John Horgan rates the Premier Senior Hurling clubs still in contention

Holders Midleton and favourites Sars are out, so where does that leave the contenders for Cork's top hurling prize?
John Horgan rates the Premier Senior Hurling clubs still in contention

Newtownshandrum's Tim O'Mahony impressed in last Sunday's upset win over Douglas. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

WHEN a team puts in a very impressive performance in one game, the question that inevitably follows is, can they give a repeat performance in their next outing?

The Barrs put in that impressive performance when they saw off Blackrock in their second encounter at the group stage of the Premier SHC and as a result a lot of people sat up and took notice.

They had given themselves a fighting chance of making it through to the business end of the campaign but Sarsfields were next up, the competition favourites. Despite what transpired against the Rockies, the Riverstown outfit were the fancy of most pundits to progress.

Well, we all know what the outcome was at Páirc Uí Rinn last Sunday, a whopping win for the Barrs and as a result, they are now through to the quarter-final and a collision with Douglas.

If the Togher men were very good against the Rockies, they were even better in eliminating Sars and let nobody be under any illusions now, they are contenders for a title they haven’t won for 29 years.

 Brian Murphy, Sarsfields, clears from Brian Hayes and Jack Cahalane, St Finbarr's, at Páirc Uí Rinn on Sunday. Picture: Jim Coughlan.
Brian Murphy, Sarsfields, clears from Brian Hayes and Jack Cahalane, St Finbarr's, at Páirc Uí Rinn on Sunday. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

That’s not saying for one moment that they are going to end that impatient wait in the wilderness but on the evidence that they presented last Sunday, their confidence levels will have moved up another notch or two.

They put four superbly executed goals past a bewildered Sars defence, the first two in the opening minutes, in stark contrast to what the story was against the Rockies when they trailed by nine points inside the opening quarter of an hour.

They reinvented themselves superbly on that occasion but the message would have been loud and clear from Ger Cunningham, there just cannot be any repeat of that early sluggishness again.

And if there was, another team might not have been accommodating in letting them back in.

Their goals were a joy to behold, they were sublime in their construction and equally so in their execution.

The hugely promising Ethan Twomey, Jack Cahalane and Brian Hayes delivered the three first-half goals that laid a very solid platform for the victory that followed.

The outstanding Eoghan Finn put the game beyond doubt with the fourth green flag and Sars were down and out with plenty of time still remaining on the clock.

In the long years since their last title the Barrs have had plenty of fine individuals, a few good teams that never got over the line but what most important of all they have now is a strong balance, defensively, in the middle and offensively.

All three Cahalanes are key figures, Ben Cunningham, Ben O’Connor, Cian Walsh, Twomey, Finn, William Buckley and Brian Hayes are playing some great hurling and there is a pattern to their play that they are all buying into.

CONFIDENCE

Shane Hurley gives those in front of him fierce confidence and he has to be one of the best club goalkeepers in the county.

Nothing, of course, is won yet, in fact, they will have to negotiate three more massive fences before that can come to pass but they are where they want to be.

Sars really had no answers against them and in the group of death, as it was tagged, this Barrs outfit have been a breath of fresh air.

So, it’s adios to Sars for this campaign and it’s a similar story with the holders Midleton.

Their loss to a Kanturk side that had previously lost their two encounters was a huge shock and it’s a major story when the defending champions don’t make it through to the knockout stage of the subsequent campaign.

At the outset most observers, this one included predicted that Sars and Midleton would be involved at the business side of things but both are done for the year now and some soul searching will be carried out in both clubs.

But that’s the way it is with this hugely successful championship format, when one team plays to its maximum potential anything can transpire.

Going back to the Barrs, to finish up with five out of six points in what was regarded as the most difficult of the three groups by far was a fine accomplishment by any set of standards.

One of the most satisfied teams of the 12 that contested the three groups must be Newtownshandrum.

Given their history in the early 2000s and their always battling qualities, you never, ever write them off but they were not one of the two fancies to emerge from their group.

Midleton and Douglas were regarded as the top two but Newtown did the business with last Sunday’s superb win over Douglas and having earlier seen off Kanturk, they have proved that going forward they’ll be no pushover for any side going forward.

REINVENTED

And the Glen are motoring along nicely as well, they were confidently expected to see off near neighbours Na Piarsaigh at Carrigtwohill and they were very efficient in doing so.

They have reinvented themselves very well after their early setback to Erin’s Own and any side with Patrick Horgan rifling over the points has to given the utmost respect.

 Glen Rovers' Patrick Horgan is strongly challenged by Na Piarsaigh's Eddie Gunning. Picture: David Keane.
Glen Rovers' Patrick Horgan is strongly challenged by Na Piarsaigh's Eddie Gunning. Picture: David Keane.

Mention of Erin’s Own, despite being held by Bishopstown, they were the big winners over the weekend, going straight through to the semi-final.

That is the way to go, take the most direct route to the destination and whilst some might say they’ll be at a disadvantage by not having a quarter-final, one does not go along with that theory at all.

Ask any team manager what he’d prefer, a semi-final spot or a potentially very testing quarter-final assignment.

I’ll tell you what my answer would be, the semi-final spot any day of the week.

They can now sit back and have a good, hard look who their opponents will be in their next game and they will be able to plan accordingly.

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