A manager thinks differently. Fergal Condon saw his Imokilly hurlers cruise into the Cork SHC final with a comfortable win over UCC the last day, but he sees a bigger benefit in their previous outing, a narrow victory over Newcestown.
“They played very well against UCC, but you’d be happier, nearly, with the game against Newcestown in the previous round.
“It was a reminder of how fast you could be gone out of the championship, and the Cork senior hurling championship in particular. Any complacency and you’re out the gate. We were lucky that day but it probably also gave us the little bit of an edge we were looking for and also gave us a kick-start against UCC. We knew if we took our foot off the pedal against UCC we’d be in trouble, given the quality they have. So that display was very encouraging.”
Imokillly captain Séamus Harnedy said later that Newcestown came at the divisional side “in droves”, and it’s a fair description of the closing stages. Condon pays due tribute: “It’s great to get that kind of reminder ahead of a final, but you must also give Newcestown credit for the way they played that day. Their approach to the game was bang on and they never said die, they kept going and going. In that sense, it was a great test for our lads because it forced them to battle hard. They’re looking forward to tomorrow’s game but because of the Newcestown game, and the UCC game, they know they have to produce the goods again for Midleton.
“They’re (Midleton) a team with a lot of threat up front, which everybody knows, but they have plenty of youth around the field as well, and we’ll have to work hard to match them.”
Midleton overcame Blackrock in the other semi-final, which was played the same day as Imokilly took on UCC. After his side togged on, Condon and company came out to see who their opponents would be in the final.
“Obviously, they played after our game with UCC, but our focus that day was all about UCC. At the earliest opportunity after our game, though, we came out and had a look to see who we’d be up against in the final. Midleton played well that day — they had to, Blackrock were in the final only last year and are a big, strong team. Midleton are more of a young, fast side, so it was an interesting difference in styles, and fair dues to Midleton, they were able to hold out when Blackrock came at them late on. It was a battle — like our game against Newcestown — and they’ve been battling well the last few games, to be fair. It’s a credit to them to make a county final with a young panel, though they have plenty of experience on the line, and we know well that if we don’t produce the goods, we’ll be in trouble.”
Condon acknowledges the derby aspect of tomorrow’s final: “The lads from Castlelyons and Youghal mightn’t have gone to school in Midleton but these lads are all hurling against each other at underage level, all the way up, so they know each other well.
“There was a time Midleton were winning all around them in east Cork, and we’re all well aware of their potential as a team, and as a club.
“They’re a hugely proud club, they’re right in the middle of the division and all the other clubs are probably in a radius of about 10 miles, so it’s a massive, massive day for both panels.”
And for the support. Condon points to the crowd following the divisional side. “From our point of view, we’re tapping into our own clubs, we’re building up a fan-base — you saw the kids at the press night — and in that sense, we’ve worked very hard since 2015, and we’re very proud of that. Midleton are a great club with a great following too, there’s no doubt about that. We’re friends off the field, but tomorrow’s going to be a massive battle.”