THERE IS many a club outside Duhallow which would do well to follow their lead, when it comes to their dedication and commitment to the cause.
Last season the northwest representatives suffered the acute disappointment of losing to Nemo Rangers in the county final by 2-8 to 0-8.
It was their second time in 12 months experiencing the heartache of decider dejection, having been pipped by St Finbarr’s in a thriller in 2018.
And when you also factor in the 2012 loss to Castlehaven by a point, some of those long-serving members could be excused for thinking enough is enough.
But, no, back they came for their first game in the divisions/ colleges section of the Bon Secours premier county senior football championship, which happened to be the final against UCC.
Their starting line-up featured 11 of the side, which began against Nemo, and while the students had the benefit of a mid-week game against Carbery, Duhallow received a walkover from Beara and went in cold as a consequence.
Goalkeeper Patrick Doyle (Knocknagree), Bart Daly (Newmarket) and Michael Mahoney (Knocknagree) from the full-back line, in addition to the entire half-line of Shane Hickey (Millstreet), Kevin Cremin (Boherbue) and Conor O’Callaghan (Dromtarriffe) remain.
Paul Walsh (Kanturk) is an important midfielder while the complete half-forward line of Fintan O’Connor (Knocknagree), Donncha O’Connor (Ballydesmond) and Eoghan McSweeney (Knocknagree) was also retained along with Seamus Hickey (Rockchapel) in the inside line.
And an amazing game required extra-time as Duhallow progressed to the quarter-final proper by outscoring the students by 4-20 to 6-12, a scoreline reflecting a hurling game.
Former Cork star O’Connor epitomises the Duhallow attitude to their sport, showing age is simply a number.
Now approaching the end of his 30- something years, the ace marksman led the forward line before hobbling off injured close to 40 minutes.
And still that little minor irritant didn’t prevent him from returning early in extra-time to help his side before Newmarket’s Darren O’Keeffe took his place just before the final whistle.
His appearance brought the number of survivors from the 2019 final to a dozen and O’Connor is their leader in every sense.
What’s more appealing about Duhallow’s approach this term is that the panel is made up of players from Ballydesmond, Rockchapel and Dromtarriffe who are locked together in a fiercely competitive Group 2 in the county intermediate championship.
One week they’re at each others’ throats, the next week they’re going to war together. That’s dedication for you.
And this weekend Hickey from Rockchapel, another long-serving player, who scored 1-3 against College, faces up to Ballydesmond, for whom Darragh Moynihan came on against the students.
Dashing wing-back O’Callaghan from Dromtarriffe, who accounted for 1-2, has already played against Rockhapel and Ballydesmond and yet to be on the losing side.
He’s hoping this trend continues in their winner-take-all tie against Kinsale at the weekend with the Duhallow club enjoying a slender one-point lead in the table, headed up by the Rock on scoring difference.
Millstreet are another club supplying players to the division, including former Cork hurler Mark Ellis, who scored 1-1 from midfield.
Wing-back Hickey, an All-Ireland U20 winner, also made his mark by contributing an important point while fellow inter-county colleague, Neil Flahive, came off the bench to replace O’Connor and score a point.
Millstreet also operate at intermediate level and top group 3 with Flahive their main marksman on 1-10.
There’s no let-up for the other Duhallow clubs, notably Knocknagree, who were represented by half-a-dozen players, ranging from keeper Doyle to full-forward John Fintan Daly.
They’re preparing for a crunch premier intermediate tie against Cill na Martra, another strong football club, who lead Group 2 and will provide Knocknagree with a stern test.
Yet one more Duhallow club, Newmarket, are also firmly in the mix for a place in the quarter-finals as they lead their section with the experienced Daly at the helm. They take on Castletownbere.
Boherbue, the defending divisional champions, were represented by centre-back Cremin and corner-forward Jerry O’Connor, who scored 1-2 against the College.