A first Munster club football campaign in 11 years for Kanturk. But where 2011 was bonus territory, 2022 is not.
At 33 years young, Lorcán McLoughlin is one of the longer-serving campaigners on the Kanturk starting team. When he started out in the mid-noughties, Kanturk were a lowly junior side struggling to make an impression within the Duhallow division, never mind challenging for anything meaningful outside of that jurisdiction.
The 2009 Duhallow win was their first divisional title in 47 years. Two years later, they won the county. It represented a first Cork crown in either code since 1969.
Two days after winning the 2011 county, Kanturk travelled down to Waterville to take on Declan O’Sullivan and Dromid Pearses in the Munster junior semi-final. They led by four entering the final quarter, but fatigue and Declan eventually caught up with them. Come extra-time, they were spent.
Regrets were few afterwards as expectations had been similarly few beforehand. Cork was the priority. Cork was the pinnacle. This time around, though, the mindset is different.
On Saturday afternoon at Páirc Uí Chaoimh (1pm), Kanturk face their near-ish neighbours from across the Cork-Kerry border, Rathmore, in the Munster intermediate semi-final. The success and silverware of the last 11 years means the recently concluded Cork PIFC was a priority but not the pinnacle for this Kanturk group. The success and silverware of the last 11 years means they want more from this campaign.
Last month’s premier intermediate final win over Bantry brought to six the number of county hurling and football titles brought back to Kanturk since 2011. And you can add to that the Munster intermediate hurling final win of 2017 and the All-Ireland crown put at the front of the team bus underneath the Hogan Stand in February of the following year.
Of the 19 players who saw game-time against Bantry, 12 featured at GAA HQ for the 2018 All-Ireland hurling triumph over Ballyragget.
Those that didn’t are mostly the younger crop who’ve come along in the meantime and injected a fair shot of size and skill into the starting line-up. We’re thinking here of the U20 quartet of Colin, Tommy, and Alan Walsh, and Brian O’Sullivan. The first three played U20 football for Cork this year. O’Sullivan, meanwhile, was the county’s outstanding U20 hurler.
McLoughlin, himself a former Cork senior, points to this high-quality production line as the chief reason the club has continued to climb the Cork ladder since the turn of the new decade.
Where Kanturk were a junior football/intermediate hurling club at the beginning of the 2011 season, they will begin 2023 with dual senior status.
“It clicked in 2011 and just seemed to take off. It has snowballed from there,” says McLoughlin, reflecting on their still ongoing journey.
“Our success didn’t happen overnight, absolutely not. There was a lot of disappointment over the years. A lot of teams would have got to divisional finals and just come up short, for whatever reason. Good club officials put in an awful lot of groundwork over the years. Thankfully, all that has come to fruition over the last decade.
“I am at the stage where I am 30-plus and you look back and say, ‘jeez yeah, we have had a good run of it’. But you also know how hard it is to get to and win these finals, so you want to max it out and win everything you can while you can.” Which brings us neatly back to Rathmore and this afternoon’s Munster semi-final.
A Kerry club has won the last seven iterations of this provincial competition. In fact, Clyda Rovers’ 2013 win is sandwiched by a pair of seven-in-a-row runs comprising a whole host of Kerry clubs.
Inspection of the 2013 edition shows it was beaten finalists St Joseph’s Miltown Malbay, not Clyda, who took out that year’s Kerry intermediate champions, Currow.
It means not since Carbery Rangers overcame Legion in the 2005 semi-final has the Cork intermediate champions beaten their Kerry counterparts in this competition.
“I wouldn’t know much of the current Rathmore players, but I actually worked back in Rathmore when I was working with the Credit Unions in marketing,” McLoughlin, who lines out at half-forward for the footballers, continued.
“They live and breathe football back there. We are playing the Kerry champions, and so they are always going to be good.
“We had some good days in Munster in 2017 in the hurling. Fellas are looking forward to this game and trying to stay in the championship as long as we can.
“Back in 2009 and ‘11, when we started to get our first bit of success, it was Padraig Kearns who was over the team. He is over the team now again. He has done a huge amount down through the years. It’s great for him to have won the county this year and hopefully we can do a bit more for him this weekend.”