A FEAST of club hurling surely awaits next weekend with the semi-finals of all the major competitions being played at venues across the county.
For obvious reasons, the Premier SHC will command most of the attention followed closely by events in the Senior A championship with the Premier Intermediate championship not that far behind either and so on down the line.
Semi-finals are looked upon as games when the result is the only thing that matters, winning ugly or spectacularly is irrelevant, just get the job done and that can be followed up with the proper type of performance that can gain you the ultimate prize.
Beaten teams in semi-finals are quickly forgotten, in fact, some don’t even remember them a few months onwards.
Páirc Uí Chaoimh is front and centre this weekend where the big three competitions are concerned, the Premier senior, Senior A and Premier intermediate.
There is a double-header on Saturday and Sunday at headquarters after Fermoy and Courcey Rovers get things underway on Friday night in the first semi-final of the Senior A.
Fermoy went straight through to the semi-final after emerging from the head of affairs in a difficult group featuring Mallow, Cloyne and Newcestown.
Nothing easy there would have been the perception so to end up topping the group was a fine achievement in itself.
Courcey Rovers got nothing easy either in their first year on the higher stage and to come through a group that contained Fr O’Neill’s, Blarney and Killeagh illustrated what a fine bunch of hurlers team coach Sean Guiheen has at his disposal in Ballinspittle. They subsequently came through a searching test against Ballyhea in the quarter-final and that outcome will have galvanised all that bit more.
It shouldn’t and that should set it all up for one hell of a battle in the search to be involved on the final day.
You can be sure, no quarter will be asked or given here and that will have to be the story across all the games with the bar being raised to a higher level again.
Castlemartyr and Castlelyons open proceedings on Saturday night in the PIHC. A more seasoned Castlelyons in the grade against a Castlemartyr side competing at this level for the first time but a team that has been on a remarkable run in recent times in the lower grades, winning 14 of their 15 championship outings and lifting two trophies.
Castlelyons have lost the last two finals in the grade but are back again on merit. This is another East Cork derby in a never-ending list of those encounters and history has shown that whatever the outcome is, the winners will have earned it.
There is another East Cork showdown in the second game at headquarters with Fr O’Neill’s hoping to reach their third final on the trot against Bride Rovers.
The past number of years have yielded some great days in Ladysbridge-Ballymacoda but there is a perception now that the time has arrived for this bunch of players to make the big leap onto the premier stage.
That’s only the view in some quarters but this is now an experienced unit of players that might find it difficult to recover from another failed attempt at this level.
They made it a clean sweep at the group stage, topping the group and taking the direct route to the quarter-final.
And thus far, they really do seem to mean business.
Bride Rovers were much too strong for Cloyne the last day out in the quarter-final and their youthful enthusiasm has caught the eye of many. Brian Roche, very much on the radar of Pat Ryan, has been outstanding in all their games.
His brother Eoin, Patrick O’Flynn, Cillian Tobin and Adam Walsh are learning the trade of this very competitive grade quickly and while the experience of O’Neill’s might be a factor, this has to be looked upon as a 50/50 affair.
In fact, when this stage of all the competitions is reached that is mostly the case, the playing field has levelled up considerably nobody can say that one team is much better than the other and will be far too strong.
One game that we have not mentioned yet is the other semi-final in the Premier IHC between Ballinhassig and Inniscarra at Cloughduv.
Their gripe was that if one semi-final was at headquarters, then so too should the other one.
They’ll get on with the job against the Mid Cork team and will have been bolstered all that bit more at having come out on the right side of a terrific quarter-final against Bandon. They had to dig way below the surface to get that result but Inniscarra will provide a similar test of endurance.
This is a real rural affair, two clubs who never yield easily. Ballinhassig might have lost their final group game to Castlemartyr which prevented them from gaining an automatic semi-final spot but their powers of recovery were very evident against Bandon.
Inniscarra gained that semi-final slot after topping a group that contained Youghal, Bandon and Valley Rovers and their draw with Valleys gained them the semi-final spot.
Some might argue that having that bit longer to wait for the semi-final can be a hindrance, a team being a bit rusty but that theory has never been conclusively proved one way or the other.
All of the aforementioned games carry great potential and when they are all done and dusted only the fittest will be looking forward to the final.