Kilbrin rally for one final test

Grenagh v Kilbrin
Often, a manager of a club’s adult team will have had prior experience of working with panel members on an underage side.

Seán O’Gorman, who has led Kilbrin to tomorrow’s JAHC final with Grenagh in Páirc Uí Rinn (3.30pm), can claim to have worked with all but two of their squad, but it was as principal of Scoil Eoin Baiste in the village.

A native of Milford, O’Gorman has been principal in Kilbrin since 1988 when he was a part of the Cork senior hurling panel. Initially used as a forward, he won an All-Ireland at left corner-back in 1990. A county title as a manager would be a nice addition to his achievements.

If Kilbrin do manage to win a first adult hurling title, they will have done it the hard way, however. “I think this is our sixth weekend on the trot playing,” O’Gorman said, “every one since the All-Ireland replay, basically. That means that William [Egan] has had seven in a row.

“The flip side is that we’re carrying a bit of momentum, but it is asking a lot of players to keep going like that. You’re basically going game to game and you can’t train much. We met Tuesday and we haven’t had anything else since then until the weekend.”

O’Gorman took charge of Kilbrin at the start of the 2011 championship and the divisional title has been claimed in each of his seasons. Favouritism there can be a double-edge sword.

“The perception would have been that the Duhallow championship was ours to lose,” he said.

“That can be dangerous too, and we were very lucky in the final against Tullylease. We took our eye off the ball a bit and we were three points down with 10 minutes left.

“We managed to get a bit of a run on them, but that’s been the way the year has gone, good patches and bad patches in every game.”

Ultimately, the good won out. “Last Sunday in the replay against Castlemartyr, we were four points down and the lads showed great character, but they have been doing that,” O’Gorman said.

“Against Newtownshandrum, we were definitely staring down the barrel when we were nine behind at half-time but we got two quick goals to get back into it, maybe if we hadn’t got them then we wouldn’t be where we are now. The way the age profile is in the panel, it’d be great if they could go up now. If you lose, it’s very hard to come back again the next year.”

Nerves on the big day are unlikely to be a factor, though, as Kilbrin players have benefited from lining out with the division at minor and U21 levels. In O’Gorman’s eyes, the value of that experience cannot be measured.

“Duhallow entering as a division was a great development for players from clubs like Kilbrin,” he said. “To play in county finals in Páirc Uí Rinn is a huge experience, even if they weren’t winning them every year.”

Tomorrow Kilbrin will be up against someone who has soldiered with the club in the past, as Grenagh manager Johnny Keane won three Duhallow titles with them. O’Gorman knows that his presence makes the opposition a tough team to beat.

“Johnny was very popular during his time with Kilbrin,” he said. “Probably, of all teams, he’d have preferred not to be facing us in a final as he has such an affinity with the place. That’s the way it goes though and if we win I’ve no doubt he’ll be the first to congratulate us.

“Grenagh have won a good few Mid-Cork titles and they’d be regarded as a very solid team. Our average age is only about 23 or 24 whereas they’d have a bit more experience.”

If Kilbrin do ascend, it will be someone other than O’Gorman in charge.

“Whatever happens on Sunday, I’m finished,” he said. “I’ll have three years done and that’s a long time so the players will need a new voice. As a manager, you need a break after doing it for a period like that, there is a lot of hard work involved. A win on Sunday would be the perfect way to bow out.”


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