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Kanturk on the brink of Munster success

Wednesday, 15th November, 2017 5:48pm

2017 is the year that just keeps on giving for Kanturk GAA and it shows no signs of stopping just yet.

Premier Intermediate Hurling champions and Intermediate Football champions in Cork, this weekend the hurlers face Clare's Kilmayley in the Gaelic Grounds for a chance to add to this season's silverware with the Munster Intermediate title on the line.

Last year Donagh Duane was playing with Kanturk but this season he took on an entirely new role on the sideline, taking over as the manager of the hurling team. It's been the début season of dreams, he admits.

“It's not a bad year so far, so I have to say I'm enjoying management so far,” he says with a smile. “It was said to me last Christmas in the club would I be interested in taking over and I had to have a think about it. I knew what we had in the club - a seriously talented crop who I felt could go far, but the tricky thing for me was that I'd been playing with these lads for years, so it's difficult to go from being a teammate to their manager.

“For it to work, I felt I would (take over) if I could bring someone in from the outside with me. We got Jim McCarthy from the Glen in as coach and he has been brilliant. I've learned a good bit from him and we'd be bouncing ideas off each other and I really think it's what's led us to have the season we have had so far.”

Kanturk's story is one of real success. A town of just over 2,000 people in the north west of Cork, the club has not one, but three intercounty players in its current crop with Anthony Nash, Lorcán McLoughlin and Aidan Walsh while Lorcán's brother John has enjoyed spells with the Cork footballers, also.

With a scattering of Munster titles between them, as well as Walsh's All-Ireland medal with the footballers from 2010, Sunday's Munster Final will represent a chance to win a Munster title in the green and white of Kanturk rather than the red and white of Cork.

As well as that four, the side also has this year's Cork Under 21 captain Darren Browne while Ryan Walsh was centre back for the Cork minors in 2016. It's almost an embarrassment of riches, admits Duane, not that he's complaining.

“There was a lot of work put in at underage and it's tough to keep young fellas interested,” says Duane. “Credit must go to both sides; the coaches at underage for helping to develop the players and the players then themselves as well, but there is that bit of luck as well of course.

“We know that the players we have at the moment don't come along every day but it's how it's happened and I knew that taking on the job-the level of talent within the team. It's been a task almost this week, keeping the lads from overdoing it. They're out pucking every chance they get and there's a real drive among them which is great! But we don't want to overdo it either ahead of the game.”

2004 was a significant year for Kanturk. It was the first year the club's hurlers made the step up from junior level, and since then, the club has gained promotion twice while it will be the first ever Duhallow club to ply its trade in the Cork Senior County Championship, a hugely significant feat for a club based in what is traditionally a footballing area of Cork.

It was the same year, 2004, when Kilmayley last won a senior title, and although they were crowned under 21 champions in 2015, the club found itself in unfamiliar territory this season at intermediate level after suffering relegation last year but, to their credit says Duane, they bounced back.

“They're totally new opposition for us, obviously,” says Duane, “but what we do know of them is that they are a strong, traditional GAA club. They are a club that is used to playing at senior level, and after going down last year, it's really to their credit that they gained promotion back after just one season so we're up against a very experienced side.

“They had a blip in going down but it shows huge character to go straight back up; they're a formidable side and they'll be seriously tough opposition. They have intercounty player Conor Cleary at centre back and Alan Markham to spring from the bench who was with Clare for years.”

With the two county final wins, and a Munster campaign, last weekend was the first one in quite some time that Donagh's players were afforded a break from matches. The county final wins were special but Donagh is happy to see his players have not lost the run of themselves in celebrations.

“When we won the football title, one of the first things Aidan, who was captain, said was that we weren't done yet. As a hurling man I was very glad to hear him say that! Look, it's been an unbelieveable year but they're actually hungry for more, the drive hasn't left them a bit. There's a Munster title on the line now and I think the feeling is that this doesn't happen every day.

“We may never be in this position again, so we have to enjoy it and give it everything. Munster championships are few and far between for any teams; it's a once in a lifetime chance and the players have their feet on the ground I have to say. It's a group that have really made my job as a manager so easy and we have another test now again on Sunday but I'm really looking forward to it!”

Kanturk play Kilmayley in the AIB Munster Club Intermediate Hurling Final on Sunday. Throw-in in at the Gaelic Grounds is at 2pm.

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