Cork Premier SFC: It’s all about hunger, says Duhallow boss Pádraig Kearns

Of the 19 players who saw game-time during Duhallow’s extra-time win over UCC in last month’s colleges/divisions final, 11 are due in club action on Saturday
Cork Premier SFC: It’s all about hunger, says Duhallow boss Pádraig Kearns

Duhallow manager Pádraig Kearns: 'You'd have a couple of teams picked in your head, but you can't make the final call till you see how all the lads come through their respective club games'

Different year, same issue.

Sunday evening at Páirc Uí Rinn, the footballers of Duhallow will bid to reach a fourth consecutive Cork senior semi-final.

And as has been the case in recent years, they will do so with almost one hand tied behind their back.

Not that their complaining, mind. The somewhat inconvenient practice of Duhallow players lining out for their division in a knockout championship fixture 24 hours after club duty is one they have grown well used to.

The standout example remains the weekend of the 2017 county senior semi-final, 13 of the players who featured for Duhallow during the 5-13 to 0-12 beating at the hands of Nemo had lined out for their club the day previous.

Jaded, and then some.

Of the 19 players who saw game-time during Duhallow’s extra-time win over UCC in last month’s colleges/divisions final, 11 are due in club action on Saturday.

Millstreet and Rockchapel both have an intermediate quarter-final to look forward to, Shane Hickey, Mark Ellis, Neil Flahive (all Millstreet), and Séamus Hickey (Rockchapel) all involved during the division’s aforementioned 4-20 to 6-12 victory over UCC. Millstreet and Cork senior Kevin Crowley is also expected to feature having missed Duhallow's opener owing to injury.

Then there’s Kanturk and Knocknagree, two Duhallow clubs chasing involvement in the last four of the premier intermediate championship.

Knocknagree had six starters for Duhallow last time out, with Paul Walsh the sole Kanturk representative. Kanturk representation Sunday, though, could be double or triple what it was last month as John McLoughlin and Lorcan O’Neill are two more players who manager Pádraig Kearns says missed their opener because of knocks.

One notable absentee last time out was Aidan Walsh, midfield when Duhallow reached back-to-back county senior finals in 2018 and 2019. His focus, for the time being, is centred on club matters. Injury, also, has prevented the Cork senior hurler from spreading himself too thin.

“It happens almost every year that the clubs are playing on Friday and Saturday, and then we are playing on Sunday. We probably won't be picking the team until Saturday night after we see who has come through those games injury-free and who hasn't,” says Kearns, now in his fifth year as division manager.

“You'd have a couple of teams picked in your head, but you can't make the final call till you see how all the lads come through their respective club games.

The players are used to doubling up at weekends. If you allow it to be a problem, it will be a problem. You must get it out of your head and drive on because, at the end of the day, we are in a county quarter-final and we want to get to a semi-final. That is the goal.

“The lads are experienced, they will all do their own bit of recovery to prepare for Sunday evening.”

Rather than crib about the busy workload his players must negotiate, Kearns hails the new county championship program as being most division-friendly.

"You couldn't but describe the new format as being friendly to the divisions. We have played only one game and yet we are in the quarter-final. You can't expect any better than that.

“It is a fair point to say that we have played only one championship game and [Valley Rovers] have played three, but the lads on our team are playing county championship with their club week-in, week-out. It is not as if they are doing nothing. One game or three games doesn’t make any real difference. It will be about whose hungrier and who wants it more.”

Kearns also believes the truncated club season is more advantageous to divisions than your regular nine or 10-month campaign.

“In a normal year, you could be training throughout January, February, and March, have a game in April, and then your next game after that is in August or September. You are trying to keep the players fresh all summer long ahead of your return to championship action because Duhallow don't play in the league that typically occupies clubs during a regular summer.

“Whereas this year, you know it will be done and dusted within a 10 or 11-week window, and that is what you must plan for.”

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