For many GAA people in the deep south, this weekend’s best game may be in Ovens, just west of Cork City.
Local club Éire Óg take on Templenoe of Kerry in the Munster intermediate club championship (throw-in 1.30 pm). Harry Reilly, coach of Éire Óg, balks at the suggestion his side are in bonus territory, having won the Cork premier intermediate championship recently.
“Absolutely not, our attitude would be very much ‘we’re there, we’ll have a rattle off this’. We see it as a fierce opportunity and we’re looking forward to Sunday.
“It’s a big challenge, Templenoe have a lot of big names, but we’ve plenty of big names ourselves. It’s definitely a game we’re looking forward to have a go at.
“These opportunities don’t come around that often, and that’s something the lads have really bought into. They were celebrating after winning the county title, obviously, but when we went back training I could see that training picked up a notch since then. The intensity has improved, everything, it’s clear to anyone who has seen them train.
“I don’t know if that’s down to an element of release since winning the county title, more confidence, but they’ve certainly driven on.”
An outsider would associate the club with Cork star Daniel Goulding, described by Reilly as a ‘massive leader’: “All the lads look up to him. He hasn’t been captain for years but this year we felt we had a good chance so we made him captain on purpose, but he’s the kind of guy who doesn’t need to be captain to be a leader or to talk, he’ll do that anyway.
“It’s a fitting year for him to be captain but the lads would have the height of respect for him anyway.”
He’s not the only big name in red and gold this weekend. Ciarán Sheehan returned from Australian Rules in September to rejoin his club.
“We probably haven’t had the full benefit of his experience in areas like strength and conditioning yet because he only got back a few weeks ago,” says Reilly.
“But on tactics and so on he’s not shy about speaking up and he brings a different view. I’ve seen him pulling younger lads aside and advise them, so it’s great to have him.
“He’s back in on the Cork senior panel and he’s absolutely flying — and he’s only 29 next week, which we tend to forget.”
For all that, Éire Óg are fielding a ‘newish’ team, adds Reilly.
“Daniel is 33 and Liam Sheehan is 35, but even with them included the average age is 24. There are six U21s on the team and they won a minor Premier A two years ago — the likes of Colm O’Callaghan, Jack Murphy are top class and they gave the whole thing a bit of a lift. We might have gone a bit stale so they’ve lifted it, certainly.
“John Cooper is an outstanding player at centre-back, I’d be expecting him to break through with the Cork seniors soon. Hugh Murphy was on the Cork minors and will come in with us next year . . . there seems to be a lot of good young talent around, the schools are doing well, it’s very promising.”
They’ll need it all against Templenoe.
“They have four Kerry seniors, everyone knows about them, but they have good players along with those — Patrick Clifford, Brian Crowley, Stephen O’Sullivan are three very good players too.
“I’d keep a close eye on football in Kerry and I know a few of them have played for Kerry at various levels, but we think we can match them. We have eight or nine players who’ve worn the Cork jersey, so we won’t be a bit shy.
“John Mullins and Ronan O’Toole would have marked a couple of the Spillanes while playing for Cork, and we’d feel Templenoe will have their hands full with Daniel and Colm and Ciarán up front.
“It’s funny, any of the neutrals I’ve been talking to during the week seem to be going to the game. In the senior game the fact that Austin Stacks didn’t win the Kerry title means that contest might be coming in under the radar a bit, whereas there’s the promise of entertainment in our game given there’s a good few inter-county players.”