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Duhallow on tour to Croke Park

Wednesday, 31st January, 2018 5:38pm

Two Cork clubs will contest All-Ireland Finals at the weekend. What makes that feat even more special is that both hail from the Duhallow division.

Kanturk, the first ever Duhallow club to gain promotion to the Cork Senior Hurling Championship and Knocknagree, who won their first Munster title in January, will both represent Cork in Croke Park this weekend. One player who will not be in unfamiliar surroundings is Kanturk and Cork goalkeeper Anthony Nash.

A long campaign which saw Kanturk come through Cork, Munster, and ending in Croke Park via London and Newbridge would take its toll on any side, and given the break since the run of games at the end of 2017, momentum was difficult to maintain for the club, he says.

“It's about striking a balance. We had a lot of competitive games in a row before Christmas, and had perhaps our best performance in the Munster final against Kilmayley."

Tucked away in the northwest corner of Cork, the Duhallow division could consider itself lucky to have a club playing in an All-Ireland final in Croke Park. To have two is incredible. Knocknagree, situated just a few miles up the road from Kanturk, compete for the All-Ireland Junior Football Championship the day before on Saturday, in what will be a bumper weekend for the area.

There is a real buzz in Duhallow, ahead of what could be two historic days on Jones Road, says Nash. “Their manager John Fintan Daly actually has a practice in Kanturk, so the two clubs would be very close in that way as well. When they got out of Cork, they had a great chance. Fortunately, they got through and it's going to be a great weekend for the division of Duhallow. Obviously, we're keeping an eye on their fixtures and we're wishing them the best of luck. It would not only be great for Cork but also for the division of Duhallow.”

Amid his National Hurling League involvement and with neighbours Knocknagree thriving, Nash could be forgiven for being slightly distracted. But there's only one thing on his mind ahead of the weekend. “Since I was seven years of age, I've been playing hurling with Kanturk. To win it would be incredible, the stuff of dreams. We're an hour away, please God. We need to put in a solid performance and see where it takes us.”

As for Knocknagree, it's been a long and hardy campaign to get to the final and their captain, Matthew Dilworth, reckons the players have gotten together once in every three days.

“I'd say 40 games played between challenges and everything, and we've only lost four. We were playing against intermediate teams in some challenge games, so that was good going. We had 133 team get-togethers during the year, that's including games, so that's over a third of the year with the team.”

Dilworth knows very little about their opponents Mutyfarnham but management have been going through the footage. For the players, it's a case of not letting the excitement distract them from their big day at Croke Park.

“I've been playing for 13 years now I'd say we've lost eight divisional semi-finals in a row before we got to the final, so that's only five years ago. So it's been building and building. Hopefully we're going to finish it off the next day.”

Dilworth and Nash were speaking ahead of the AIB GAA All-Ireland Junior Football Club Championship Final and Intermediate Hurling Club Championship Final taking place at Croke Park this weekend. For exclusive content and behind the scenes action throughout the AIB GAA and Camogie Club Championships follow AIB GAA on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.

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