The competitive nature of the Co-op SuperStores Cork Premier SHC can be summed up by the fact that, in the final round of group games, newly promoted Kanturk beat last year’s county champions Midleton.
Ultimately, neither side qualified for the knockout stages, but the victory ensured that Kanturk avoided any concerns regarding an immediate return to senior A level. It also served to show – along with the fact that none of the 12 competing sides won all three games – that nobody is head and shoulders above the rest.
Erin’s Own made it through unbeaten and have taken the sole semi-final spot, while St Finbarr’s had an identical record of two wins and a draw after coming out on top in the group of death featuring Blackrock, Sarsfields and Charleville.
Having failed to come out of their group in the first two years of the round-robin format, the Barrs now have a great opportunity to make the semi-finals when they meet Douglas in Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Sunday afternoon (2pm).
While the Togher side made the last four in 2019, losing to eventual champions Imokilly, it was their first appearance at that stage in a decade, while Douglas are seeking to make the semis for the first time since 2014, when they lost out to Glen Rovers after a replay.
In terms of momentum, the Barrs could hardly ask for better – they drew with Charleville first time out but followed that with wins over the Rockies and then Sars, with a four-goal haul crucial. Given that their opponents have only conceded a goal a game, the Barrs’ green-flag success could again be a factor in the outcome.
Douglas secured their place in the knockouts with wins against Midleton and Kanturk, but defeat a fortnight ago to Newtownshandrum meant they finished second. Last year, they topped their group with three wins but then lost out to Blackrock and so they will hope that the opposite can be the case this time around.
With their win having secured top spot, Newtown clash with Glen Rovers tonight in the Páirc (7.30pm). At the same stage three years ago, the Glen edged matters by a point and they also triumphed in the round-robin last year. While they were below their absolute best in the group stages, they have shown in previous years that early losses can be overcome as they improve with games.
While they were disappointed to lose to Erin’s Own, they bounced back well against Bishopstown and then Na Piarsaigh. Last year, they lost their opening match to Douglas but still made it to what was a third consecutive final. Newtown beat Kanturk but then lost to Midleton, leaving them with a tough assignment against Douglas but they reacted well to that and the victory gave them top spot on the head-to-head tie-break.
Tomorrow, Mourneabbey is the venue at 2pm as Charleville clash with Na Piarsaigh in the relegation play-off. Last year, the North Cork side were also involved in this fixture, beating Carrigtwohill after a penalty shootout was required, and they will go in as favourites based on how the group stages went, not least their draw with the Barrs.
Having led Bishopstown by seven points at half-time in their opening game, Piarsaigh have lost the remaining two and a half matches by an aggregate of 29 points and so an improvement is needed if their status – top grade since 1958 – is to be maintained.
Then, Sunday’s second game in Páirc Uí Chaoimh sees Blackrock go up against Imokilly in a repeat of the 2017 county final. Last year, the East Cork divisional side also made it through to the quarter-finals but were beaten by the Glen while the Rockies – defending champions for the first time in 18 years – reached the semis but lost a ding-dong battle to Midleton.
Both intermediate A quarter-finals take place tonight at 7.30pm, with Dungourney meeting Midleton in Carrigtowhill while Fermoy is the venue for Kildorrery against Lisgoold. That grade’s relegation play-off is the meeting of Douglas and Meelin in Glantane at 2pm tomorrow.
In the premier JHC, Milford meet Tracton in a quarter-final at 7.30pm tonight in Mourneabbey, while Russell Rovers clash with Argideen Rangers at 3pm tomorrow in Riverstown. The relegation play-off sees St Finbarr’s face Dripsey at 2pm in Ballincollig.