Glen Rovers taking on Erin’s Own at 5pm and Sars and Blackrock doing battle at 7pm. The Glen-Erin’s Own game is a repeat of the 2016 county final at the venue, which the Glen won thanks to a late surge, but while they have been in the last three county finals, they have yet to add to their tally of 27.

Dean Brosnan of Glen Rovers in action against Kieran Murphy of Erin's Own in the 2016 Cork SHC final at Páirc Uí Rinn. Picture: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Dean Brosnan of Glen Rovers in action against Kieran Murphy of Erin's Own in the 2016 Cork SHC final at Páirc Uí Rinn. Picture: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

Blackrock, now under the management of Clare native Louis Mulqueen, face Sars in what could be a very interesting clash, all the more so as it doubles up as a league semi-final – should the teams finish level, they would each gain a point for the championship but extra time would have to be played to see who advances to the league final. In Charleville at 7pm, Kanturk and Newtownshandrum do battle in what could be an intriguing game.

On Sunday, Páirc Uí Rinn hosts city derby between Na Piarsaigh and Bishopstown, who are in the same group as the Glen and Erin’s Own. The teams met in the league at the end of March, with Piarsaigh triumphing by 2-14 to 1-15 and going on to finish in fifth place with the Town in ninth.

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