Last October, Blackrock met St Finbarr’s in what was effectively a winner-take-all Co-op SuperStores Cork Premier SHC group game in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
Having begun the defence of the title won a year previously with defeat to Erin’s Own, the Rockies overcame Charleville, whom the Barrs had beaten in their opener before coughing up a ten-point lead against Erin’s Own to draw.
Another draw would have sent the Togher side through to the knockout stage at the expense of their great rivals but goals from Alan Connolly (two) and Michael O’Halloran proved decisive as Blackrock triumphed by 3-22 to 0-21.
While the stakes aren’t as decisive for the second-round Group C game in Páirc Uí Rinn tomorrow night (7pm), there is still a bit riding on the game. It looked as if both sides would be going in winless until Connolly was the impetus for Blackrock’s smash-and-grab win over Sarsfields last weekend and now another win would send them through with a game to spare. The Barrs, who drew with Charleville, will hope that Damien or Conor Cahalane – or both – will have overcome injuries that kept them out of that match.
At the same time as that match, Sars take on Charleville in Mallow, with the side that fails to win likely to be out of contention. Charleville will have taken heart from how they battled back from four down against the Barrs, but unforced errors were costly and cannot be countenanced against a Sars side that will be hurting.
Saturday’s earlier two games take place in Group A, with Douglas and Newtownshandrum capable of progressing to the quarter-finals if they can back up their opening wins. Douglas impressed against county champions Midleton and take on Kanturk in Mourneabbey (5pm) in a game that also doubles up as a RedFM Hurling League Division 1 final, the winners going through to face Blackrock as the Sars game was similarly dual-purposed.
Last year’s senior A champions Kanturk did well in the league but trailed for most of the Newtown match and the North Cork side will relish the prospect of another battle against a Midleton team seeking a strong response.
On Sunday, Páirc Uí Rinn hosts a Group B double-header. Glen Rovers meet Bishopstown at 1pm with the Town going in two points ahead after they produced a fine fightback against Na Piarsaigh while the Glen lost out to Erin’s Own after nine consecutive points turned the game the way of the Glounthaune side.
The Glen will know that they responded to an opening loss to Douglas last year to still reach the final but a win is all but essential here given that Bishopstown have the points on the board.
At 3pm, Erin’s Own will surely face a backlash from a Piarsaigh side that looked to be coasting when leading Bishopstown by seven points at half-time last week, but the men from Caherlag will fancy their chances of staying on course to qualify from the group for the third straight year.
In the senior A grade, on Sunday there are games in each group that are likely to leave teams within touching distance of qualification. Fr O’Neills, beaten in the last two finals, were impressive against Blarney in Group B and they will face the 2021 PIHC winners Courcey Rovers, who saw off Killeagh. That’s in Ovens at 2pm on Sunday while Blarney and Killeagh will seek to kickstart their campaigns at 5pm on Saturday in Caherlag.
Group A produced wins for Fermoy and Newcestown over Cloyne and Mallow respectively and they will duke it out in Ballincollig at 2pm on Sunday. Barring a draw, one of Cloyne or Mallow will have given themselves a chance ahead of the final round when they do battle in Fermoy at 7.30pm on Friday evening.
In Group C, Carrigtwohill – relegated from premier senior last year – suffered a heavy defeat to Bride Rovers in their first outing last week and they will face a Ballymartle side that went down against Ballyhea. That game is at 2pm in Páirc Uí Rinn on Saturday, while the clash of the two teams that won is at the same time on Sunday, with Kildorrery the venue.