Tomorrow afternoon in Mallow, the club which produced Pat Spillane will stake its claim for Munster junior football glory, a remarkable achievement for a “stretch of area” that is home to no more than 400 people.
Unable to stand on its own two feet at underage level, the club has been forced to amalgamate with Sneem and Derrynane in recent years. And while they’re not exactly blessed with playing numbers at adult level either, they’re certainly blessed with talent.
Tadhg Morley, Killian Spillane and the Crowley brothers, Gavin and Brian, were on the Kerry team which won this year’s All-Ireland junior title, while Adrian Spillane was a Kerry U21 last year.
Rooted in Division 5 of the county league for a 12-year period between 2000 and 2011, the club are already looking forward to Division 1 football next year. Not content with promotion alone, victory over Gneeveguilla next Saturday would secure the club a fourth league crown in five years - Div 5 in 2011, Div 4 in ‘12 and Div 3 in ‘14.
County novice champions two-years ago, the county junior title annexed at the expense of Glenbeigh/Glencar back in October was the club’s first since 1975.“To get to where we are with the limited numbers we have is just amazing,” beams club chairman Clifford.
“They said of the Kerry team of 1975 that they were a bunch of bachelors, well we have a bunch of students. Only three of the starting team are not still in education - goalkeeper Anthony Sheehan, full-back Tadhg Morley and full-forward Teddy Doyle. Only one member of the panel then, Shane Cremin, is married.”
With the majority of the squad resident up the country during the week, several two and three-hour journeys are embarked on to make training of a Tuesday and Friday night.
Such commitment, believes Clifford, mustn’t go unnoticed and so the chairman has taken to preparing meals for the players in recent weeks.
“The menu varies from time to time,” he chuckles.
“It would be spaghetti bolognese one night, beef stir fry the next.
“They mightn’t eat a proper meal the day of training, leave college then at 6pm and it is 9pm before this is being put in front of them in the clubhouse so they do appreciate it.”
Having joined the intermediate squad in 1989, a year after Templenoe unsuccessfully contested the county final against Dingle, Clifford recalls the several Sunday afternoons where the club teetered on the brink of collapse.
“The team was on a downward spiral when I started. In fairness, there was a core group of lads who kept it going. A lot of clubs would have folded, but we kept it going. We scraped players from here, there and everywhere to keep it going.
“The nineties were particularly bleak for the club. We got players on Sunday mornings going to matches to make sure we could field.
“Is it little wonder then that men like Tim Foley are flying home from New York to be present in Mallow. This is the biggest game in our club’s history.”