Premier SHC previews: Sars v Barrs is effectively a knockout tie

All four Group C sides still have a chance of qualification
Premier SHC previews: Sars v Barrs is effectively a knockout tie

Barrs defender Damien Cahalane in action against Blackrock. Picture: Larry Cummins.

The six remaining games in the round-robin stage of the Co-op SuperStores Cork Premier SHC take place at 4pm on Sunday, with no side yet fully guaranteed to advance to the knockout stage.

When the draws were made, Group C stood out in terms of expected difficulty of qualification for the knockout stages.

The champions of 2020, Blackrock, came out of the drum alongside Sarsfields – semi-finalists last year and among the outright favourites – as well as St Finbarr’s and Charleville. While the latter two had failed to advance in 2021, with Charleville needing to beat Carrigtwohill on penalties in the relegation play-off, their candidacy could not be discounted.

The sense of the games being hard to call has been born out by the results: both the Barrs and Charleville could have won their opening-round clash in Mallow, with each having to accept a draw; then, the following night, Sars looked to have struck an early blow with victory in sight against the Rockies only for Alan Connolly’s late scoring surge to turn the tables.

Three weeks ago, Blackrock started like a train against the Barrs, seeking to repeat their win of the final round of group games just under a year ago, but the Togher side came back to earn victory and, in the process, put themselves top of the table heading into this weekend’s fixtures.

Unfortunately for Charleville, their six-point loss to Sars leaves them bottom of the table but qualification is not yet beyond them – a win against Blackrock in Mallow coupled with a Sars victory over the Barrs would be enough if they could effect a seven-point swing in terms of scoring difference.

Sarsfields' Aaron Myers and Charleville's Jack Kilcommons tussle for the sliotar. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Sarsfields' Aaron Myers and Charleville's Jack Kilcommons tussle for the sliotar. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

For Blackrock, any victory will suffice and Louis Mulqueen’s team will go in as favourites but they won’t be complacent given that Charleville scored 2-19 against Sars, with Darragh Fitzgibbon, Andrew Cagney and Jack Doyle all in good form. Aside from Connolly, Blackrock will look to Michael O’Halloran, Shane O’Keeffe and Robbie Cotter.

At Páirc Uí Rinn, the terms are fairly clear in that the winners will progress to the quarter-finals of the competition, with a draw enough for the Barrs. They benefited from the return to Damien and Conor Cahalane against the Rockies while their brother Jack, Ethan Twomey and Brian Hayes provided key scores along with Ben Cunningham.

They will face a Sarsfields team that is laden with firepower though in the form of Aaron Myers, James Sweeney, Jack O’Connor and Shane O’Regan as well as benefiting from the experience of Alan Kennedy, Daniel Kearney and Conor O’Sullivan.

In Group A, Douglas have a foot in the latter stages, with two wins and a scoring difference of 21 – they take on Newtownshandrum in Mourneabbey with the North Cork level on two points with Midleton but 12 worse off in the scoring-difference stakes.

Shane Kingston scored 1-12 for Douglas as they saw off Kanturk while his brother Conor had four points. Mark Harrington and Stephen Moylan remain influential for the city side and Alan Cadogan is still a threat in attack, too. Having beaten Kanturk, Newtown lost to Midleton by ten points but they will seek inspiration from Tim O’Mahony, Jamie Coughlan and Jack Twomey.

Kanturk are still mathematically in with a chance but they would need a huge win over Midleton in Fermoy, coupled with a Douglas victory against Newtown. 

Nevertheless, the Duhallow side, winners of the SAHC last year, will still be looking for a positive result to hopefully avoid the relegation play-off. Conor Lehane, Luke O’Farrell, Tommy O’Connell and Cormac Beausang led the Midleton charge against Newtown and will do so again, while Brian O’Sullivan and Liam O’Keeffe should be active on the scoreboard for Kanturk.

Glen Rovers' Simon Kennefick and Bishopstown's Seán Murphy. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Glen Rovers' Simon Kennefick and Bishopstown's Seán Murphy. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Group B is a similar situation to Group A, with Erin’s Own top after two wins but still not fully certain of progressing. The avoidance of defeat against Bishopstown in Rathcormac will ensure that they do and Robbie O’Flynn, Conor Lenihan and Mossie O’Caroll have all been in good form for them. Patrick Cronin, Thomas Murray, Luke Lordan and Pearse Morris will be integral for the Town, who beat Piarsaigh before losing to Glen Rovers – a win would put them through as group winners if Na Piarsaigh were to win the northside derby against the Glen in Carrigtwohill.

The Glen go in as favourites though, especially with the firepower of Patrick Horgan and Simon Kennefick as well as the half-back line of Robert and Eoin Downey and Brian Moylan. Shane Forde, Pádraig Guest and Patrick O’Rourke will look to help Piarsaigh avoid the relegation play-off if the big victory necessary to qualify does not materialise.

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