Clonakilty were one of the powerhouses of the old provincial vocational schools competitions but are now hoping to translate that success in the new look format which sees them compete alongside college sides.
Today, they make their first appearance in the last four. The challenge is a huge one — facing Pobalscoil Chorca Dhuibhne who are bidding for a fourth successive Corn Uí Mhuirí, (Knocknagree, 1.30pm). Former Cork footballer Micheál O’Sullivan has been a teacher in Clonakilty since 2008 and has been involved in a successful period for the school.
“We had been very successful in the vocational schools competitions,” he says, “we had won five Munster titles in a row. We won the All-Ireland in 2010 and we had been playing the Munster Colleges teams in challenge games, Macroom and Skibb and the likes of these, we were there or thereabouts. When the competitions were merged, we felt we’d give the Corn Uí Mhuirí a go for a start and if we weren’t good enough, so be it. Last year was our first year and it was a bit of a learning curve, the standard was pretty high. It didn’t run for us last year, we didn’t win any game in the group. But we were a bit better prepared for it this year.”
And they needed to be when pitted in a group which contained Ballincollig’s Coláiste Choilm, De La Salle Macroom and Tralee CBS.
“Coláiste Choilm were All-Ireland champions last year in the B competition, they were up A and they beat us in the first game,” O’Sullivan says. “Macroom would traditionally have been very strong and in fairness we were delighted with the win we had against them. It was all to play for then against Tralee, it was a case of going out and having a go. But we won well on the day. That was a great bonus.”
It meant something to look forward to in the new year, though the opportunities for challenge matches were limited.
“We trained all through Christmas, though we didn’t play any games – when you’re down in west Cork it’s a lot more difficult than it is for the city teams,” O’Sullivan says. “Training was productive and we had a good run-in to the Killorglin game. We performed well for the first 20 minutes and for the last 10 or 15 but in between we were wishy-washy. We’d be hoping to improve on that game and we’ll have to. It’s a big learning curve but the players have taken to it. The competition gets good coverage in the press and that focuses the players, they realise the level that they’re playing at.”
Today will only underline that fact but O’Sullivan is relishing the test. “It’s a huge challenge,” he says. “Dingle are All-Ireland champions, they have half of that team and three or four were on the Kerry minors last year. We’ll throw the kitchen sink at them and see what happens.”