Two clubs, Killorglin and Ballincollig, viewing the Division One decider as more a means than an end, less a destination than a step on the way.
“This has been a long time in the making,” Ballincollig head coach Kieran O’Sullivan mused yesterday. “But this is not a climax to 15 years’ work. It just gives us a pathway towards our end point.”
Both outfits took the plunge in National League this season, and if Killorglin’s table-topping progress has been meteoric, Ballincollig’s is longer in the making, and possibly of deeper foundation.
O’Sullivan and his brother Francis, two National League veterans, have been the driving force behind Ballincollig’s evolution from feeder club to standalone project.
“Ballincollig has always developed players,” Kieran says. “I would say as many internationals as any of the bigger clubs in Cork.
And we had a decision to make on going National League this year. The clock is ticking on some of our better players.”
Though he is still only 27, O’Sullivan is probably referring first to his Irish senior international nephew Ciarán, who boosted the project this season by joining from Demons.
“When Ciaran walked in the door, we went from being in Division One to competing,” the head coach says.
“Ballincollig went to back-to-back U18 cup finals a decade ago (Ciaran scored 30 points plus in both) and we lost both times, once in the last five seconds to Maree. There’s a lot of things we need to put to bed by winning the Cup.”
Ballincollig (12-2) are looking up at Killorglin (14-1) in the League, the only side to better them this season. In Daniel Jakubaitis, the Kerry side possesses a Lithuanian import who might just be the most effective player at both ends of the court.
“In GAA terminology, you’d say he has a big engine, whether it’s shooting, rebounding, how he runs the floor. Even his ability to back door, he’s a very hard player to mark,” O’Sullivan agrees.
Not that Ballincollig are short of offensive threat. Their American Cameron Clark is augmented by the free-scoring O’Sullivan, his first cousin Ronan and a third, unrelated O’Sullivan, Daniel.
Capping an impressive first national league campaign with silverware would only be the cherry on top for the club’s chairman Colman O’Flynn.
“There is massive pride within the club. At the start of the year we had a lot of questions, such as could we survive financially and could we compete on the court? By reaching the pinnacle of the cup competition, this team is giving a clear answer that we can more than hold our own on the national stage.”
Hold their own? One would think at this stage, Kieran O’Sullivan and his Ballincollig players want more.