Youghal is a stop along the same road. These are clubs which have produced All-Ireland captains for Cork, household names, senior county titles.
Castlemartyr always stuck their chests out in that company, though. Ending a long drought in the East Cork JHC back in 2009 stiffened the sinews, and when they collected the county title this year horizons were broadened further.
“There’s a great buzz around,” says club chairman Bernard Lawton.
“Since winning the county the buzz has been fantastic – banners, flags, excitement. I can’t remember as much colour in the town. Okay, winning an East Cork back in 2009 was huge, because we hadn’t won one in 45 years, and we’ve won another two, which was great and shows consistency and progress.”
Last year they were beaten in the county semi-final by Kilbrin after a replay, and Lawton says the result had a particular effect on the team: “You could see this year from the word go they were keen to drive it on and go further after they’d won the East Cork final. It’s great they’re so determined. There have been so many good players that went through the club in the last 20, 30 years that won nothing, and now we’ve won those titles. It’s so different.”
They had good days in the 80’s in another code. Between 1982 and 1991 Castlemartyr picked up six East Cork football titles at a time the divisional side was winning county senior titles.
“Certainly we’d have been under a lot of pressure if we hadn’t had football in the club that time,” says Lawton.
“I wouldn’t go so far as to say we wouldn’t have had a club, we’d have had a club alright, but it wouldn’t have been half the club it was without the football. That kept us going for years.
“We had Sean Bowes who’d played for Galway, Christy O’Sullivan from Kerry, Kieran Murphy, we had very good footballers and it was a fantastic time for the club.”
Recent years have been almost as good, even if 2014 is already shaping up as the busiest of all.
“We started against Sars in Midleton and then we only beat St Ita’s in Shanagarry by a couple of points. We played Sars again in the semi-final in Ballynoe before taking on Cobh in the final.
“We did well in the final, though we tired a little towards the end and leaked a few scores. We were ten points to five down at the break but the team was much better in the second half. The county series . . . we’ve had two replays already, with Cloughduv and Newcestown, and it was touch and go in each game. We played six or seven weeks in a row, you can’t keep that going.”
Lawton says there are benefits: the team management have had plenty opportunities to try different players and combinations, and the side has been fine-tuned in championship battle. Lawton’s hopeful that will help with their focus in tomorrow’s provincial decider.
“I can tell you there’s nothing in their minds but the match – the match next Sunday has been the focus all year, every Sunday as it comes. Their focus has been fantastic all year. It’s always been on the next game and doing well in that. We’ve been lucky with mentors – Tony Coyne from Youghal was here with us in 2008-9, a great solid man, while the men we have now, manager Cha O’Neill and the lads — the cool clean heroes as I call them — have managed the lads superbly.”
They’re respectful of the opposition. We wouldn’t have come across Modeligo,” says Lawton. “I remember playing soccer against them in the old Red House League alright, but we know they took Ballysaggart to a replay last year, and we all know how good Ballysaggart were. They’re in a Munster final on merit and that’s what we’ll be keeping in mind tomorrow.”