John Horgan picks six clubs to join Imokilly in the PSHC knockout phase

Our hurling expert calls the huge final round games this weekend at the top level of Cork club hurling
John Horgan picks six clubs to join Imokilly in the PSHC knockout phase

John Cashman, Blackrock, clears from Padraig Buggy, St Finbarr's, at Páirc Uí Rinn. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

SUNDAY is one of those days when you’d love to be in a couple of places at the same time.

The final games in the group stage of the Premier Cork County SHC are taking place, all at different venues across the county and all at the same time of 4pm.

That’s the way it has to be because with so much riding on the outcome of all six games and the possibility of points difference coming into play in deciding some issues, no team is going to have an advantage over the other insofar as having prior knowledge of knowing what’s required to progress to the next stage of the competition or conversely to avoid being sucked into a relegation struggle.

Only Douglas and Erin’s Own have maximum points from their opening two games and are as good as through to the quarter-finals, which initially is a fine achievement in itself.

Whilst there will be huge interest in all the games, from a neutral viewpoint a lot of attention will be focused on the group containing Blackrock, Sarsfields, St Finbarr’s and Charleville.

Many put the tag of the group of death alongside this group and that has come to pass.

With just the top two progressing to the last eight, one big name of Cork hurling is going to fall by the wayside but the big question is, who will it be?

Initially, the Rockies and Sars were the two most fancied to progress and that may very well be the case but it’s far from being a certainty.

The Barrs upset the applecart to some extent when they secured the Southside bragging rights in a gripping encounter against their opponents from Church Road.

Thus far, that has been the game of the competition, the age-old rivals serving up a compelling encounter that saw the team in blue reinventing themselves superbly after being nine points in arrears when the game was only 10 minutes old.

The spirit that they exhibited in doing so gave everybody in the club a huge boost and the confidence levels have surely risen as they now enter a make-or-break showdown with the men from Riverstown.

In the other game in this group, the expectation is that the Rockies will be able to do enough to collect the points against Charleville and thus be one of the two teams to progress.

However, that’s no certainty and, after all, didn’t the North Corkmen secure a fine point in drawing with the ‘Barrs.

They are certainly not out of the equation and, let’s be honest, there’s no team that far ahead of the other in this competition that you could safely predict the outcome of any game.

As a whole, the playing field is fairly level and nothing can be set down in stone beforehand.

There is no doubt, though, that the Barrs v Sars appears to be the standout game of the six and again, whilst Sars will be slightly fancied, the Barrs have to be in a good place coming into this game.

Sarsfields' Cillian Roche is tackled by Charleville's Darragh Fitzgibbon during the Co-Op Superstores Cork PSHC at Mallow. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Sarsfields' Cillian Roche is tackled by Charleville's Darragh Fitzgibbon during the Co-Op Superstores Cork PSHC at Mallow. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

There is a fine blend of youth and experience running through the team and quite a few of the successful minor team of a short few years ago are beginning to make their presence felt now.

Many neutrals would love to see the Blues make the big breakthrough in this SHC and their time in the wilderness has been far too long.

Cork hurling in general needs clubs like the Barrs to be involved heavily at the business end of the championship and to be winning it and 29 years without a title is just far too long for this great hurling home.

Win lose or draw next Sunday, things look to be stirring again in Togher.

The two unbeaten sides to date, Douglas and Erin’s Own will want to keep that run going against Newtownshandrum and Bishopstown respectively and will be slight favourites to do so.

But with so much at stake in every game, nothing is going to come easy with clubs going to fight tooth and nail to try and extend their championship season.

Carrigtwohill is the unlikely venue for the northside derby involving the Glen and Na Piarsaigh and in any derby encounter anywhere the bar is always raised that bit higher.

Na Piarsaigh are pointless after their opening two games and, whilst they put up a very significant tally against Erin’s Own in their last encounter, the concession of six goals proved to be their undoing.

They held the upper hand for a long time against Bishopstown in their opener but allowed the ‘Town back into the contest and subsequently ended up with nothing in that game too. They simply have to get something on Sunday or else they could find themselves in relegation waters.

The game in the fine Carrigtwohill venue has the potential to be very interesting although all the smart money will be on the Glen.

PREDICTION

At the outset of the competition, we predicted that the six to go through would be Blackrock and Sars, Douglas and Midleton, and the Glen and Erin’s Own.

We’ll stick with that prediction but there’s still a lot of hurling to be played in all three groups and things might have changed a bit by half past five next Sunday.

It certainly is a weekend of great potential across all the grades and the six games in the Senior A championship promise much as well.

There are a few tasty-looking derby games on that menu as well, Fr O’Neill’s against Killeagh and Mallow against Fermoy.

Yes, it’s do-or-die now for a lot of clubs in all the grades, the hard yards put in on the training ground will either yield a dividend or it will all have been in vain. An extended summer or a winter of discontent.

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