There are more than a few examples of Cork clubs that have been escaped the clutches of junior hurling and then gone on to claim intermediate glory.
Charleville, Fr O’Neills, and Fermoy are recent examples of sides that have pushed onwards and upwards and Cloughduv will look to do the same tomorrow when they take on Blackrock in the IHC decider at Páirc Uí Rinn (3pm).
Having won eight Mid-Cork titles between 2009 and 2018, the breaking of the glass ceiling of the county championship allowed them to push on.
Tim Barry-Murphy, joint-manager of Cloughduv alongside Tomás Twomey, believes that the club’s success in the wake of last year’s county junior victory ensured they carried the momentum into 2019.
‘We had been trying to get out of junior for a decade,” he says, “so it was great to finally win it last year. What was important then was that we went on and won Munster and reached the All-Ireland semi-final (losing to Dunnamaggin by a point after extra time). We gave the lads a few weeks off after that but we were back at the end of February and nobody cribbed about that. We started winning league games then and that led us well into the first round of the championship.”
Having defeated St Catherine’s in early May, Cloughduv had a long wait before resuming championship action against Dungourney in late August.
However, the gap was bridged with good Division 5 league performances over the summer months.
“That definitely kept guys going during the summer,” Barry-Murphy says. “We were playing at a high intensity and the league final against Ballygarvan was a tough game. It gave us great confidence and it’s funny that we beat St Catherine’s and then Dungourney and Meelin, we had come across all of them at junior level too. Our junior B team went up to junior A too and they won the Mid-Cork so the two teams were able to train together and it kept the buzz going.”
The win over Meelin brought Cloughduv to a semi-final against Sarsfields, where Mark Verling scored seven points with his brother Brian getting 1-2 in a 1-15 to 1-11 victory.
“Towards the end, we were struggling to hang on but our fitness levels stood to us and everyone put in the effort to make sure we got over the challenge.” That was on September 29, and Barry-Murphy admits that the seven-week gap has brought its own challenges.
“It has been tough to manage,” he says, “but we were able to get in some good practice games against U21 teams.
“On the other hand, Blackrock beat Aghabullogue in their semi-final only last week and you could say that the one-week break is tough. You get these things thrown at you, you can moan or groan or you can get on with it.
“They’ve been able to cope and deal with the test so far and it says multitudes about the players. We know Blackrock will be favourites, especially as they were in the final last year, but Cloughduv beat them in the intermediate final in 1973 in Cobh and hopefully that will be an omen.”