Douglas hurling manager Mark O’Callaghan hates the word potential, truly hates it.
Potential, you see, is a word that has been associated with the Douglas hurlers for forever and a day.
Take a look at their current line-up — one containing Cork seniors Shane Kingston and the Cadogan brothers, U20 All-Ireland winner Cillian O’Donovan, former Cork senior Stephen Moylan, and Brian Turnbull, who was in and around the Cork senior panel in recent seasons — and the collective potential quickly becomes apparent.
The same was said about so many of the Douglas teams to come before them, but the club has no senior championship silverware to show for all the talent. In fact, they’ve yet to reach a county senior final since promotion from the premier intermediate ranks in 2009, semi-final appearances in 2010, 2014, and 2016 all ending with defeat to Glen Rovers.
Douglas’ perennial potential was a topic touched on by the aforementioned Eoin Cadogan following their statement 11-point first-round win over 2020 beaten finalists Glen Rovers last month.
“Douglas, we have been talking and talking and talking. And people have been talking about us and the potential and the underage and all that, but we have never delivered on it,” said Cadogan.
“I have been playing senior hurling and football for nearly 19 seasons and I have nothing to show for it. We know the capability that we have, but we just feel that we haven’t ever executed it to the level that we know that we can.
“The management has been involved for three years at this stage and we just kinda felt it was now or never.”
They continued apace for the remainder of the group stage campaign, Group A topped with an average winning margin of nine points to boot. But neither O’Callaghan nor his players need telling that it is tomorrow at Páirc Uí Chaoimh when the serious business starts, reigning county champions Blackrock their quarter-final opposition.
Where Blackrock are proven, potential is the word still hanging over Douglas.
“I hate the word potential,” O’Callaghan begins.
“It has been associated with us for too long. But, at the end of the day, it is about time that we started delivering. And as much as I hate the word, hopefully the potential will come to the fore and get us what our ambition is.”
A not too distant second on the Douglas priority list is finding the opposition net. That they failed to do across their three group games, the same as when they fell to the Rockies at this very stage last year. Dig a little deeper and Douglas have raised just a solitary green flag in their last eight championship games. Above everything else, it is a surprising piece of information when you consider the names in the Douglas attack.
“So far, the points have been doing it for us. But when you get to this stage of the championship, you need to be hitting one, two, three goals along with your points tally because, and I don’t mean any disrespect to the people we have played already, the calibre of opposition is going up,” O’Callaghan observed.
“The goals will have to start coming. Hopefully, they will.”
Reflecting on their five-point 2020 quarter-final defeat to tomorrow’s opponents, the manager knows his side were let down by 10 second-half wides.
“We have learned a few things from last year, particularly in the third quarter where we were sloppy in possession and Blackrock got away from us (the Rockies went from three ahead at the break to eight in front on 50 minutes). An aim for us on Sunday is to be consistent throughout the whole game and not have those blips that we had last year.”
With the Douglas footballers having last weekend secured a direct ticket to the county semis following a historic first championship win over neighbours Nemo, there is a growing buoyancy down around the club
“Whether it is football or hurling, a win builds momentum and other teams feed off that. The dual lads in our panel came back into us after the football win over Nemo on a high, they bring confidence back into our set-up.
“You want to see your club winning all the time and at the moment we are fortunate enough that we are doing that. Hopefully, we can keep that run going.”