'Playing senior football with the division helps develop players for the top...'

'Playing senior football with the division helps develop players for the top...'
Duhallow's Eoghan McSweeney battling Carrigaline at Glantane last season. The division don't yet know what format the 2020 SFC will take. Picture: John Tarrant

EOGHAN McSweeney is ultra-positive as the return to GAA action draws closer.

McSweeney, a dynamic wing-forward with Knocknagree and Duhallow, made his championship debut for Cork against Limerick in 2019 but found himself on the sidelines for last year’s Munster final after sustaining an injury shortly before the team for the provincial showpiece was announced.

While the current shutdown has been hard on players at all levels all would agree that a clear pathway out is important and now that the GAA have outlined a return to play plan players of the calibre of McSweeney are looking forward to getting back on the fields.

“There needed to be a clear plan for us all. Even with the club championship that is important for everyone.

“Of course you would be hoping that things will improve and we can all get back out there and it is important for us that we stay training (individually) and doing our bit to be ready.” 

Eoghan McSweeney of Cork in action against Leo McLoone of Donegal in 2019. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Eoghan McSweeney of Cork in action against Leo McLoone of Donegal in 2019. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

McSweeney is clear that playing for his club, his division and his county is hugely important to him and while he doesn’t want to play behind closed doors he will do it for the teams he represents.

“I wouldn’t be a fan of playing the games without supporters. Even from watching the soccer on the TV without fans, you can see it’s not the same.

“The games are nothing without the supporters. Especially in GAA where the sports are so much about the community. To have that community outside the door (while the teams play) would be really difficult. If it happens it happens but it wouldn’t be something that I would be hoping for.”

McSweeney may be well on his way to becoming an integral member of Ronan McCarthy’s current Cork senior squad he will first and foremost, particularly in his home community, be one of the famous All-Ireland winning Knocknagree side of 2018.

Speaking of the club that helped make him the player he is, McSweeney will always have fond memories of playing with his club and especially of that magical time when the Duhallow boys saw off all comers to be crowned All-Ireland Junior football Club Champions just two years ago.

“Oh God, we definitely won’t forget it anyway. It was an unreal time to be fair. It just took off. The season took on a life of its own and it became this thing that just couldn’t be stopped. 

"Especially after we didn’t even win our own divisional championship. We kind of got a free shot from that day on and thankfully we took that shot. We got better and better that year and the belief inside and outside the squad helped drive us on.”

Knocknagree may have been on their own journey in 2018 but having a neighbouring club running alongside them helped keep all on the straight and narrow.

“We were running alongside Kanturk’s hurlers who also went all the way in their bid for an All-Ireland and we seemed to feed off each other. Both teams, just a few miles apart, supported and drove each other on and thankfully for both we got to the Holy Grail.” Speaking of support, McSweeney speared the highest praise for their commander and chief that year.

“Look, there is no doubt about it but without John Fintan Daly we wouldn’t have got there. It is as simple as that. He was just loving it and he got us over the line.

“The fans were also a huge part of that success. There were times when there was no one in Knocknagree. They were all following the team whether it was around the county or up in Dublin.

Knocknagree celebrate after defeating Gabriel Rangers last season. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Knocknagree celebrate after defeating Gabriel Rangers last season. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

“These are all the things we are missing this year. Of course, you miss the games and the raining but especially you miss just being around with the lads.

“I am away with the county for long periods but I can always just come down to training and be with the lads. The club is great. If I am not able to do the training because of inter-county stuff they understand. I do what I can with them. It is the same with Duhallow. I love playing for the division side as well.

“Playing with Duhallow gives players like me exposure to high-quality senior football standard and that has really helped my game over the last few years.” 

Being part of the Cork senior setup has been a real step up for McSweeney and despite the extra workload, the Knocknagree man is really enjoying it.

“You just don’t understand how much work there is in it when you’re looking in from the outside but it is all worth it. Last year was just crazy for me. It was a real eye-opener for me.

“The facilities at CIT and Pairc Uí Chaoimh are brilliant and just being part of the setup and all aspects of it at the moment is great.”

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