Final summit for Mayfield
Anyone who frequents Mayfield will know that every corner you turn, there’s another hill to climb.
This Saturday, the northside city parish may take its most important steps of all - up the Hogan Stand to be crowned All-Ireland champions in Croke Park.
What is rare is wonderful and this weekend marks, in all likelihood, the one occasion this Mayfield side will take to the pitch in the famed GAA headquarters together. Captain Shane O’Donovan, at the age of 24, is only too aware of the significance of this Saturday’s final.
“It’s mental. At the start of the season the county title was our target. We lost to Brian Dillons in the city final last year so we knew we weren’t far off.
“We won the city then this year and went on to win the county from there, everything since then has just been a bonus but playing in an All-Ireland Final in Croke Park? Never did I ever think that would happen!
“I’ve talked to a few lads who’ve been in our position before and they said the day just passes you by in a blur. I don’t think any of it will register with me until after the game is over because right now, all I care about is winning!”
The famed red and white colours of Cork are no stranger to our streets, and since their date with destiny was confirmed, Mayfield is awash with red and white, as they wear the same colours as the county.
Cork clubs are second in the roll of honour in the All-Ireland Club Junior Championship; Fr O’Neills were first in 2006, Dripsey followed in 2008 and Meelin were the last winners in 2011, but Mayfield will be the first city club in Cork’s history to win this title should they beat Kilkenny’s Mooncoin on Saturday.
“The place is buzzing at the moment,” says Shane, a CIT graduate.
“Lads are out putting flags and bunting up around Mayfield and you can’t go anywhere without someone mentioning it to you but it’s great!
“I think myself and the team are trying to stay away from the hype a bit and not lose our focus, but at the same time, we’d be aware as well of how much this means to people.
“The last time we won the county was 1978...a bit before my time! This year I’ve seen grown men cry after all the games, it means everything to the club so the buzz and the effort being put in by everyone just adds to it, the atmosphere is unreal around the place!”
An All-Ireland Final it may be, but as best they can, Shane and the team are trying to treat Saturday’s game as just that – another game.
Having beaten St Patrick’s of Limerick, Bodyke of Clare, Ballyduff Lower of Waterford and Calry/St Josephs of Sligo on the road to Croker, one more game and Mayfield will have reached the summit.
“We’ve trained as we normally do for the last couple of weeks,” says Shane. “We haven’t been going too hard and we’re winding down at this stage. We played the Offaly under 21s in a game a few weeks ago and things are fine really.
“I think in terms of hurling we’re fine, it’s the attitude I’d be more concious of – that can be what can catch you on the day and, as players, it’s up to us to have that right on Saturday.
“Who can handle it better, us or them? The manager Seamus (Lawton) comes across as fairly calm on the sideline but he always has us well prepared, he has kept us grounded before every game and we’ve been on the go now for a while, but the winter has absolutely flew!
“We’ve had a match every few weeks and we’re training away and now we’re in an All-Ireland Final in Croke Park; I think we’re all just mad to get going at this stage!”
Just one conversation with Shane and it’s easy to see why the reponsibility of captain is on this 24 year old’s shoulders. A Mayfield native, Shane’s father Sean also played with Mayfield and is a former captain with the club.
“We were both captain so it’s great for him as well I guess, to not only have Mayfield in the final, but to have me as the captain then as well. They’re talking about it at home more than I am, they nearly have my head wrecked at this stage!” he adds with a laugh.
“Ah no, the captain thing is fine with me, it’s a huge honour and I guess it’s not every day you get to lead your club out in Croke Park. These are lads I grew up with and played with my whole life and they’re a great bunch. We’ve a few really good players there and none of us have ever played in Croke Park before, so it’s a new experience for everyone involved. It’s a great feeling!
“We’re travelling up on Saturday morning, I’m not sure how much sleep I’ll get to be honest, but we all thought it would be better to leave from Mayfield that morning,” adds Shane.
As for their opponents, Kilkenny sides have won this championship the last two years in-a-row and Mooncoin will be hoping to add a third on the trot when they face Mayfield on Saturday.
“We’re trying not to think too much about them,” says Shane.
“The lads, (Lawton and his backoom staff) have been keeping an eye on them alright. I don’t know though, in matches like this it can go either way so we’re trying to only think about ourselves for now and hopefully the result will go our way and it’ll be back to the clubhouse then where it all started,” he said.
• The AIB All-Ireland Club Junior Hurling Championship Final between Mayfield and Mooncoin will take place on Saturday 18 February. Throw-in at Croke Park is at 3pm.
The game will be broadcast live via aib.ie/gaa and the AIB YouTube channel. Coverage begins at 2.30pm.
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