In a division where football is the religion of choice, Kanturk’s victory in the Cork Premier Intermediate Hurling final last Saturday evening was a watershed result.
There are 20 clubs in the north-west Cork division of Duhallow and Kanturk will be the first of these to compete in the county senior hurling championship when they take their seat at the top table next summer.
Of the remaining 19, no one else operates at premier intermediate level and only one of them, Meelin, ply their trade in the intermediate grade. Of the two teams who advanced from the division to the knockout stages of the Cork JAHC in recent weeks, Banteer and Kilbrin, neither made it past the quarter-final stage.
Kanturk, it is fair to say, stands as a hurling outpost in what is football country.
Around 25 minutes further up the road is the village of Newtownshandrum. For much of the last decade, the hurling men of Kanturk watched on with admiration, and a smidgen of envy, as the O’Connor’s and Pat Mulcahy steered them to four Cork, three Munster and an All-Ireland club title.
And just as Kanturk drew inspiration from Newtown, Francis Kenneally is confident the clubs of Duhallow will be driven to replicate the advances made by the premier intermediate champions.
“We’ve shown what can be done and hopefully, other clubs will follow behind us,” says Kanturk secretary Kenneally.
“Every club is doing their own bit. Newmarket made the PIFC semi-final, but they are making good strides in junior hurling over the last number of years. John O’Connor, a brother to Ben and Jerry, has been training them. Conor O’Callaghan from Dromtariffe was a mainstay on the Cork minor team this year.
“I definitely think Kanturk’s success could feed into the other clubs in the division trying to better themselves over the coming years and trying to progress.
“We’re in a division where football would be the bread and butter, but that’s not to say hurling is suffering at its expense.” In the early noughties, the Duhallow board sought permission to enter a team in the county championship. The powers-that-be saw no harm in this and the Duhallow minor class of 2002, with Anthony Nash between the sticks, went all the way to the decider.
Newmarket, Dromtariffe, Millstreet, Banteer and Kilbrin all had players on the Coláiste Treasa Kanturk team which won the Munster Vocational Schools B title in 2012, while between 2008 and 2015, the division contested six county U21 finals, winning the 2009 edition.
“There is a Duhallow hurling development group working under the auspices of the Duhallow board and they are always trying to promote hurling. When you look at the Cork team, there is Mark Ellis (Millstreet), Lorcán McLoughlin and Anthony Nash (both Kanturk). William Egan (Kilbrin) was in there [in recent years]. These fellas wouldn’t have come through only for the amount of work that was done in their own clubs and in the division over many, many years. Jim O’Sullivan of Castlemagner deserves mention for the work he has done in improving hurling in this division.” In 2018, depending on their league draw, you could have the Rockies, Na Piarsaigh, Midleton and many more traditionalists heading up to Kanturk for games. Anthony Nash can’t wait.
“In the league next year, we’re going to be welcoming the top teams in the county to Kanturk. Lorcán McLoughlin and I would travel to training together a lot and you’d dream about it, but you’d never put real thought into it that we could be senior,” he told RedFM.
“It is going to be an enjoyable year for us. Playing in the Cork SHC with your club will be incredible. Our coach Jim McCarthy said to us at the start of the year that we had a great chance of going senior. We took it with a pinch of salt. He believed in us and we slowly started believing in ourselves.”
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