Sars and Erin’s Own set for battle royal

“THE best of friends and enemies, the best I’ve known by far.”

“THE best of friends and enemies, the best I’ve known by far.”

Words from the Foxy Devil by Joe Dolan (the Galwegian version, as opposed to Westmeath’s finest) on man’s relationship with the demon whiskey, but they could be applied to the hurlers and supporters of Erin’s Own and Sarsfields, neighbouring east Cork clubs who meet tomorrow afternoon in Páirc Uí Chaoimh in the first semi-final of this year’s Cork senior hurling championship.

There’s a lot of cross-pollination between the two clubs, as outlined by Erin’s Own manager Michael O’Connor, whose own business is in Glanmire.

“I’m in the heart of it, a motor factors shop, selling motor spares, so I meet them all, great craic. In fairness, the Sars people are very good to me.

“But crossovers? Our goalkeeper for the two games against Newtown was Kieran Murphy, and his father, Jim, is the secretary of Sars! Seanie and Peter Kelly (wing-forward and centre-back with Erin’s Own), their mother is Mary, a sister of Bertie Óg and Tadhg Murphy from Sars — Tadhg’s son, Tadhg Óg, is midfield for them.

“There’s a fair bit of rivalry there, definitely, and friendship will be put aside for a couple of hours on Sunday, but it’s only all social at the end of the day, no-one killed — afterwards, it will be back to normal.”

Mention of those two games against Newtownshandrum, the Cork and Munster champions last year — that was in the quarter-final, a drawn game and replay win, to go with Erin’s Own’s earlier win over the same opposition in the opening round. A major achievement by Erin’s Own, to beat such outstanding adversaries twice in the same season, but O’Connor sees no point in getting carried away.

“It was a great boost to beat them, no doubt about it, but to be fair to Newtown they’re at it for so long, and have been so successful, they were bound to be tired. Okay, they got a fair run at our game after Cork were beaten, but when you’re committed to both club and county, as are the two O’Connors, since the late 90s, year-in year-out, all year round, it has to catch up with you eventually. Pat Mulcahy was there for a few years with Cork, Cathal Naughton is the latest now to join that club. I had Cathal as a minor (when Michael was with Cork), and jeepers, the mileage he has on the clock already. They really are a great, great club, great players — no matter how many matches those lads play, they still do their best for Newtown, every time, but it’s very hard to keep that going.”

Nevertheless it was a superb achievement by Erin’s Own to take them down; now they face another major challenge, a Sars team that simply blew away Bride Rovers in the quarter-final, a comprehensive 2-20 to 2-6 win. Star of the show for Sars that afternoon was wing-forward Cian McCarthy, scoring seven points in the opening half and finishing with 11. “He’s a fine hurler, and a lovely young fella,” says Michael. “He scored 13 points recently against Newtown in the U21 championship (a game Sars lost), outstanding free-taker. They have several other fine forwards also — Fraggie Murphy, Michael Cussen on the Cork panel — and Tadhg Óg in the middle of the field.”

Erin’s Own have their own powerhouse up front, in the giant freescoring Eoghan ‘Bear’ Murphy, older brother Kieran ‘Hero’ also doing the business further out the field, while the defence has also been impressive. “Yeah, we’re happy with that, if the forwards would only match it now, up front. Hero and Eoghan are going very well, deadly accurate on frees — without them, we wouldn’t be where we are. We have experience (Erin’s Own were champions in 2006 and 2007), Sars have experience (champions in 2008), though they have five or six on the Cork panel, which should make them favourites — I don’t know how the bookies have us favourites, probably because we beat Newtown. Regardless of which way it finishes, I don’t think there will be much in it at the end.”


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