From the mountaintop Kanturk see new horizons

Lorcán McLoughlin doesn’t want a full stop put after Kanturk’s All-Ireland intermediate club final win.

Sunday’s one-point triumph over Ballyragget at Croke Park was the club’s 16th consecutive championship victory across both codes. In the space of four months, a “once in a lifetime group”, as hurling manager Donagh Duane has described them (11 players feature on both the Kanturk hurling and football teams), have landed the Cork intermediate football, Cork premier intermediate hurling, Munster intermediate and All-Ireland intermediate hurling titles.

In two months’ time, presuming the Cork board begin their local championships in April, Kanturk will meet Newtownshandrum in the first round of the senior hurling championship. It will mark the first time a club from Duhallow has played a senior hurling championship fixture.

So while the last couple of months have been life-changing, unbelievable, phenomenal and every other superlative you can find, McLoughlin doesn’t want any Kanturk man to view Sunday as the mountaintop. There are higher peaks to be tackled.

“Go back to 2016 and we were close enough to being relegated down to intermediate,” begins McLoughlin. “When you get momentum, get the right structures in place, get the young lads stepping up as they have done here, look what can be done.

“This is a final but I don’t see it as the end of anything. We’ve finished out the intermediate grade on a high. We should see today as a milestone. The senior championship is a different kettle of fish again. I don’t think this performance will be good enough against Newtownshandrum in the first round of the Cork SHC. We have to refocus. As a club, we have to see how we are going to balance hurling and football this year.”

Sunday was McLoughlin’s fourth All-Ireland final at GAA HQ. The 2007 minor decider ended in defeat, as did the 2013 senior final, albeit after a replay.

“I’ve never experienced anything like this in Croke Park. To win an All-Ireland in Croke Park and to do it with your club, it is the pinnacle. I’d love to win one with Cork, but to win one with the club is absolutely phenomenal.

“Things seemed to be falling apart near the end. Ballyragget got a run on us. We found it hard to shift momentum back. Aidan Walsh went off with an injury. Lads just took it by the scruff of the neck and really showed a good bit of character.

“Paul Walsh played a brilliant ball across to his brother Ian at the finish. Ian stepped inside and got a phenomenal score. They are big moments, especially when the game is so close. That’s the difference; showing calmness and composure at that late stage in the game. It is great to look around the pitch, to see 18- and 19-year olds really playing above themselves, playing as if they were playing all their life in Croke Park.”

Ryan Walsh, a brother of Paul and Ian, is another member of that young brigade who stood up and was counted on several occasions on this journey. Come half-time on Sunday, he’d 1-2 to his name.

“I don’t know how many times I’ve scored that goal out in my garden, practising, hoping and dreaming to get [to Croke Park]. Anytime I was dreaming, it was always in a red jersey. I never dreamt of playing in Croke Park in a green and white jersey.

“To do it with my two brothers. My uncle, Tom, is a selector. Aidan is my cousin. My father, Jerome, is the manager of the football team. We are one big group of brothers.”

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