The full-house signs will be up well before the 7pm throw-in time in Carrigtwohill Sunday evening for the eagerly awaited Cork senior hurling championship third-round showdown between champions Imokilly and Midleton.
There is huge interest in this east Cork shootout, which is a repeat of the 2018 county final, and it is sure to attract a bumper crowd.
“The clash of the titans,” is how Imokilly manager Fergal Condon describes the fixture. “It is the talk of East Cork. This is real championship.
“You are either in or you are out. It is our first big test this year. It is what the boys love, you want to be hurling this time of year.
“Midleton are well aware we are down one-third of our team for this game. We are all local down here and we know each other very well, it is a good relationship though. We definitely won’t be underestimating them. We would see them as very effective and dangerous opposition.”
The five starting names unavailable from last year’s final are Paudie O’Sullivan, Barry Lawton, Colm Spillane, and Ciarán O’Brien (all recovering from injury) while Niall O’Leary is involved with UCC — the College are in action too, against Bishopstown on Sunday.
The flip side for Condon is it is an opportunity for other players to lay down a marker.
Ger Millerick and Shane O’Regan were central to Cork’s progress in the U20 championship, whilst Declan Dalton and Kieran Histon will be among those in line for selection.
Midleton, meanwhile, had to regroup against Ballymartle following an opening round defeat to Glen Rovers. But they will take heart from being involved at the business end of a number of championships last year.
Although, they came up short in the county U21 decider to Fr O’Neill’s, it developed into a titanic battle that wasn’t decided until extra-time resulting in a seven-goal classic.
Condon continued: “The senior final last year, we won 4-19 to 1-18. The difference was we had the bench. But Midleton competed in three finals (senior, premier 1 minor. and premier 1 U21), they won the minor. And they have Tommy O’Connell who didn’t start last year’s final. He is coming off a great run with the U20s.”
Imokilly are in good health themselves, with no fresh injury concerns. Condon will be looking to the experienced Seamus Harnedy, Colm Barry, and John Cronin to lead the way.
Condon will, however, have an anxious wait over Bill Cooper — the Youghal man is lining out with his club in tonight’s Premier intermediate championship against Carrigaline, also in Carrigtwohill. Cooper is a key player and has always been a good leader for Imokilly, a characteristic that doesn’t go unnoticed by the manager.
“Definitely, he is a player you would have to mind. If you had 25 fellas like Bill, you would be doing alright. We will be hoping he comes through.”
The divisional side commenced their championship back in March recording comfortable victories over Carrigdhoun and Carbery.
A five-month break brings them up to September.
We look at the year with a three-pronged approach. There is the Colleges/ Divisions section. We played our first match at the end of March and our second one was the beginning of April.
“Then, there is the wait during the summer, during which you have to find a way to keep hurling. And then, there is when the championship resumes.
“We played a good few challenge matches — against the likes of Glen Rovers, Kilmallock, Blackrock, and Tallow. We always had 20 players for those game, they mightn’t have always been the same players every week. You could have one club busy one weekend but they’d be available the next weekend. It meant you would have different combinations on different weeks.
“Some of the fellas were playing underage with Cork. Fellas who would be turning 18 and 19 years of age. You’d be hoping they would be putting their hand up for inclusion as well.”
The target this year is three in a row for Imokilly — Condon though is not getting sucked into such talk.
“The ones with the leaves falling off, they are the only trees I see at the moment!”