UNDERSTANDABLY, Aghada GAA club is under a shroud of sadness during this championship season following the passing of one of their famous sons in mid-summer.
The memory of Kieran O'Connor will live forever in the minds of all who knew him. On the pitch, the senior players are preparing for their Bon Secours County PIFC quarter-final against Kanturk this weekend.
Aghada reached the knockout stages having won two of their three group games. The exception being a narrow defeat to Newmarket, which did not prove too costly as solid wins were posted against both Castletownbere and Na Piarsaigh.
Guiding the fortunes of the Rostellan based club this season is Down native Colin Rooney, who is fully aware of the place that the late O'Connor has in the hearts of his former playing colleagues.
"We have Kieran's retired number four jersey on a chair next to us on the bench for every game. I think last time out in the win over Na Piarsaigh, our defenders definitely showed Kieran's spirit with their tenacious defending. The lads really battled well for the club, the community and in memory of Kieran."
Rooney is also wholesome in his praise of another Aghada club icon, Cork All-Ireland medal winner, Pearse O'Neill. Despite being now in the over-40 category, O'Neill has continued to have a huge influence on events around the middle of the park. Last time out he also rowed in with three points and his effort which hit the upright resulted in Kevin O'Hanlon sending the rebound to the net.
"Pearse embodies the fight and heart that is in this team, he was going as strong as ever at the end of our last match. He and his midfield partner Michael Russell have been excellent for us. Mike is back playing football this year and is also a great leader. We lost experienced players like Tom O'Neill, but to have Mike's in around midfield again is a great boost."
Assessing his team's campaign ahead of the Kanturk game, Rooney, who has resided in Cork for the past 17 years, feels a lot has been learned in what he describes as a "super competition".
"It's very hard to call who will come out as when you look at the sides left. Personally, I think anyone can beat anyone on any given day. Attitude and composure will be key factors in the remaining games. The format has been excellent. Being honest we were not sure of how the round-robin would work out, but the excitement around the last series of group games was brilliant.
"All four teams were in contention in our group. As a Down man, I have to say that the competition has been a great advertisement for the game in Cork. Some top-class games, which show what Cork football is all about."