There is little doubting the fact the Co-op SuperStores Cork Premier SHC is in a fairly equitable period, summed up by the fact that just one of this weekend’s semi-finalists was involved at the same stage in 2021.
That is Blackrock, the champions of 2020, who take on Erin’s Own at Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Sunday at 2pm. While the Glounthaune side have made it out of their group in each of the previous two years since the competition format was changed, that they would take the top seeding an automatic semi-final spot was not something widely predicted beforehand.
Victories against Glen Rovers and Na Piarsaigh and a draw with Bishopstown sent them through, to the delight of manager Martin Bowen.
“I suppose to be brutally honest, we’re probably a bit surprised ourselves!” he laughs.
“Having said that, our first target every year, and I keep repeating this, is to avoid relegation.
“Then, after that, it’s to qualify out of the group and how you do that is up in the air, because they’re all very tight. Things just happened to fall right for us this year – it was only a puck of a ball, to be honest.”
Youngsters Conor Linehan, Oran O’Regan and Cian O’Connor have impressed for Erin’s Own, while the experience of Kieran and Eoghan Murphy, Maurice O’Carroll, Shay Bowen and Stephen Cronin has been a help, too, not least in inspiring a second-half comeback against the Glen in the opening fixture.
“I think everyone knows what we’re about,” Bowen says, “and we have a lot of elder statesmen, if you want to call it that, guys who have been around a long, long time.
“That experience is invaluable, of course, particularly when you’re trying to bring in younger lads. The older lads were definitely the calming heads in the Glen match and that was a critical match, I think every club would tell you that the first game is always very important.
“We’re fully aware of where we’re at and fully aware of what we’re facing. Blackrock have been very prominent, they’ve been champions, they’re a big, strong, physical team.
“It’s going to be an extremely difficult encounter, but, look, it’s fantastic to be in a semi-final and you want to be playing the best teams. It’s the only way young fellas can learn, to play against the best, and when you’ve a few older fellas alongside them, guiding them, it’s a bonus.”