Ballymartle ready to climb final hurdle

THE euphoria had yet to abate after Ballymartle’s county PIHC triumph last October when their players focus shifted to greater challenges. Manager Anthony McCarthy and coach Eddie Murphy assembled the panel after the victory over Tracton and enquired what was the attitude towards the upcoming provincial and national campaigns.

The response was unequivocal.

“When the lads asked us at that meeting, everyone wanted to give it a proper go,” said captain and centre-back Patrick Dwyer.

“The pressure was off a bit after winning the county. We’d lost some big games in the previous years and we knew we had to finally deliver. But I think we learnt a lot from the losses and having overcome those disappointments, it made it a lot sweeter to finally win. Going up to senior hurling was a huge goal for the club for a long time and it was great to achieve that. But the chance to play outside of Cork is rare and we wanted to make the most of it.”

They have grasped the opportunity in style. On Sunday afternoon the team’s marvellous run will culminate with an appearance in the All-Ireland Club IHC final in Croke Park against Dicksboro. Their route to this juncture has been marked by some arduous battles.

“The first day in Munster against Hospital-Herbertstown was a real winter hurling battle,” recalls Dwyer. “It was a slow pitch and a very physical game against a tough team. But we prepared for that and it paid off.

“Then the All-Ireland semi-final against Padraig Pearses from Galway was our biggest challenge so far. They were a good team and they showed that with their response to getting a man sent-off. We seemed to be coasting at that stage but we lost the momentum and as they came back strongly, we were hanging on at the finish.”

The only negative entering Sunday’s clash is the absence of talismanic attacker Brian Corry, who is sidelined through injury.

“Brian is a huge player for us who has never been found wanting all year,” admits Dwyer. “We’ve huge respect for him and it’s a big blow that he can’t make it on Sunday. But it’s up to the rest of us now to perform in his absence and we’ve been lucky in that regard that we’ve a good strong panel.

It will be a magical occasion for the Dwyer family, with Patrick’s brother Dan also on the starting 15, along with first cousins Barry, Jamie, Rory and Declan.

“It’s a fantastic feeling to know you’ll play in Croke Park along with members of the family. But it’s the same for all the other lads on the panel and there’s huge anticipation in the community ahead of the game. We know Dicksboro are going to be very tough opponents. They beat our neighbours Ballinhassig in an intermediate final a few years back so they know what’s involved. But we’ll be focusing on getting the best performance out of ourselves.”

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