SO much for a nice gentle start to the Cork club hurling and football championships!
All grades are now officially underway in both codes, and even after just one game a number of big hitters find themselves on the brink of elimination and already lodging in last-chance saloon territory.
The Premier Senior Football Championship kicked off two weeks ago with the biggest clash of the opening weekend being the Rosscarbery meeting of Clonakilty and Castlehaven. Given the presence of Nemo Rangers in the same group, this already had the feeling of a knockout game and if so it was Clon who were left reeling.
They only managed to score 1-5 over the hour, as they went down by two points to their west Cork rivals. The Dara Ó Sé-shaped hole in their forward line is one they really are going to struggle to fill, and they now know that they have to beat Nemo to extend their summer. A sobering thought for the club, no doubt.
The other big hitters in the football championship, St Finbarr’s, had to open without their main sharp-shooter Steven Sherlock, but had no issues in seeing off Éire Óg by six points.
Mallow could emerge as the surprise packets as they began life at the highest grade with an impressive four-point victory over Ballincollig. One more win over either Douglas or Valley Rovers would secure a quarter-final berth for the grade’s new boys.
In the Premier Senior Hurling championship Midleton, Glen Rovers, and Sarsfields are all staring early elimination in the face after their opening round loses to Douglas, Erin’s Own, and Blackrock respectively.
For each of them there can be no further slip-ups. Each face extremely dangerous opposition this weekend, in the form of Newtownshandrum, Bishopstown, and Charleville, respectively, and it would be no great surprise if one of them were to be virtually eliminated as early as this weekend given the opening weekend’s performances.
Sars will have been particularly annoyed by the manner in which they let victory slip out of their grasp against Blackrock, with the withdrawal of the likes of Daniel Kearney and Jack O’Connor late on in that game raising a lot of eyebrows.
For a team often accused of lacking in leadership, to go and take off some of their actual leaders seemed a strange move, and they ultimately paid the price for it. Conceding a sloppy goal, late on, due to the breakdown of their own short puck-out, also did not help proceedings.
In the other game in Group C a last-ditch Jack Doyle point from a long-distance free ensured that Charleville left Mallow with a share of the spoils with St Finbarr’s. While both clubs had to be content with the one point garnered, in truth both will be seeing it as an opportunity missed, as with Blackrock and Sarsfields next up for both, they are both fully aware how hard it is going to be to reach the last eight now.
Reigning champs Midleton got themselves involved in a shoot-out against Douglas and found Shane Kingston too hot to handle late on, although it must be stated that it was probably Niall Hartnett’s physical presence they most struggled with, with Hartnett grabbing a number of long deliveries that proved decisive in turning the tie Douglas’ way.
Sometimes Cork hurling, as a whole, can forget that having big target men can sometimes seem like hurling in cheat mode, and it is underemployed greatly in the county.
In the Senior A grade, it already feels like we can fast forward to the inevitable titanic struggle between Bride Rovers and Fr O’Neill’s to decide which club jumps to the Premier Senior grade next year.
Bride Rovers blitzed Carrigtwohill, who were a premier side themselves just 12 months ago, to the tune of 5-24 to 0-20, while Fr O’Neill’s took out Blarney by 3-23 to 0-17. Carrigtwohill and Blarney would be regarded as strong sides at this grade but the two victors looked on a different level on opening weekend.
Brian Roche may be the player most people look out for when checking a Bride Rovers result, but it will be extremely interesting to watch how All-Ireland minor winners Cillian Tobin and Adam Walsh continue to develop for the Rathcormac club, while Brian’s twin brother Eoin, and club captain Paddy O’Flynn are also worth keeping tabs on from a Cork perspective.