DOUGLAS manager Ray Keating echoed the sentiments of all ahead of the start of the county football championship weekend.
They square up to rivals Bishopstown for the third successive season at Páirc Uí Rinn on Saturday at 7pm.
“It’s hard to believe it’s here because there were times, when you could imagine it wasn’t going to happen,” he said.
“It’s just brilliant to have the opportunity and hopefully we’ll be allowed continue with the weather staying good.
“It’s a unique scenario, one which I hope the players will enjoy,” Keating commented.
There was precious little in previous encounters, Douglas winning by a point last season and the Town by two in 2018.
“It’s a bit like a boxing trilogy. We’ve won one and they’ve won one.
“We both know each other quite well and we’re looking forward to the game.
“I thought last year’s game was a better game than the year before, but both teams know what to expect.
“And you can be guaranteed that you’re going to get an intense battle from the moment the ball is thrown in.”
Teams are settling into the new world following lockdown though it will take more time to fully adjust, especially on match-days.
“It’s been a fairly hectic and strange couple of weeks since coming back.
“It’s getting used to not having dressing rooms and fellows coming down togged and shooting away straight away afterwards.
“We’ve managed to play a nice chunk of games since being allowed back into contact and that’s been the biggest focus.
“In training then we’re just working on small things and overall I think it’s gone well.
“Players were chomping at the bit to get back playing so it’s been a dream like that and from a club perspective it’s great knowing exactly when you’re playing.
“The whole thing is open in front of us and there are no ‘what ifs’ regarding Cork dates, so that’s been great.”
Clubs with county players are reaping the benefits of having them at training and in challenge games with Douglas supplying Sean Powter, Brian Hartnett, Kevin Flahive and Nathan Walsh to the Cork cause.
“They’re all good. It’s a treat to have them with us so much because you’d normally get them at the end of the inter-county season, when their bodies are beaten up.
“They are probably fresher in terms of the club season than we’ve ever had them before. Having full access is brilliant. Nathan and Kevin are back from long-term injuries.”
Walsh suffered a serious hamstring injury in the McGrath Cup game against Kerry while Flahive was out even longer following shoulder surgery at the end of last season.
“The two lads are just glad and relieved to be playing football again and they’re eager to do as much as they can in getting game minutes and training.”
Hartnett moved directly from U20 last season to the national league this year and Keating has to pinch himself at times at his displays.
“Brian belies his age to be honest because you forget he’s still an U21 player.
“Brian is very calm on the pitch and consistently making right decisions. He’s a big influence for us at midfield.
“At times you have to sit back and remind yourself he’s still only 21. There’s a tendency to expect the world from him.
“I think playing with Cork in the league has brought him on and we all know there was a notable difference from his run with the U20s last year, particularly after the final, when Brian was so good. I believe he has taken his game to another level at the moment.”
Douglas reached the semi-finals last season after wins over UCC and Ballincollig en route.