It’s knockout time in hurling championships
The calculators have been put away until next year - from here on in it’s winner takes all, and on the day at that - bar the finals - so there’s no room for error as the business end of the season gets underway.
The quarter-finals in the Co-op Superstores Championship in all grades take on even greater significance with relegation play-offs that will determine who plays where in 2023.
Premier Senior Hurling Quarter Finals
With Erin’s Own safely into the last four, they can sit back and relax and watch the 6 other sides battling to see who can join them and who they will meet in a couple of weeks time. All 3 games will be played in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
Glen Rovers v Newtownshandrum on Friday at 7.30pm
When these sides met in a thrilling group game last season, it took an exceptional performance from Patrick Horgan to get Glen Rovers over the line, and now they face a revitalised Newtown side who showed massive spirit to emerge from a very tough group and their demolition of Douglas in the last game only re-enforced the view that they will be just as difficult to beat this time round.
Tim O’Mahoney has been fulcrum to their challenge but Jamie Coughlan and Cathal Naughton are also playing vital roles as are Jerry Lane, Conor Twomey, Cormac O’Brien and Ronan Geary and they will relish this opportunity to take a major scalp.
As for Glen Rovers, they recovered from a 1st round loss to Erin’s Own to record comfortable wins over Bishopstown and Na Piarsaigh although the concession of 3 goals to their northside neighbours will occupy the thoughts of their backroom team ahead of this clash.
Stephen McDonnell is as solid as ever while the Downeys Robert and Eoin were very effective in Carrigtwohill, while Adam O’Donovan was excellent in midfield.
Patrick Horgan, again, did the bulk of the scoring with Simon Kennefick and Eoin O’Leary also contributing.
The expectation is that Glen will advance and that might very well be the case but they will get a severe test from Newtown, one they will pass though.
Douglas v St Finbarr’s on Sunday at 2pm
There are contrasting moods entering this game; the ‘Barr’s on a high following their demolition of Sar’s while Douglas are hoping the defeat by Newtowsahndrum was a mere blip given they were already qualified.
They will have to put it behind them quickly as their southside neighbours are riding high, emerging from the ‘group of death’ unbeaten and their younger generation of players playing with a swagger and a confidence that comes from winning.
Ben O’Connor, Ethan Twomey, Brian Hayes, Eoghan Finn, Jack Cahalane and Ben Cunningham showed what they are capable of so far.
Douglas looked very impressive in their opening games and they do have quality in Shane Kingston, Alan Cadogan, Cillian O’Donovan, Mark Harrington, Eoin Cadogan and Conor Kingston.
It has the makings of a fascinating contest and might even take more than the 60 minutes to determine a winner, but on the basis that the ‘Barr’s are getting better with every outing, they should prevail.
Blackrock v Imokilly on Sunday at 4pm
Many people’s fancy for title Imokilly face a Blackrock side that has shown mixed form so far; impressive in coming from behind to beat Sars, defeated by the ‘Barrs and then held off a resolute Charleville to set up this clash, so they are well tested.
It’s the opposite for Imokilly. They had comfortable and impressive wins over MTU and Avondhu, they learned very little but achieved their objective by getting into the QF.
Preparation will be limited, and hampered by the fact that several of their players will be involved in championship games in days before they face the Rockies.
They have a lot of good players in their team and have shown over the years that they have the capacity to deal with whatever situation they find themselves in.
Blackrock were champions 2 years ago and the bulk of that squad are still making vital contributions but need a level of consistency that has been lacking so far.
Can Alan Connolly, Tadgh Deasy, John Cashman, Daniel Meaney, Niall Cashman and Michael o’Halloran deliver when it’s needed most? If they can the Rockies can win, if not their championship ambitions will come to an end.
An attractive double-header in Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Saturday with the East Cork derby of Cloyne v Bride Rovers getting proceedings underway at 5pm.
Cloyne produced a stunning display in their final group game against Newcestown to book their place, against the odds, in the quarter-final and that will give them a real confidence boost.
The Cloyne management have given youth its fling that and the placing of placing of Paudie O’Sullivan at centre-back swung the game decisively their way.
Brian O’Shea hit 0-15 in that win, while Michael Cahill also impressed.
Bride Rovers have been very consistent in this grade and while they also have a young team they are probably a bit further down the road in terms of development than their opponents.
Brian and Eoin Roche, Cillian Tobin, Adam Walsh, Ronan O’Connell and the experienced Daniel Dooley are big players for the Rathcormac side. Hard one to call, but a hesitant nod to Bride to progess.
