While the Cork SHC title dominance of Imokilly and Glen Rovers have garnered the headlines in recent years, the achievements of Sarsfields in the past decade have been too quickly overlooked.
County titles were won by the Riverstown club in 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2014 and they have featured in seven county finals since the first of those wins.
“A phenomenal record of consistency,” is how Sarsfields’ manager Brian Roche describes it. “Some guys have four county medals and you are also looking at a few league titles in between. But we haven’t been in a county final since 2015. The lads want more. That is what they train for and that is what they go back for. That is the motivation this year. They have a huge appetite and they love the challenge but it will be very difficult.
“People say Imokilly are ahead of everyone else, but there are another four or five teams that will challenge Imokilly as well. We are hoping we will be there or thereabouts. You take every game as it comes. Since Sarsfields started winning counties again, we have our sights on the latter stages. We wouldn’t be looking further than Kanturk (first round). We have to deal with that first. You are going into a big break then and looking at what comes after that.”
The 2018 semi-finalists Blackrock, Imokilly, UCC and Midleton will be seeded in round 3 for the knockout stage, which according to Roche will be a ‘minefield.’
Before all that, minds are fully focused on a trip to Mallow tonight and a meeting with Kanturk.
“We’ve had our last competitive game (league) against Bride Rovers in Riverstown. We had all our Cork guys back, it was a good game and we won by five points.
“It was great to get 60 minutes with the Daniel and William Kearney; Conor O’Sullivan was back earlier, and Jack O’Connor as well.
“We are not the only club in that conundrum (of working without county players), we have to deal with it and get on with it. They are back for two full weeks now and it lifts the whole thing.”
Sarsfields voted for option C when the new championship proposals were recently debated by Cork GAA delegates. Had it been accepted, they would have been one of the clubs most affected. “When it first came out, you were stepping away from it saying that will never happen. The more you looked at it, and the more you read it, it is appealing. If you look at Sars’ league form over the last number of years, we still finished top of the league without Cork players.
“We fully believe we would have good strength in depth. It would be giving our players in the club competitive games through the summer. I would have been for it as well. I think it would have been good if it was passed. It got a bit of traction from people the more they looked at it and the longer it stayed there. But I know our lads playing with Cork do not want to miss any championship games with Sars because they love playing with their club.
“They love putting on the Sars jersey and playing with the friends they grew up with. And that is the other side of it. What you don’t want either then is to create that gap. I saw what happened at Munster rugby with the clubs. I can never see it happening with the GAA because it is too much of a community.”