Don’t think Stradbally are making up the numbers when they make the long drive from Waterford to Clonakilty tomorrow.
It may be Castlehaven lying in wait. It may be a Munster club SFC semi-final but, for manager Pat Curran, being a Waterford football club does not make them any less a proposition than any other side at this stage of the competition.
“Going to Clonakilty is obviously a bit of a challenge in that it’s going to be worth something to Castlehaven,” said Curran.
“They’re bound to have played there a lot, it’s convenient for their supporters, all of that.
“But it’ll bring its own pressures as well. They’ll have all of West Cork in there looking at them, and obviously they’ll be favourites with their record and playing so close to home. They’ll be expected to win.
“Because of the way the championship went for us down here, with the drawn final and so on, we haven’t seen them at all, but obviously they’re a very good team.
“There are probably similarities between us in that you have two rural clubs where the GAA club is probably the biggest thing in the locality, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. We have a few youth clubs and a soccer club in Stradbally, but the GAA club is at the root of it all, and I’d say Castlehaven are the same. Tomorrow you’ll have two clubs who are proud to represent their localities and their counties alike.”
Curran’s reference to the drawn county final is taken up by club officer Kieran Heffernan. “It was a big one for us to win,” says Heffernan. “Sean Aherne was with the team for many years and he passed away not long after last year’s county final. That would have been in a lot of minds all year.
“Not in a constant way, but certainly at the beginning of the season it would have been a focus for the lads, to win a county for Sean.
“I suppose the fact that it’s the third week on the trot that the lads are out makes it a tall order, but that’s just the way it fell. There was nothing between ourselves and The Nire – there never is – and it was a toss of a coin who’d win it.
“We’d have the height of respect for The Nire. It was no huge surprise that the game went to a replay. The lads had a night or two to celebrate alright, but in fairness to them they were back training during the week and the focus was very good.”
Curran says Stradbally will draw on past experience of provincial campaigns, and particularly a lack of preparation time.
“That’s one thing about Stradbally, we’d be used to that. We’ve often had to play a Waterford county final and had to line out in the Munster club championship the following week.
“Obviously another week would be handy, just to get ourselves a bit more organised and to burn off the celebrations, but it’s not a huge problem. The game’s fixed for Clon and we’ll be there.”
It’s not as if Curran lacks men who’ve been through the mill when it comes to tomorrow’s battle, either.
“We know it’ll be hard but when you can draw on lads like Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh, Tony Grey, Ken Coffey, those are lads who won’t be fazed by anything.
“They’ve been in Munster club finals – they lost to Kilmurry-Ibrickane in a Munster club final replay, and Kilmurry have shown their quality since. We won’t be fazed by having to head to Clonakilty.”
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