Senior A Hurling: John Horgan picks six clubs to make the knockout phase

Fr O'Neill's will be front-runners again to make it to the premier tier of club hurling in Cork
Senior A Hurling: John Horgan picks six clubs to make the knockout phase

Bride Rovers' Brian Roche is tackled by Blarney's David Walsh during the Co-Op Superstores Cork SAHC quarter-final at Pairc Ui Chaoimh. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

THE search for fresh talent that might have something to offer the new Cork senior hurling management begins this weekend with the commencement of the championship in the various grades.

Embellishing the squad from the previous season will be prioritised by new team boss Pat Ryan and with that in mind, there will be presence at as many games as possible over the coming months.

The games will be coming thick and fast now with the margin for error minimised with the structure in place which sees just two teams from the group section progressing to the knockout phase of the competition.

Every club is guaranteed three games in the group section thus giving them all a fair crack of the whip. You could say that there will be something for everybody in the audience over the coming couple of months.

Already, we had a look at how things might pan out in the Premier SHC and offered our tuppence worth on who is likely to progress.

The decision to split the competitions has been very successful thus far, particularly at senior level with the Senior A championship providing teams not strong enough to make the desired impact in the premier grade the opportunity to compete at a level that is better suited for them at this particular point in time.

It certainly is a more level playing field than the premier grade where the winner is likely to come from one of the bigger names who have been there and done that in the more recent past.

Whereas in the Senior A championship, the majority of the participants will believe that they have a decent chance of being involved at the business end of the campaign.

Fr O’Neill’s have been beaten finalists in the past two years but their cause will endure that they can still make it into the top flight.

Cian Twomey, Newcestown, challenging Declan Dalton, Fr O'Neill's, in last year's Senior A Championship. Picture: Jim Coughlan.
Cian Twomey, Newcestown, challenging Declan Dalton, Fr O'Neill's, in last year's Senior A Championship. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

They open up on Sunday with a joust alongside Blarney and this is, potentially, the game of the opening weekend.

Declan Dalton is back to full fitness for O’Neill’s and after some strong performances in the league, he will be all out to get back into the Cork equation.

Blarney have Cork captain Mark Coleman, Shane Barret and the Padraig Power backboning their starting 15, the latter one of the players that will be closely looked at by the new Cork management and a player with plenty of scoring potential.

Killeagh and Courcey Rovers are the other two sides in this group B and the Ballinspittle brigade will believe that they are ready to make a serious impact after winning the PIHC last season.

Killeagh, though are a seasoned outfit with a good balance of youth and experience and will hope that can get them over the line in this opener.

O’Neill’s and Blarney are the two fancied sides to progress but nothing will come easy in any game in this Senior A championship.

In Group A it would take a brave one to predict who will emerge from the quartet of Newcestown, Mallow, Cloyne and Fermoy.

One can be certain that between these four, no quarter will asked or given and it will be a survival of the fittest and the toughest.

Mallow’s footballers set the ball rolling for the club with a fine win over Ballincollig and, as they say, a rising tide can lift a lot.

Their opening assignment with Newcestown is sure to be a right, old-fashioned battle.

Section C contains two East Cork neighbours, Carrigtwohill and Bride Rovers and both clubs will again be looking to a blend of youth and experience.

The Rovers are renowned for being a side that are desperately difficult to overcome at any time and that refusal to yield is bred into them from a long time ago.

The Roche brothers, Brian and Eoin Roche are two very good hurlers with bagfuls of potential but Carrig have their own qualities to draw on.

And you never underestimate them as was illustrated back in 2011 when they triumphed against all odds to win the senior title. The younger players of today should be inspired by those heroics.

Ballyhea and Ballymartle are alongside the two East Cork teams in this group and again they will be gritty opponents as they have always been.

Neither might contain the bigger names that others possess but what you will get from both is a real honesty of effort. And that trait can bring you a long way.

 Pa O'Callaghan, Ballyhea, battling Ronan Power, Carrigtwohill. 
Pa O'Callaghan, Ballyhea, battling Ronan Power, Carrigtwohill. 

Predicting who might be the last two standing at the end of the season would be foolish in the extreme because of how level the playing field seems to be.

Yes, the grade is a step below the requirements of the premier senior championship but that does not diminish its potential in any way.

In fact, a lot of the games may well overshadow some of those in the top flight and, hopefully, and this applies at all levels, a couple of players will put their hand up high enough to show that they might be included in the discussions surrounding the make up of the Cork panel next season.

SENIOR A PREDICTIONS 

Group A: Newcestown and Mallow.

Group B: Fr O’Neill’s and Blarney.

Group C: Carrigtwohill and Bride Rovers.

Not too many of those predictions are made with any great amount of conviction and that’s the way it should be, the only certainty being the uncertainty.

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