Youghal daring to dream

When it comes to newly-promoted teams, the cliché which is easiest to resort to is that anything better than relegation is bonus territory.

Youghal daring to dream

The avoidance of an immediate return back to whence you came is obviously a priority, but that doesn’t mean that looking upwards should be frowned upon. Youghal’s 2013 campaign ended in February of this year, when they lost to Galway’s Kilnadeema-Leitrim at the All-Ireland semi-final stage, but there was little time off as their first senior league was in March.

That was against neighbours and county champions Midleton, a 2-13 to 0-14 loss, but as September dawns, Youghal are in the county quarter-finals and the Magpies are out.

Midleton’s conquerors were Douglas, who Youghal face today at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

Playing so many championship games — and, more importantly, winning them — has instilled belief in the squad, as captain and keeper Richie Cunningham outlines.

“We were only counting it up there the other night,” he said, “we’ve played something like 17 championship matches in the last 15 or 16 months. Some players mightn’t get that many in about five years, so it has to have an effect. It gives you a confidence that you can keep winning, so if we can keep it tight and make sure that we’re still in the game in the last 10 minutes, then we’ll believe that we can do it.”

The Carrigtwohill win in the fourth round was a dogged affair, Youghal showing great maturity to quarry out victory in the closing stages, when their neighbours’ experience might have been expected to carry them through. Carrig managed to go all the way to the county title in 2011, despite not being among the favourites at the outset of the competition. Cunningham and Youghal full-back John Grace were both part of the Cork intermediate side which won the All-Ireland title last month, and another medal this year would be most welcome, but he won’t get carried away.

“It’s the dream, obviously,” he said, “but there’s a long way to go yet. Since the start of last year, we’ve had a great run, winning county and Munster medals, and then Munster and All-Ireland with Cork, so we can’t complain, if that’s what we end up with.

“It is possible, look at Clara in Kilkenny who came up from intermediate and won the senior, so there’s no reason why you couldn’t do it. The only thing to focus on right now is Douglas though.”

Likewise, Youghal selector Con Spillane acknowledges little is expected but doesn’t equate that to a lack of hope.

“We know that Douglas are massive favourites, and deservedly so,” he said.

“They’ve beaten both of last year’s finalists and they’ve been worth the win each time. They were down five points last week and came back and then went down again and came back, so you see that there’s massive character in their team.

“It’s a mighty test but because we’re the underdogs we can got out and have a cut. Nobody expects us to win but then nobody expected Donegal to beat Dublin last week, either.

“We were underdogs against Carrigtwohill two weeks ago and underdogs against Na Piarsaigh as well, so it doesn’t bother us at all.”

On the injury front, key attacker Brendan Ring is a doubt and his presence — or absence — could be pivotal.

“He’ll have a fitness test before the game,” Spillane said.

“He’s not anywhere near 100% but that’s out of your control, you just have to work with what the situation is. We’ll hope to get something out of it.

“Injuries are a part of it, we lost James O’Mahony for the whole year with a cruciate injury and Alan Frahill-O’Connor was out with a good while, so he’s only coming back up to speed now. That’s the way of it, you just get on with things.”

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