Cork's 'little All-Ireland' is a cut-throat championship

Wafer-thin margins separated the best from the rest on an action-packed Super Sunday of Cork hurling
Cork's 'little All-Ireland' is a cut-throat championship

Newtownshandrum's Kieran O'Sullivan breaks the hurley of Douglas' Daniel Harte. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

THERE was much head scratching and rulebook thumbing to determine the standings after an eventful final round of group games in the Co-Op Superstores county PSHC at the weekend.

And in centred around city pair, Glen Rovers and Douglas, who finished runners-up in their sections.

The problem, however, was that they also had the same scoring difference of +16, which led us to believe that the team who scored more, in this case Douglas with 84 compared to the Glen’s 69, would be ranked higher.

There was an additional difficulty surrounding repeat group games in the quarter-finals with some saying they were permitted and others disagreeing.

It was relevant here because if Douglas were ranked four, with the Glen five, it would have meant a Newtown-Douglas second meeting in the quarter-finals and second-ranked St Finbarr’s facing the Glen.

Imokilly taking on Blackrock was straightforward forward as was Erin’s Own claiming the lone automatic semi-final spot though that was incredibly tight, also, with the ’Barr’s in the frame, too.

The pair finished on five points, but the Glounthaune club’s +14 scoring difference was one better than the ’Barr’s.

Anyway, it has all boiled down to the following three quarter-final pairings, starting with the Glen-Newtown on Friday week at Pairc Ui Chaoimh at 7.30pm.

On Sunday week, there’s a double-header at the same venue of the Barrs-Douglas at 2pm followed by Imokilly-Rockies at 4pm.

 Glen Rovers' Patrick Horgan tries to get away from Na Piarsaigh's Kevin Moynihan and Eddie Gunning. Picture: David Keane.
Glen Rovers' Patrick Horgan tries to get away from Na Piarsaigh's Kevin Moynihan and Eddie Gunning. Picture: David Keane.

And the highly stressful relegation decider between Na Piarsaigh and Charleville is listed for Mourneabbey on Saturday week at 2pm.

It really was an extraordinary Super Sunday with the champions Midleton bowing out as did the favourites Sarsfields, leaving Erin’s Own as the lone east Cork club to survive the cull.

Of course, Imokilly’s strength is such that they will take some stopping and their showdown with the Rockies brings together recent Seán Óg Murphy Cup winners.

The cut-throat nature of the third season of the new format is plain for all to see, particularly those clubs who lose their first-round games.

The Glen are a case in point here as selector Diarmuid O’Donovan outlined.

“Sunday was realistically a knock-out game for us and it took on a bit more life,” he said after the 0-26 to 3-7 win over Na Piarsaigh.

“It was the same in the previous game against Bishopstown because we had lost our first game so that made the focus a bit sharper. There’s always somewhere in the back of your mind that you’ve another chance, but that was gone from the time we lost to Erin’s Own.”

Erin’s Own were the only first-round winners to top their group as both Douglas and Blackrock were overtaken by Newtown and the Barrs respectively in their sections.

The championship is effectively two competitions in one. The first segment is to ensure qualification for the knock-out stages by finishing in the first two places in the group.

Then, it’s the do-or-die part of the championship where it’s all or nothing, progress or season-ending.

“The championship will go up a level or two in the knock-out stages,” O’Donovan added.

You look at any of the soccer World Cups or European Championships, the standard increases once you reach that phase. It’s like a new competition and the amount of time you thought was there to prepare won’t be there.” 

Clubs adopted different approaches in preparing for the championship depending on their circumstances, particularly those involved with football, too.

“It’s the first full year of the split season and depending on how things were going, some clubs started very early and found they ran out of steam a bit.

“Others started late and it has been an extraordinary summer in terms of weather which makes it incredibly hard to get fit if you’re playing catch-up.

“Nobody really has struck a vein of form yet which suggests somebody could get on a roll, win three matches and be county champions.” 

It all adds to the popular belief that this is the most wide-open county in a long time, particularly with East Cork stripped of two of its leading contenders.

The Barrs reflect this because they were hardly considered after round 2. Now, they’ve as big a chance as any.

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