Kiely hopes for happy return

CORK JAFC FINAL:
St Colums v Mitchelstown
It was this weekend two years ago — November 11, to be precise — that Mitchelstown travelled to Páirc Uí Rinn to face Kanturk in the JAFC final.

While regarded as outsiders, Mitchelstown still had a chance, but were completely blown away. Trailing by 1-14 to 0-1 at half-time, they ended up losing by 1-20 to 0-4.

Perhaps Kanturk’s subsequent progress at intermediate level has softened the blow somewhat, but it was a night to forget for the North Cork champions. Learning the lessons of it will be key ahead of tomorrow’s decider against St Colums (1.30pm).

“Things just didn’t go according to plan that day, nothing went right, really,” Mitchelstown coach Barry Kiely said.

“It was the first final for that group of players and maybe that got on top of them, but we were missing a few players, one of our best defenders Stephen Fox had been injured in the semi-final and people didn’t know at the time but we had three lads suffering with flu. The club hadn’t won the county at junior level since 1961 either, so that brought its own pressures too. It means that we have a bit more experience come Sunday, but we’re still going to have to go out and play this one, 15 players against 15.”

Last year, Mitchelstown made it back to a North Cork final but Ballyclough, who had just been relegated from intermediate, beat them. At the outset of this year, Larry Tompkins’ side would have again been fancied but Kiely insists the focus never drifted too far in front of where they were.

“That’s something we have never allowed to creep inbecause it doesn’t do you any good,” he said.

“All you can do is take things one game at a time, and that philosophy is something that Larry has been keen to get across to the players.”

Having Tompkins on board since the start of 2011 has been a huge boost for the club, and it is taken as proof that they are going places.

“When we were trying to get Larry to take over it was actually I met him and I told him how serious we were and I think he knew how much we wanted him to be in charge,” Kiely said.

“You couldn’t describe him as anything other than fantastic. He has a great way with players and a brilliant ability to get the most out of fellas.”

With three North Cork titles in the past four years, it equals the total achieved between 1976 and 2009. There were near misses in between, as Kiely recalls.

“Maybe we lost focus for a small bit, but North Cork can be tough to win,” he said.

“I remember being involved in 2007 and we lost to Kildorrery by two points in the divisional semi-final after leading for about 54 of the 60 minutes. They have gone on to play in two intermediate finals too, so you’re dealing with small margins.”

The defeat of two years ago was Mitchelstown’s sixth in a junior final, compared to the solitary win in ’61. Kiely doesn’t think history will have too much of a part to play tomorrow, though.

“Obviously, 2011 is the one that people will be aware of, but I don’t think the rest of them matter in that sense.

“You’re back deep into history and fellas wouldn’t remember or mightn’t know about the previous times. All we can do is focus on Sunday and we feel that the bunch of players we have are level-headed enough to approach it in the right way.”

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