GLEN Rovers manager Richie Kelleher was just four-years-old when his club last faced Blackrock in a Cork County hurling final.
That was back in 1978, and the landscape is much changed — but a Rockies/Glen final will always capture the imagination in a very special way.
“Obviously, I have no recollection of that last final meeting between the sides. Look, they are like ourselves, a big club, a great tradition, with plenty of Cork players.
“I was looking at it there at home. I think we played them in 10 county finals. We won five and they won five. We are favourites going into the game but it will be 50/50 and whoever performs best on the day will win the match.”
This will be the Glen’s fifth final appearance since Kelleher took the reins
“We were lucky insofar as we had the base. We won a couple of minor county titles in 2004 and 2005, we were in a couple of U21s after that, so the players were there but we were not getting the max out of them.
“When we came in we kind of just steadied the ship, gave a bit of confidence to them and the main thing was getting them to go out and perform, do everything that you can to better yourself.
“We have players who can play, they are mad for road and it’s our job to have them right, maximise what they can do on the hurling field and thank God we are doing that and, hopefully, we can do that again on Sunday.”
Having experienced the joy of winning and the despair of losing, he knows the stark contrast between the two.
“In 2014, we were well beaten and could not complain but we came back in 2015 and were very good and it was the same in 2016.
“We were consistent and whilst never at our full power we got to a county final again last year. We played well but Imokilly were better than us on the day.
“The finals that we lost in 2010, 2014 and last year, the teams were better than us, the finals we won we were the better team on those days.”
Last weekend, the challenge from Erin’s Own in the semi-final was fierce and it went right down to the wire.
“We had a concern before the game, we hadn’t played for a month and it took us a while to get up to the pace of the game. It was our first knockout match since we played Borrisoleigh, that was nearly 10 months down the road.
“We played group games but they were not knockout.
“We knew that we might be a bit cold because it had happened to us before against Bishopstown in a quarter-final and we trailed by seven points and again we got out of that hole.”
The use of the bench proved very effective when the time came to change a few things.
“You have to have that, extra options ready. You need that 19 or 20 who can come in without too much disruption.
“You have to leave fellows out too at the start and that’s not easy because you have just 15 names to put down.
“You saw it down the years with Kerry, Dublin, Kilkenny, you have to have a bench. Blackrock are the same, you saw there against UCC with Tadgh Deasy and John Cashman when they came in, the difference they made.
“They have that depth through winning under-21s and an intermediate title.
“People might say they haven’t stardust players, but they have — they were in a final three years ago and they are a team on the rise.
“I would love to see Blackrock win a county, but not this Sunday. On Sunday we’ll flake each other for an hour but off the pitch there’s fierce respect there. If we don’t win a county I’d love to see a city team win a county, the Barrs, Rockies, Piarsaigh, whoever.”
Sunday’s showdown will be so different to others, played in a near-empty stadium.
“It will be different, definitely. The finals that we won, that we lost, people were crying with joy or sadness.
“You won’t have that emotion on Sunday. You meet people out on the field at the final whistle, that won’t be happening. But whether it’s a million down there or just one person, winning a county means everything to us, that’s all we want to do.
“We are so mad about trying to win we don’t mind what’s there or who is there, we just want to go out and win and, hopefully, we can do that but Blackrock will be the same.”