A few years ago they were prime-time TV material, their clubmen and local passions cast onto Celebrity Bainisteoir’s nationwide stage.
But today they meet in a game that will mean so much more than the ephemeral reality TV competition: the Cork IFC final between season 1 runners-up Mayfield and series 3 also-rans Fermoy.
Mayfield, for one, have long since ditched the 5-star hotels, blazers and celebratory cigars that the cameras and star gaffer Gerald Kean were attracted to.
“There was a good buzz around at that time but there were mixed feelings afterwards about whether it was a good or bad thing for the club, because there was a lot of distraction involved with it too,” recalls full-back Padraig Fitzgerald.
“I wouldn’t like to harp on about the Bainisteoir too much to be honest, because it’s a distant memory. It was a good experience at the time but we didn’t win the final and we ended up on a downward spiral for a couple of years after that. This team has evolved an awful lot since. There was a lot of stuff done for cameras back then but in the few years since Mick Hannon came on board as coach there’s been a massive shift in our mindset and approach to games.”
Fermoy also had their celebrity gimmicks, with a giant wasp mascot flown in from LA by wedding planner Peter Kelly, aka Franc, as their 2010 quarter-final was transformed into a festival in North Cork.
But Mayfield arrived at the show’s genesis in 2008 for peak excitability, as the red and white of the City side became equivalent to the blood and bandage of Cork.
Yet the post-Bainisteoir years were a struggle for their footballers, dicing with relegation time and again until their eventual demotion to Intermediate in 2012.
Then, in the midst of a dour 28-month spell without a Championship win, they were only spared back-to-back relegations after a meeting with Canovee in the last chance saloon.
“Have no doubt about it, that was a dark day for us and to get over that was a big thing,” remembers Fitzgerald, who subsequently helped to coax Hannon, then with Bishopstown, back home to Mayfield.
Hannon had the raw materials of players sick of losing and from that he brought about a massive change to the team’s attitude and approach.
“The players and the club have really bought into it,” insists Fitzgerald. “Our club gym has been upgraded, players are doing recovery sessions, we’ve been to the Mardyke getting our fitness testing done at the start of the year, fellows are watching their diets – in the last couple of years you can see there was a huge shift in the mentality and discipline on and off the field.
That whole mindset came from nearly being relegated where we just said to ourselves, ‘Look, we know we’re better than that, we need to get our coaching structures right, and the players’ mindset needs to change…’ And it has.” That mindset will be tested by a defensively-solid Fermoy side that have the right combinations of youth and experience, speed and endurance.
Their hurlers won the Intermediate Championship last term and the footballers have been eliminated by the eventual winners in four of the last six years. They also beat Mayfield last year, 5-11 to 2-12.Mayfield’s edge-of-the-square general chalks the loss down to ‘defensive errors’.
“We had a good, free-flowing game against Fermoy but, unfortunately for ourselves, with ten minutes to go it was a drawn game and we just didn’t have the panel. But this year we have added to the panel.”
Shane Kelly has returned from Canada to take his place in a half-back line with serious attacking intent.
Fitzgerald says they have added motivation too: “Our Club President, Denis Shine, died earlier this year. He was 94 and would’ve been at every game sitting on his chair at the side of the pitch.
“I would’ve been a personal friend of his and an awful lot of the players would be thinking of him on county final day. It’d be nice for him if we could win the game in his memory.”
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