It’s knockout from here on
After the drama and the excitement of the group stages it’s now down to the business end of all championships with the quarter-finals of the Co-Op Superstores Hurling dominating this weekend.
Equally and in some cases far more important are the various relegation play-offs that are also down for decision, with one game in particular certain to capture the attention of hurling followers county and probably country wide.
Premier Senior QFs
Charleville v St Finbarr’s on Saturday at 6pm
Having recovered from their loss to Sars, the champions overcame another sticky hurdle in their final group game against Kanturk and they will face this game in confident mood.
They will be mindful though that the North Cork side even without the injured Darragh Fitzgibbon, showed what they are capable of by beating a highly rated Douglas side in the last game and that with 14 men for the entire 2nd half.
When the sides met last year, it finished level and thereafter the ‘Barr’s season took off.
In Ben Cunningham they have a potential match winner from play and placed balls; add in Brian Hayes, William Buckley, Ethan Twomey and Billy Hennessey and it’s easy to see why many fancy the ‘Barr’s to win this one.
Charleville will look to Danny Flynn, William Biggane, Jack Doyle, Cian Collins and Jack Meade and they will test the champions, but the wide open spaces of the Páirc will suit them and the ‘Barr’s look set to make the last four.
Sarsfields v Blackrock on Sunday at 4pm
It’s a repeat of the league final which Sars won comfortably and despite a 1st round draw with Kanturk, they have shown their quality in the wins over St Finbarr’s and Newtownshandrum to emerge from one of the toughest groups.
Blackrock had their QF spot secured before their final game against Midleton but the manner in which they lost that game will concern their management team, and remember Midleton were without Sam Quirke and Conor Lehane.
The fact that they had already qualified might have been a factor in their display, but so were Midleton and they got it spot on.
This is a good Blackrock team, champions a few years ago and the bulk of that squad are still playing, among them Robbie Cotter, Alan Connolly, Tadgh Deasy the Cashmans John and Niall along with Michael O’Halloran.
Sars finished powerfully to see off Newtown and there is a steely determination about their play this season, dare I mention it but have events off the field driven them to new heights.
Jack O’Connor, Luke Hackett, Aaron Myers, Cian Deasy, Shane O’Regan, Craig Leopold and the very experienced Daniel Kearney are big players for Sars.
This could very well be the game of the weekend, might even take extra-time to resolve but I have a fancy for Sars to get the job done.
Imokilly v Douglas on Sunday at 6pm
A 2nd game for the divisional side, a 4th for the club side many of whom played football as well. Of course Imokilly will be hampered by limited preparation and some of their players will be involved with their clubs over the weekend ahead of this game.
These are issues they have encountered before and always manage to get the job done and they will enter this game as favourites; with such a depth available, it is easy to see why.
The experienced duo of Seamus Harnedy and Bill Cooper continue to lead the way and get excellent support from Diarmuid Healy, Will Leahy, John Cronin, Joe Stack, and the Lawtons Brian and Barry, while Ciaran Joyce could also be available, some options there.
Douglas will have been disappointed at their loss to Charleville especially that it denied them an opportunity to top the group and possibly go direct to the semi-final.
The footballers keeping their season alive will help them and they do have quality in Shane Kingston, Eoin and Alan Cadogan, Mark Harrington, Brian Turnbull and Brian Hartnett.
It’s not beyond them creating a surprise but they will need to produce a consistent and committed 60 minutes if they are to win, anything less and they will lose.
All 3 quarter-finals are being played in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
Senior A QFs
Blarney v Cloyne on Friday at 7.30pm
The return from injury of Mark Coleman has come at just the right time for Blarney and he marked his return with 2 points in their final group game which eased them into the QF.
Cloyne after a 1st round loss showed how competitive they are by emerging from a tough group where their scoring difference got them over the line.
Coleman’s return along with the quality they have in attack with Shane Barrett and Padraig Power might give them an edge but Cloyne will test them.
Killeagh v Newcestown on Saturday at 4pm
This is a repeat of a group game last season in which Newcestown just edged it by a point and with their footballers joining them in the knockout phase, they will enter this contest buoyed.
Killeagh with a two week break might be that bit fresher but momentum and the presence of Luke Meade might be enough to get Newcestown over the line.
Both of these games are in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
Ballymartle v Castlelyons on Friday at 7.30pm in Páirc Uí Rinn
The East Cork side were fancied by many to go direct to the semi-final such was the form shown in their early games, but a chastening defeat to Ballicollig sent them this route, but could it work in their favour?
