EAST Cork clubs Dungounrey, Lisgoold, Midleton and Sarsfield's are all in the mix at this late stage of the Co Op Superstores County Intermediate A Hurling Championship.
The quartet will be bidding to keep the Paddy Walsh Cup in the Imokilly barony, after the cup named in memory of the legendary Castelmartyr stalwart, was won by his home club last year.
Lisgoold play Kildorrery this Friday evening at Fermoy (7.30pm) with Dungourney and Midleton making the short trip to Carrigtwohill for the other quarter-final at the same time. Impressive group winners Sarsfields, along with Cloughduv and straight into the semi-finals, will be watching keenly to see who emerges from these two interesting games.
As it stands Lisgoold are still very much on the crest of a wave as they prepare for another test of their credentials against a more seasoned Kildorrery. Lisgoold have a remarkable unbeaten championship record, which began with their run to the inaugural East Cork junior success in 2020 and continued with back-to-back county titles at junior and lower intermediate level.
Now they have posted two wins and a draw in their three group games at Intermediate A level and go into this weekend's encounter on the back of an eight-point win against an Aghada side who played in the premier intermediate level last year.
Cathal Hickey, Kieran Cashman, Diarmuid Healy and John Cashman were among those in blue and gold to make a very favourable impression in the win over Aghada. It's a Lisgoold team with plenty of talented hurlers, and the influx of the new young generation has further boosted last year's county-winning team.
Looking back at that Aghada win, Lisgoold manager Mossie O'Connell was satisfied with the way the game concluded but he is keeping his feet very much on the ground.
"Things opened up in the closing stages and we took our chances. We had spoken about it at half time that we might get the opportunity to get some long-range points and it just worked out for us in the end.
"We did not play well in the first half and Aghada just struck a lot of wides. They definitely had us in trouble. In the end, maybe it came down to the fact the lads are so familiar with each other allied to our work-rate."
Overall a wider panel of players have also increased the management options and the future looks bright going forward for all in LIsgoold.
"I suppose it's probably the best group of players that ever came into this club. We just have to get the best out of them at the moment and that's why we are putting all our efforts into them.
"As a team and as a club we are just taking every game as it comes."
Meanwhile, Dungounrey and Midleton will both go into their quarter-final in good shape after their respective victories on the last day out.
Dungourney, who had beaten Douglas but lost to Clougduv, were winners by 1-19 to 1-16 over Aghabullogue in their concluding Group B encounter. An early goal by James Ahern got them off to a perfect start and they strengthened their position with a positive start to the second half in what was a trap-to-line victory.
Team manager Martin Denny had to plan this season without a number of last year's panel but has managed to reshape his team and they have delivered the goods. Dungourney will hope that Jack Leahy is back to full fitness and with John Aherne returning from injury, the team in the sash jerseys will be looking for another big hour.
Opponents Midleton may have lost their senior county crown, but team manager Stephen Kane will be determined to extend the Magpies' involvement at intermediate level.
They won a Group A cracker by 2-20 to 0-25 against Blackrock to book their quarter-final ticket with Paul Connaughton and Mikey Finn raising the green flags.
Although Cork U20 Finn, who scored 1-12, against Blackrock) subsequently lined out for the seniors as a late substitute against Kanturk.
Midleton will still be able to call on some talented and experienced players that will be hoping to guide the team into the last four. The club's third team, playing in the East Cork Junior A championship, are in action on Saturday against Sarsfield's.