With a first county senior hurling title since 1991 safely under their belt, the next focus for Midleton has to be the Munster title — so says former great John Fenton. The only Cork club to have won the provincial crown since his own side did it in 1987 has been Newtownshandrum.
“The way the Cork champions have performed in the club championship in the last 25 years has been a reflection of Cork’s place in hurling. Newtown won three Munster titles in the 2000s [’03, ’05, ’09], one All-Ireland [’04], Cork won two All-Irelands [’04 & ’05] — our record has not been good.
“Cork hurling needs the county senior champions to be winning a lot more often in Munster and contesting at All-Ireland level at least. I would hope our fellas would have a serious cut off that now, and I believe they will. Midleton has a proud record in Munster [two titles — ’83 & ’87 — from four attempts].
It won’t be easy and no-one knows that better than Fenton. A former Cork All-Ireland-winning captain and Hurler of the Year (both in 1984), multiple All Star, he has been involved with Midleton at every level as player, coach, manager and selector and as such is acutely aware of the challenge facing them on Sunday week against the champions of high-flying Clare, whether that be either Newmarket-on-Fergus or Sixmilebridge.
The last time Clare made the All-Ireland breakthrough, 1995, they then went on to dominate the Munster club scene for six consecutive years, so they too have their history.
Midleton though, are well equipped to deal with that challenge and, says Fenton, also well balanced, despite Conor Lehane garnering the headlines on Sunday with his virtuoso display, 2-10 of Midleton’s 2-15 total.
“His scores were incredible. He’s the best I’ve seen since Joe Canning for hitting the ball on the run. But everyone contributed. Luke O’Farrell scored three points from play — we only won by two. If he hadn’t scored, if Bud Hartnett hadn’t scored, all Conor’s heroics, all his scores, would have counted for nothing. It was a massive team effort.”
The final minutes of Sunday’s win were absolutely nerve-wracking said Fenton: “I got a real pain in my chest, thought I was having a heart attack — the tension! You don’t have that when you’re actually playing, you’re on the field, in the game. When you’re a spectator it can be a lot tougher.
“But the final whistle — absolutely fabulous, and the feeling afterwards; the excitement, the relief. It brought back memories of the ’80s and ’90s but this is all validation of the great work being done by the club at underage and Conor is one of those who epitomises what we’re doing.
“You had other guys there like Killian Burke, Tommy Wallace, the O’Mahonys, Cormac Walsh who came on as a sub, younger again than Conor — they showed what they’d been coached to show, were absolutely fantastic.
“They’re very disciplined too. They enjoyed themselves [on Sunday] night but there was no fella out of order, no-one messing — they soaked it all in, enjoyed it, appreciated it.”
Magpies hope to play provincial clash at home
Midleton treasurer John Fenton says the club are appealing to the Munster Council to have their provincial senior hurling club semi-final staged in Midleton.
The club stalwart, All-Ireland-winning Cork captain, and hurler of the year in 1984 said: “We’ve made an application to have it down here and in fairness, the council are going to have a look at it,” he said.
“We’re hoping our application is successful. We have a stand now and terracing all down one side of the field. It’s a great place to see a game because of the terracing, the slopes that are there around the pitch. There’s plenty of parking, we’re only a 10-minute walk from the centre of town, no problem with access. And it’s a fabulous playing surface.
“We played all our Munster club games there in the past without any problem, we’ve hosted inter-county matches there — we can cater for up to 5,000 people no problem. I’d prefer to see 3,000 people in Midleton, creating a fantastic atmosphere, rather than being lost at a bigger venue. That’s what the Munster club championship is all about,” added Fenton.
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