Anthony Spillane is only flying in from Dubai the morning of the game - not exactly the ideal preparation, and Ballymartle came out of a group that contained 3 teams from the Carrighdhoun division and they are well versed in the arts of winning tight games.
Castlelyons have been contenders at this level for a number of years and will need to make the breakthrough before time runs out; they might just shade this one.
Valley Rovers v Kilworth on Sunday at Caherlag at 2pm
An interesting looking contest here between two evenly matched teams both coming in on the back of impressive wins, and in Valleys’ case, a huge football win last Sunday.
Kilworth caused a big surprise when beating a highly rated Ballinhassig team in their final group game, and it was well deserved, with Mickey Sheehan, Eoin Carey and Brian Sheehan turning in top class displays.
Veteran Kevin Canty is still doing the business for Valleys and with David Lynch, Colm Butler and Charlie Lynch also playing well, a nod to Valleys to win.
Blackrock v Ballygiblin on Saturday in Rathcormac at 4pm
Ballygiblin would appear to be hitting form at just the right time and with Cathal O’Mahoney and Shane Beston playing well, they could edge this one.
Mayfield v Lisgoold on Saturday in Cobh at 4pm
A 2nd must win game against East Cork opposition for Mayfield who had an impressive win over Sars in the last round and with Nicky Kelly as effective as ever, they could repeat that feat.
Glen Rovers v Kilbrittain on Sunday at 2pm in Ovens
This is a tough one for the city side who despite losing their last game to another West Cork side will relish this challenge against one of the fancied sides left in the championship, events on Saturday night might shape their mood but they are well capable of winning.
Erin’s Own v Meelin on Saturday at 4pm in Mallow
Like Glen Rovers, it’s a fair achievement to get your 2nd team to the knockout stages of any championship and Erin’s Own’s late salvo against Tracton saw them home. They have a mix of youth and experience in their team but it might not be enough to win this one.
Glen Rovers v Kanturk on Saturday in Fermoy at 6pm
It is no exaggeration to say this is probably the biggest match in Glen Rover’s fabled history. Contenders at the highest level in recent years, winners in 2015 and 2016 and runners up for 3 years in a row, the possibility that they could lose their senior status.
Their neighbours Na Piarsaigh suffered that fate last season and it was not so long ago that Blackrock and St Finbarr’s found themselves in similar battles, which they won.
But you are where you are for a reason and if you lose 3 games, there is little excuse. By contrast, Kanturk were a bit unlucky; they drew with Sars first time out and really tested the champions St Finbarr’s in their final group game, missed chances from placed balls and play proved their undoing.
Their championship form is that bit better and they are populated with a battle hardened and experienced group of players.
Glen will need to show much improved form if they are to survive what is certain to be a fierce test, and if they can match the desire and work rate that Kanturk have, they should prevail, but it’s going to be nerve wracking 60 minutes for a club that prides itself on spirit and resolve. They will need it all to survive this test.
Mallow v Inniscarra on Sunday in Blarney at 2pm. Verdict - Inniscarra
Bandon v Carrigaline on Sunday in Ballinaspittle at 2pm. Verdict - Bandon
Youghal v Douglas Saturday at 4pm in Carrigtwohill. Verdict - Youghal
Tracton v St Finbarr’s on Sunday in Ballygarvan at 2pm. Verdict - Tracton
SE Systems Senior Camogie Championship
The group stages are nearing their completion and the shape of the quarter-finals will be known after this round of games.
Glen Rovers and Killeagh meet in Castle Road tonight (Thursday) at 6.30pm and both have a slight chance of making it in the knockout phase; very slight it must be said, so a lot at stake here.
There are two games on Saturday at the same venue. St Finbarr’s should account for Fr O’Neill’s at 2.30pm while Sars will be favoured to get the better of Enniskeane at 5.30pm.
The one remaining game should be a tight affair when Courcey Rovers play Cloughduv in Coachford on Saturday at 2.30pm.
Ladies Football Senior Championship
There are just 3 games down for decision this weekend, where it looks like that once again Mourneabbey are the team to beat if recent results are an indication.
In Group 1, it’s St Vals who will have home advantage for their meeting with Éire Óg. In Group 2 an East Cork derby in Rathcormac - Bride Rovers v Aghada and in the same group, Fermoy make the long trip west to play Castlehaven.
All games with 3pm throw-ins on Sunday.
The first of the Premier Minor Championship finals go ahead on Monday next - a football double-header in Páirc Uí Rinn.
In Premier 2 at 6.30pm, it’s the meeting of Éire Óg and Bandon and then the Premier 1 decider is an all city clash of St Finbarr’s v Douglas at 8pm.
The latter are bidding to retain the title they won so impressively last season, en route to completing the double.