At 19, life could hardly have been any better for Brian Collins.
Centre-back on the Castlehaven team throughout their glorious 1994 county title-winning season, a house in the city, first year college in the Regional Technical College (now Cork IT) and twice a week he had Niall Cahalane pick him up outside the old Dunnes in Bishopstown to head home for training.
It was a summer he still recalls in detail and one he’s unlikely to forget.
“Yeah I suppose it was the stuff of dreams really, that whole year,” he acknowledged.
“Most of the boys were working at home as farmers or whatever, there were maybe one or two of us in college, myself and Din Cahalane but they were all working at home. It’s a way different now but at that time I think there was only a few of us travelling down during the week. Niall Cahalane or John Cleary would pick us up and you wouldn’t be late for them!”
The effort had its rewards and that October, he claimed the first of two county medals on a day no one from Glandore, Union Hall or Castletownsend will ever forget.
“No, certainly not,” he says. “It was one of the biggest days of our lives playing Skibbereen in a county final, I was only 19 and it was my first county final. The first day was a drawn game and was just so tense. There must have been 25,000 people at both games.
“The second day we were going up and John [Cleary] was injured and Larry was too and some were saying we wouldn’t do but we pulled out the result by a few points in the end. It was just incredible really!”
He’d win another county in 2003 but now he’s looking for one as part of the management team, having taken a selector’s role this term. And manager James McCarthy, who masterminded the success over Clon nine years ago, knows the passion to make that happen consumes the area.
“After last year, there was such disappointment about how we played, we said the only way to rectify it was to come back and finish the job. Duhallow have come in under the radar but they’ve beaten some good teams along the way so we know it’s going to be another huge challenge.”
They’ve come through some scraps themselves, not least the bruising quarter-final against St Finbarr’s that required a replay and last Saturday night’s clash with rivals Carbery Rangers.
“We played well in patches but there’s more in us I feel,” says McCarthy. “We haven’t been putting over huge scores really but as long as we’re winning that’s all that matters.”
Castlehaven’s cause isn’t helped by having Sean Dineen suspended while forward Stephen Hurley is in a race to be fit having limped off the last day.
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