Midleton must put their county final disappointment behind them as they face Ballygunner in the Munster club championship tomorrow (Walsh Park, 1.30pm).
Club official Coleman Quirke says they’re picking out the positives after their loss to Imokilly: “In many ways the young players proved themselves as we thought they would. In the final we came up against a super team in Imokilly and we didn’t play as well as we did in previous games, we know that, but we’ll look at the positives all the same.
“We scored 1-19, we blooded five or six young lads and we finished the game with seven U21s, I think.
“To be honest they were all catapulted in a little quicker than they would have expected.”
Midleton had to improvise, given the absences they were dealing with.
“This year we lost Killian Burke to London,” says Quirke.
“We lost Aylwin Kearney, who was full-back in the first round, to Dubai, and we also lost Padraig O’Farrell after the quarter-final to injury. The year previous we lost another full-back, Patrick O’Mahony, also to emigration.
“We were fortunate to have the young lads. Sean O’Leary Hayes was a stand-out Cork minor last year, Eoghan Moloney is a natural midfielder-half-back but we had to play him at corner-back. Seadna Smith was on the Cork U21s in the defence.
“For the first time in a long while we were a bit short on backs, the usual complaint is that you’re short on forwards, but it was the opposite for us.
“In fairness to them, they stood up and did well along with Seamus O’Farrell and Jamie Nagle and Finbarr O’Mahony.”
Quirke says momentum played a big role for the east Cork side: “The young lads were playing minor and U21 and intermediate, but the first game in the Páirc, against the Glen, was a big one for us. We got some momentum going after that and had a match every fortnight in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, which was ideal.
“They’re young, they weren’t nervous. They’re very cool — they’re so relaxed that you’d nearly be frightened, though that’s not something you’d want to knock out of them either.
“So that’s all positive. If I’d been talking to you back in August, after our last league game against Na Piarsaigh, we were all over the place at that stage — we weren’t sure what was ahead of us with the Glen game.
“Is there an argument for the competition to be held off until everything at inter-county level is finished? Maybe, because when you get games every fortnight it creates a great buzz, great momentum for players, supporters, everyone all through September, heading to all the games.”
Midleton have been here before, however. “We can’t lose sight of the fact that when we won the county last time, five years ago, we had a lot of U21s playing on that occasion too, but we had to wait five years to get back into a final.
“That said, we knew they were good players coming up through underage. We won the minor this year and two of those players got on the field in the (senior) county final as well, which was a big experience for them.
“We just hope those games will help them to learn, but we’re not under any illusions either about them necessarily being around for the next ten years.”
And tomorrow? Is it odd playing another game after losing the county final?
“I don’t think anyone really looked at that aspect of it until after the county final,” Quirke says.
“We knew we had good players but we also knew we’d need to get a few breaks along the way if we were to proceed, and we did.
“In 1994 we played Carbery in the county final and we had to play in Munster after that — we lost the provincial semi-final after a replay to Kilmallock, who went on to win Munster.
“Back in 2013 we had at least one U21 game between the senior county final and the Munster championship game. We played Sixmilebridge, who were probably a bit more experienced than us at the time.
“We played our first game in the Munster club championship almost 35 years ago to the week — down in Walsh Park against Mount Sion. We won the Munster club that year and lost out in the All-Ireland series.
“These are games that our young lads will enjoy — in years to come they’ll be telling their grandkids they played down in Walsh Park with Conor Lehane against Pauric Mahony.
“Our gang are looking forward to it hugely — they were bitterly disappointed with the county final, they know they didn’t do well. They’re looking forward to having a cut off Ballygunner and we’ll see where that takes us.”