John Horgan: Imokilly hurlers have the talent and depth to beat any club team

Champions from 2017 to 2019, Denis Ring's revamped East Cork side have the potential to land the Seán Óg Murphy Cup again
John Horgan: Imokilly hurlers have the talent and depth to beat any club team

Avondhu's Sean Lenihan clashing with Imokilly's John Cronin. Picture: Denis Boyle

JUST the one major hurling game last weekend, the final of the divisional/colleges section of the Premier SHC. 

As statements go before the business end of the campaign gains momentum, the performance by Imokilly in overcoming Avondhu was impressively emphatic.

Given the resources available to team boss Denis Ring and the rest of his management team, the outcome was no great surprise but to be fair to Avondhu, they fought the good fight right to the end and a tally of 1-20 was a decent return.

Some of their point-taking was very impressive by a number of individuals. However, and while it’s still very early days to be making any kind of wild statements, this looks to be an Imokilly squad of players more than capable of being serious title contenders again.

Avondhu's Eoghan Burke clears from Imokilly's William Leahy. Picture: Denis Boyle
Avondhu's Eoghan Burke clears from Imokilly's William Leahy. Picture: Denis Boyle

And it has to be noted that six or seven of them have already been on the podium on the last day of the season.

Of course, there are the age old issues of the players having to put their clubs first, and collective training going forward may not be easy to put in place.

But that has always been the case, it was in 2017, 2018, and 2019 when the division lorded it over all others, and a way was always found.

To be fair, in the two games that they have been involved in, the outcome was signed, sealed, and delivered long before the end.

They were not seriously tested in either game, Avondhu were far better than MTU were but it was still a very lopsided contest with the north Cork unit a beaten docket at half-time.

The concession of a soft, very early goal did not help their cause, and they were playing catch-up thereafter, but the East Cork team simply had too much heavy artillery.

At this juncture in time we don’t know who their quarter-final opponents will be, and it’s only then when that game is played that we might get a more accurate assessment on their true worth.

It’s often said a team’s real depth lies with its bench, and the players that are ready to come in when the need is greatest.

Imokilly have senior county medal winners on their bench, the likes of Colm Barry, Barry Lawton, Dan Mangan, and Brian Mulcahy, vastly experienced players more than willing and able if called upon.

Niall Motherway, Liam O’Shea, Jack Barry, and Joe Stack among others can come in at the drop of a hat too, and it’s that depth in resources that has to make them viable contenders again.

Right down the middle there is quality, from Darragh Moran at number three to Will Leahy at 14.

Cork duo, Ciaran Joyce and Seamus Harnedy, at number six and number 11 illustrates further that quality.

Ciaran O’Brien and John Cronin starred in previous title triumphs, so too Brian Lawton and Mike Russell, and that all adds to their balance throughout the field.

IMPRESSIVE

Young Jack Leahy was hugely impressive last Sunday night, and Sean Desmond and Mike Kelly add significantly to their attacking prowess.

People might form the opinion that we are getting ahead of ourselves here, and there has been no true test in their games to date.

And that is quite right, and whatever club side provides the opposition in the quarter-final, it’s likely to be a far different story.

And that club side will be galvanised by having three tough encounters behind them at the group stage, one of them maybe having to exhibit true grit next Sunday in their emergence.

The main advantage Imokilly might have over a club side is that strength in depth, the ability to bring in players that are equally as good as those that started.

But any club side that they’ll encounter from here on in will be a whole lot better than anything they have faced up to now.

For now, though, the message has to be, Imokilly seem to be motoring again, and very focused too. There will be the ongoing challenge for the management to balance things with the demands of the clubs as they seek their own glories.

Imokilly’s scoring power is one of their main assets and opposing defenders will have to counteract that.

And there are plenty of very good defenders in a lot of the clubs who will be joining the East Cork divisional side in the knockout stage.

Imokilly took possession of the Denis O’Riordan cup as a result of winning the colleges/divisions section, and it is only right and fitting that this great Valley Rovers club man should have a trophy to honour his memory.

Colleagues Denis Hurley and Paudie Palmer have already penned wonderful tributes to one of Cork GAA’s truly great servants at so many different levels.

And this observer would be fully supportive of everything that has been said and written about a man who gave so willingly of his time to the club and the games that he loved.

On numerous trips to Innishannon and Brinny down the years, Denis was always a welcoming presence, ensuring that a programme was always provided and a parking space easily found.

This trophy, presented by his family, will ensure that his memory will be kept and not forgotten for the great contribution that he made.

On Sunday evening we’ll know who will be coming out of the opposite corner against Imokilly in the quarter-final.

Last weekend was very much a calm before the storm on the playing fields but over the coming days and weeks, across all the grades, that storm will gain fierce momentum as the battle for the big prizes intensifies.

No doubt, the Imokilly management will be monitoring things very closely this weekend as the clubs return to duty.

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