Momentum can carry Kanturk to an All-Ireland title at GAA headquarters

Momentum can carry Kanturk to an All-Ireland title at GAA headquarters
Anthony Nash of Kanturk. Picture: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

SUNDAY: All-Ireland IHC club final: St Patrick’s Ballyragget v Kanturk, Croke Park, 3.45pm.

IT’S Cork and Kilkenny again on a very special day for the two clubs that are involved.

Kilkenny teams have been dominant in this competition in recent times, winning it four times in the last five years.

Carrickshock, Bennettsbridge, Rower-Inistoige and Clara have all come away from Croke Park with the trophy since 2013 and that type of dominance illustrate the magnitude of the task facing Kanturk on Sunday.

However, the Cork and Munster champions bring their own strong credentials and will view this game in a confident frame of mind.

They have come through a rigorous campaign and getting out of Cork was a mammoth achievement in itself given the high standard of the majority of the participants and the very level nature of the playing field.

They faced a huge challenge again in Munster, particularly in the final against Kilmaley from Clare and coming out on the right side of that game after 80 minutes of hurling was a massive boost entering the national arena.

The fact that they had to face a potentially tricky assignment against the British champions, Robert Emmetts in Ruislip added to the difficulties that a team faces in trying to get into Croke Park.

They would have been wary enough too of the challenge forthcoming from the Ulster champions, Middletown-Na Fianna last Sunday and the week’s postponement of that game didn’t help.

Kilkenny’s best had, arguably, their toughest test in the Leinster club final and only a point divided themselves and, surprise, surprise, the Wicklow champions, Glenealy.

They had matters much easier in the semi-final against Connacht champions, Tooreen from Mayo, winning on a scoreline of 3-14 to 1-9.

All-Ireland club finals are a one-off and it’s nearly always a case of seizing the day when it arrives.

Neither are likely to pass this way again in the foreseeable future and it’s vital, all the more so in Croke Park, that you are tuned in from the outset.

For club players, it can be an intimidating venue and settling quickly will be important.

Ballyraggett’s star player, Kilkenny's Kevin Kelly was ruled out of the semi-final win over Tooreen but will be starting here and will be a key player for them in front of goal.

There are three Brenanns on the starting 15, Michael, Joseph and Paddy while Eoin Bergin and Brian Phelan are also highly rated on Noreside.

The Kilkenny and Leinster champions made the front pages of the national newspapers a few months back for off-field shenanigans and they will certainly be hoping for the back pages this time.

Kanturk will rely again on the tried and trusted who have brought them to this defining day in headquarters.

It’s been an incredible journey since their opening day in against Castlelyons in Castletownroche and who could have envisaged on that Sunday that this particular voyage would have an ending in the great theatre that is Croke Park.

They have treated every game in a similar fashion, never looked further than the next assignment but, human nature being what it is, they must surely have thoughts now about climbing the Hogan Stand next Sunday.

Lorcan McLoughlin has been in exceptional form for them and the leadership qualities that brought him to the forefront with Cork have been very evident, never more so than on that day in the Gaelic Grounds against Kilmaley.

Anthony Nash iis the best goalkeeper in the country and his inner belief gives those in front of him that extra bit of confidence.

John McLoughlin has been ultra consistent while Darren Browne has surely a great future in front of him.

Aidan Walsh can be a match-winner on his own while cousin Ian has grown in stature as the campaign aged.

John Browne and Liam O’Keeffe are vital contributors too and Donagh Duane is getting everything he asks from these players.

The fact that the opposition is coming from Kilkenny suggests that it’s going to be another huge test for the Cork team.

But they have answered every question on this journey and they are ready now for the biggest one of all.

They’ll win by a couple of points.

Verdict: Kanturk.

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