Pádraig Kearns knew what he was letting himself in for. Mind you, knowing what the task entails doesn’t make the job any easier.
Managing a divisional team, even one with as proud a history as Duhallow, bears no resemblance to taking charge of your local club side. Training sessions are less frequent, the turnover of players can be frustratingly high, and, of those able to commit, they often arrive into the dressing-room on match-Sunday having pulled on the club jersey the evening previous.
Take last Sunday evening in Macroom as an example. Duhallow faced Valley Rovers in the Cork SFC quarter-final. The game represented Duhallow’s first championship outing in 15 weeks. From the starting team which had trounced Seandún way back in mid-June, there were four changes for the meeting with Valley Rovers, all enforced.
The summer has been good to Kanturk, very good. The North Cork club find themselves in the PIHC final, while their footballers are one hour away from a county intermediate final appearance. Their success, though, has led to Kanturk’s dual players withdrawing their services from the divisional outfit.
Lorcan O’Neill was corner-back for Duhallow against Seandún, John McLoughlin at right half-back, Paul Walsh at left half-back, Aidan Walsh at midfield, and Mark Healy at full-forward. Only McLoughlin was togged at Macroom last Sunday. He did so having played the full hour during Kanturk’s IFC quarter-final win 24 hours earlier.
Rockchapel pair Seamus Hickey and Eamonn O’Callaghan also landed into Macroom having played intermediate championship on Saturday. This Sunday at Páirc Uí Rinn, Padraig Kearns will oversee Duhallow’s first county SFC semi-final appearance in five years. Tomorrow, Newmarket are in PIFC semi-final action, Kanturk are in IFC semi-final action, while Knocknagree and Boherbue both have junior quarter-finals to contend with. Of the 20 players Kearns used last Sunday, 12 will line out for their clubs tomorrow.
Kearns isn’t having a whinge that 12 players in line for a starting berth with Duhallow on Sunday are being asked to play twice in one weekend. He is more disappointed at a system which is leading to players playing two games in the one weekend, two weekends running.
“We’ll have lads on Sunday who’ll be playing their second game in 24 hours. I’d have a problem with that. At least I know the Kanturk lads aren’t available. I won’t know until next Saturday night what lads from Boherbue, Knocknagree, and Newmarket are available. It was the same last weekend,” says the Duhallow manager.
“The problem is the programme,” adds Kearns. “If you win, you should advance. If you lose, you should be knocked out. There are a lot of games. The Cork senior hurling and football teams delay all that. Nobody kicks a ball until the Cork teams are gone. There is no negativity, though. I have good players and we’ll drive on. Good players got us over the line last Sunday.”
The established names on the Duhallow team-sheet include long-serving Cork footballer Donncha O’Connor, fellow Cork footballer Kevin Crowley, and Cork hurler Mark Ellis. Then there’s half-forward Anthony O’Connor who kicked 11 points for Cork in this summer’s Munster junior decider, while Michael Vaughan was Cork’s top scorer with 0-6 in the corresponding fixture last year.
Kearns knows Nemo present formidable opposition, but he says he has the players to trouble them. “Last year, we were in a quarter-final. Going back the years under Ned English and John Fintan Daly, Duhallow would have been there or thereabouts. There is deadly talent there. They should be bringing it onto the inter-county team, they should start looking outside the box. And that’s not being smart. There are a lot of good fellas around to be picked up.
“Last Sunday showed me what they are really about. They want this.
“They didn’t care who was next to them, they passed to each other and there was a deadly bond. It is coming big time. Duhallow was always like a club team, without being a club team. This group is no different.”
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