Charleville hoping for one final high

THEY’RE not done yet – a little matter of a Munster club JHC final on December 11 still to come – but already it has been a season to remember for Charleville.

It started with a terrible low, a serious neck injury to Dessie Fitzgerald in the county semi-final win over Kilbrin in early October. A couple of months later, however, Charleville won their first junior county hurling title.

Since then they have won two games in Munster, beating Kenmare (Kerry) and Rockwell Rovers (Tipperary), and on Sunday week in Mallow another slice of history beckons.

For manager TJ Crowley, captain for two previous county final defeats (2001 and 2007), emotions have swung from one extreme to another. The injury to Dessie — an All-Ireland IHC winner with Cork — was catastrophic for everyone. Now, it’s their inspiration.

“Dessie is a massive loss to us, he was our lynchpin at centre-back, a very calming influence, always talking to the lads, keeping things cool. One of the reasons we’ve done so well since is that he’s constantly in our thoughts; he would have driven on, kept going, but now he has his own battle to fight. We’re doing the same down here, give him something to keep his spirits lifted, hopefully. He’s is in very good form, making slow but steady improvement. He’s not walking or anything yet but he’s getting movement back in his hands and fingers – it’s going to take time.

“He hasn’t been told that he wouldn’t walk again, which is encouraging, but they weren’t prepared to commit themselves to anything after that. An injury like that, it’s hard to know. He’s a good guy, tough, he’ll get there. It will take time, but he will get there, we’re sure of that.”

Also offering inspiration, an infusion of new blood this year.

“We have three minors starting, Alan Dennehy, Gavin Kelleher and James O’Brien, and the last two are minor again next year. They won a Cork county A minor title last year, and we also got Barry McCarthy from that team. Overall now it’s a very young side.”

The fact that they won the county title in unusual circumstances – when they beat Mayfield in a replay in the final itself and then put the title on the line against Kildorrery in the delayed winner-take-all North Cork final – is something of a GAA anomaly.

“It was a bit hairy alright at the time but it helped too in that we didn’t have as much emphasis on the county final as might otherwise have been the case. We approached it as a semi-final, we still had to go and play a North Cork final afterwards, so it wasn’t as if we had everything to lose.

“It’s been brilliant, a great buzz. As a town we wouldn’t have much of a reputation for flying the flag but so far this year anyway people have been very supportive. Des is in their thoughts too I’m sure and that’s also bringing in a lot of neutral support from the neighbouring parishes. Ballyhea, Newtown, Effin, they’ve all offered their support and best wishes to us, and we appreciate that.

“With the year we’ve had, the lows and the highs, people are pulling together a lot more, we’re getting that extra support. Hopefully we can keep it going for one more game this year, at least.”

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