Ballyhea and Courcey Rovers follow this game at 7pm and here last year’s Premier Intermediate champions Courceys really showed their resolve with a great win over a highly rated Blarney side to extend their season.
Sean Twomey is a big player for them and he gets great support from DJ Twomey, Richard Sweetnam, Fergus Lordan and the added bonus of goalkeeper Stephen Nyhan whose accuracy from distance has seen him score crucial points.
The North Cork side enjoyed a good group phase and the draw against Carrigtowhill got them over the line, with once again Pa O’Callaghan a pivotal player for them along with John Morrissey, Tiernan Hanley and Eugene O’Leary also playing well.
It’s been a while since Ballyhea were involved at this stage of a major championship and they do play with a lot of spirit and determination but Courcey’s look better balanced and that might tilt the tie their way.
The first of the QFs goes ahead on Friday in Mourneabbey at 7.30pm with Milford facing Tracton with the south-east side slight favourites to edge this one, while Russell Rovers who impressed in the group stages will be expected to get the better of Argideen Rangers when they meet in Riverstown on Saturday at 3.30pm.
3 of the 4 teams in the last 8 are from the Imokilly division and the local derby clash of Midleton and Dungourney on Friday night in Carrigtwohill has an intriguing look to it.
Dungourney were impressive in seeing off Agahbullogue in their final group game and with Ryan Denny, Jack Leahy, Bryan Forbes and Niall Motherway in good form, they look well equipped to account for Midleton’s second team.
On the same night Fermoy is the venue for the meeting of Lisgoold and Kildorrery who are battling on two fronts and that might come against them but with Peter O’Brien and James Keating in good form, they will test the East Cork outfit who are on a remarkable run.
John Cronin, Liam O’Shea, Ciaran Cronin, Cathal Hickey and James O’Driscoll anchor the Lisgoold challenge and they get the nod to maintain their winning sequence. 7.30pm start in both games.
This championship has produced some cracking encounters in recent years and expect that trend to be maintained with the two games scheduled for Saturday with 3.30pm starts.
Cobh houses the meeting of Castlemartyr and Carrigaline who displayed remarkable resilience to progress with a draw against Watergrasshill last time out, with Kevin Kavanagh, Brian Kelleher, Rob O’Shea, and David Drake all making important contributions.
Castlemartyr bounced back from a rare defeat to Kilworth with a narrow but deserved win over Ballinhassig in the last round, and like Lisgoold are bidding to add another title to the back to back ones won in the last 18 months.
Ciaran Joyce, although carrying a slight knock, is their main man with great support from Mike Kelly, Joe Stack, Darragh Moran and the experienced Lawton brothers Barry and Brian, and they look better equipped to win.
Despite defeat in the last game, Ballinhassig had done enough to progress and will be favoured to get the better of Bandon whey face off in Brinny.
Donncha O’Donovan, Patrick and Ger Collins, Evan Cullinane, Darragh O’Sullivan and Fintan O’Leary have been central to their challenge and they might just about give them the edge.
Premier Junior - St Finbarr’s v Dripsey in Ballincollig - verdict St Finbarrs.
Intermediate A - Douglas v Meelin in Glantane - verdict Meelin.
Premier Intermediate - Youghal v Eire Og in Caherlag - verdict Eire Og
Senior A - Killeagh v Ballymartle in Church Road - verdict Killeagh
Premier Senior - Charleville v Na Piarsaigh in Mourneabbey - verdict Na Piarsaigh.
All these crucial game’s have 2pm starts on Saturday.
As ever there will be extensive coverage on all these games on 96FM/C013 over the weekend.
There’s another Mardyke double-header on Friday night in the Premier 1 grade. At 6.45pm, it’s the clash of near neighbours Nemo Rangers and Douglas, the latter bidding to join their hurlers who are already in the Premier 1 decider, then at 8.15pm Bishopstown coached by Larry Tompkins face Valley Rovers.
The SE Systems Senior Championship continues this weekend with 8 games down for decision.
On Saturday in Castle Road, it’s St Catherines v Eire Og and St Finbarr’s v Ballincollig, while in Cloughduv, Glen Rovers play Courcey Rovers, with Riverstown the venue for the meeting of Killeagh and Inniscarra.
On Sunday, it’s Avondhu v Imokilly and Cloughduv v Ballygarvan in Castle Road, with Sars and Newcestown meeting in Ballincollig while the venue for the meeting of Seandun and Carrigdhoun has yet to be confirmed.