Cork club hurling: Big guns Midleton and Sars left with huge regrets

A major weekend of hurling action lies ahead but some of the most high-profile clubs in Rebel county are missing
Cork club hurling: Big guns Midleton and Sars left with huge regrets

Paul O'Sullivan, Newtownshandrum shakes hands with Cormac Beausang, Midleton, after their meeting. The champions still ended up going out with Newtown into the quarter-finals. Picture: Larry Cummins

IN sports writing far too many column inches are devoted to the victors.

The losers' stories can be much more interesting, and more significantly, there are always going to be more losers than winners anyway.

This was certainly the case last weekend as the group stages of the various hurling championships concluded across all of the grades, ensuring that half the clubs’ seasons ended in disappointing fashion.

At Premier Senior level, St Finbarr’s and Newtownshandrum were probably the big winners from the extremely eventful last weekend of fixtures, while at the Senior A grade Courcey Rovers, Ballyhea and, especially, Cloyne emerged as the good news stories.

Down at Premier Intermediate level, Carrigaline pipped Watergrasshill by the skin of their teeth, while Bandon pretty much did the same to near neighbours Valley Rovers. 

Special mention to Watergrasshill actually, as they managed to exit the championship undefeated, after bizarrely securing three draws on the trot against Éire Óg, Castleyons, and Carrigaline, which was not enough to qualify.

All those victorious teams get to write further chapters in the 2022 Cork club championship story, but for the losers, an extremely long and frustrating winter awaits, where they will have to go away and lick their wounds.

SERIOUS AMBITION

Sarsfield’s and Midleton were, undoubtedly, the biggest two sides to exit in the group stage in the Premier Senior championship. Both teams would have harboured serious ambitions at lifting the Séan Óg Murphy Cup and to not even reach the knockout stages cannot be anything but a disaster for both clubs.

Midleton went into the championship as reigning champions. Despite the fact that they had new management they would have been fairly confident that given their relatively youthful profile and firepower, they would be there or thereabouts again.

They certainly would not have been expecting to come unstuck against a Kanturk side that appeared destined to figure in the relegation play-off, after only managing 12 and 11 scores in their defeats to Newtown and Douglas respectively.

In that tie, Midleton had managed to fight back from six points down at half-time to lead by four late in the second half, thanks to three second-half goals, but a late Alan Walsh goal and Brian O’Sullivan free sent the points the way of the Duhallow outfit, thereby securing their hard-won Premier Senior status for another year.

A Douglas win would have saved Midleton, but Newtown had different ideas, and their five-point victory meant they ended up topping the group, with Midleton bottom, just three weeks after the Magpies had beaten the north Cork side comfortably by 10 points at Páirc Uí Rinn.

Sars are another side that will have huge regrets. 

They will feel that their quarter-final berth should have been home and hosed after game two, but that costly late collapse against Blackrock on opening weekend ultimately came back to haunt them.

They led the Rockies by four as the clock passed the hour mark, but a quickfire injury- time 1-2 from Alan Connolly saw the southside team steal victory from the jaws of defeat. Had Sars hung on then it could well have been the Rockies 2022 obituary that we would be penning now instead.

In the Senior A grade Newcestown went from looking like title contenders on opening weekend to resembling a side out on their feet by round three, as they certainly looked to have paid the cost for fighting on both fronts. They are to be commended for trying their hand at two extremely tough grades in hurling and football, but the schedule is so full on now that it seems next to impossible for a club with such a small pick to do this successfully.

Ultimately, the biggest winner of all on the final hurling weekend was the championship structure itself, as pretty much every game was of relevance, whether it be for the purposes of qualification to the knock-out stages or in terms of avoiding relegation. There are so many bad luck and good luck stories regarding teams who missed out on small margins, tight calls, or one or two costly decisions, and so on.

Sars’ late withdrawals of Daniel Kearney and Jack O’Connor in that aforementioned game against Blackrock a case in point. Success and failure was decided by such fine margins, and that is a testament to the wonderful structure that gives us such brilliant spectacles and excitement right to the final whistle.

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