It had been a long day, a long year, in fact. But the weariness wasn’t obvious given the contented nature of the Kanturk supporters as they made the penultimate leg of their journey back to North Cork on Saturday night.
First into London for Saturday’s All-Ireland Club IHC quarter-final were players and management. They travelled over on Friday, spread across three flights from Cork and Kerry as seating availability made it impossible for the squad to travel together.
It was a one-day in and out job for the majority of their supporters, the 6.40am Cork to Stansted flight on Saturday heavily dotted with green hoodies bearing the Kanturk crest. Excitable then, excitable as they sat waiting for the 10pm flight out of Heathrow after another successful afternoon following their dual heroes.
Joining them on the flight home was hurling manager Donagh Duane and his backroom team with the squad staying over until yesterday. He chatted away with supporters, plenty of fat to chew as the curtain finally came down on their 2017 journey. A temporary drawing of the blinds, mind, 2018 opening with an All-Ireland semi-final against Ulster champions Middletown of Armagh on January 21.
That assignment and the one hour that now stands between Kanturk and an All-Ireland final appearance at Croke Park can wait for another day. Saturday evening’s journey home was for savouring their 2017 journey. Fourteen straight championship wins. Cork intermediate football champions. Cork premier intermediate hurling champions. Munster intermediate hurling champions.
That they were somewhat off their best in putting away Kilburn was of no concern. Getting the job done was all that mattered.
“Today wasn’t pretty, but we got what we came here for,” Duane remarked. “We can reflect now on everything this year has thrown up. The players deserve the time to throw off the shackles and bask in the three cups that are in the cabinet.”
The visitors led 0-9 to 0-5 at half-time. Most crucial was Anthony Nash’s penalty save to deny Stephen Lambert in first-half stoppage time. The latter supplied three, each via the dead ball, of Kilburn Gaels’ five point first-half tally. They were living off scraps.
At the other end, they were living a charmed existence. Liam O’Keeffe, who converted three first-half frees, was on four occasions unlucky not to find a goal. Kilburn goalkeeper Jack Barron, full-back Niall Coen and the post keeping them in the game.
Early in the second period, they found themselves holed beneath the waterline. A Liam O’Keeffe goal was the highlight of a 1-3 Kanturk burst directly upon the resumption.
A 41st minute Jody Troy goal was Kilburn’s first score of the second-half to leave seven between them (1-12 to 1-5). No matter, Kanturk’s response was to produce a second green flag, Lorcán McLoughlin’s speculative effort going all the way to the net.
Ian Walsh sniped four second-half points, cousin Aidan cut over a sideline. On they march.
“Every once in a blue moon, a club is fortunate that a group of lads come along who have talent from one to 26. Me, as manager, and the lads beside me on the line are so privileged to be given the opportunity to manage these lads,” Duane continued.
“The sacrifices they make, the dedication (is incredible. It is borderline inter-county. Turning up at the club and training twice and thrice a week is not enough anymore.
“You must be willing to put in two extra nights, at least, outside of organised sessions in order to achieve what we have done.”
L O’Keeffe (1-5, 0-4 frees, 0-1 ‘65); I Walsh (0-4); L McLoughlin (1-0); A Walsh (0-1 sc), L O’Neill (0-2 each); R Walsh, D Kennelly, A O’Keeffe, D O’Donoghue (0-1 each).
S Lambert (1-5, 1-5 frees); J Troy (1-1); K Kennedy, S Conlon (0-1 each).
A Nash; P Walsh, J McLoughlin, J Browne; L O’Neill, D Browne, A Sheehy; L McLoughlin, R Walsh; D Kennelly, I Walsh, J Fitzpatrick; L O’Keeffe, A Walsh, A O’Keeffe.
E O’Connor for A O’Keeffe (49 mins); M O’Riordan for Kennelly (54); D O’Connor Fitzpatrick (54); D O’Donoghue for I Walsh.
J Barron (Carlow); K Campion (Laois), N Coen (Galway), C Hickey (Waterford); W Campion (Laois), B Regan (Galway), K Kennedy (Tipperary); A O’Leary (Dublin), C McLinden (Armagh); F Collins (Tipperary), M Duggan (Clare), S Conlon (Cork); S Lambert (Galway), J Troy (Tipperary), D Reale (Limerick).
A Murphy (Kilkenny) for Reale (42 mins); S Carey (Tipperary) for O’Leary (44); J Kelly (Galway) for K Campion (50); M Lambert (Galway) for Hickey (56).
J O’Brien (Laois).