THE Cork Premier SHC has been narrowed down to the last four, the Barrs carrying the torch for the city clubs with East Cork heavily represented again with Midleton, Sarsfields and Imokilly.
The three quarter-finals that were settled over the weekend didn’t exactly set the world alight and to be brutally honest, the fare on offer was hugely disappointing.
Of the three games, the Barrs and Charleville was probably the best, Charleville certainly justifying their place in the knockout stage of the competition but the team from Togher raised the bar when it mattered and they remain firmly on course to retain the title.
There’s a lot of work to be done yet if that is to come to pass but the experience of last season’s title triumph coupled with the fact that the younger players are now a year older and a year wiser puts them in an advantageous position.
It took them a while to put Charleville away on Saturday night and it could be said that the game was a meaningful contest until Brian Hayes delivered a superb individual goal coming down the stretch that put the issue firmly beyond doubt.
There is always room for improvement no matter how well a team performs and Ger Cunningham and his management will be seeking more when Midleton provide the opposition in the last four.
However, they are where they want to be and the monkey that they carried on their back for so long when they could not buy a title has been well and truly removed.
Ben Cunningham, Willie Buckley and Jack Cahalane shared the bulk of the scoring between them with some excellent points against their North Cork opponents. Shane Hurley made one or two important stops between the sticks and Damien Cahalane’s experience was always evident in the number six jersey and he rifled over a fine point from distance.
Much was expected of the two games on Sunday, particularly the collision of the Rockies and Sars but as a contest it never ignited and for a neutral, it was a very low-key affair.
Sars got the job done, all that mattered against one of their chief rivals for the title.
In the final analysis, the goal fired home with plenty of aplomb by Jack O’Connor was the difference and when the last whistle sounded the city team were left to rue some poor wides over the hour.
Johnny Crowley, Diarmuid O’Sullivan and the rest of the Sars management will be delighted with the victory in a game that was looked upon as a 50/50 affair but there will be a realisation too that they must up the ante considerably for the semi-final joust with Imokilly.
And that can happen too because there is a lot of experience in this team and emerging from a game that remained in the balance right to the end will have battle-hardened them that bit more.
There is uncertainty about how thing will transpire before every game and the clash of Douglas and Imokilly fell into that category.
There is more uncertainty involved when it’s a divisional team because maybe of the reluctance of some club sides still in their own championships to release players and that some of those clubs were involved 24 and 48 hours earlier.
And on the evidence presented against Imokilly, that breakthrough seems to be no nearer.
This was as lopsided an affair as one could imagine, the writing very much on the wall as early as the end of the first quarter with Imokilly constructing a six-point advantage by that stage and looking the far superior side.
At half-time the game was well and truly sorted, the divisional unit away in a canter on the scoreboard and the city team not putting up much resistance at all.
The second-half continued to be a stroll down the Marina for Denis Ring’s team and the gap at the end could well have been more than the 13 points that divided the sides.
Shane Kingston was left to carry the can in front of goal for Douglas and to be fair, he banged home a fine goal and put some well-executed points on the board as well but as a unit, they never measured up.
Sean Desmond carried on for Imokilly where he left off against Avondhu and delivered some superb scores with a well-taken goal thrown in for good measure.
Mike Kelly, Diarmuid Healy and Jack Leahy converted some sublime points between them in a team performance that suggested that they are firmly back in the mix again to regain the title.
They were never seriously tested here and Sars will be a different proposition altogether in the semi-final and will be fully aware of what will need to be done to counteract the most impressive of the three quarter-final winners.
There certainly was a lack of intensity a lot of the time in the 180 minutes of hurling that was played over the weekend.
I suppose some of us are still yearning for the games from a different era in front of huge crowds and when Cork clubs were challenging the best from other counties.
But hope springs eternal and both semi-finals carry quite a lot of potential, an East Cork showdown and a blast from the past with Midleton and the Barrs.
All four are title winners from the more recent past and there’s a lot of quality contained in all four sides.
All four too will fancy their chances of adding to their haul of titles.
Imokilly were, by far, the most impressive winners from the three quarter-finals but that will count for very little when Sars line up against them.
The ‘Barrs final delivery must be better against Midleton and, overall, the hope must be that the fare that will be offered up in both semi-finals will be much better than what was on offer over the weekend.