ON the verge of winning the MSL First Division for the first time in six years, but Covid put a stop to that.
While understanding the decision, Blarney manager Brian Murray was still frustrated.
“I completely understood the difficult position the MSL were in and I appreciate that but we just asked that they wouldn’t make a rash decision and instead to hold on but that didn’t happen, and it was absolutely galling for our entire club,” said Murray.
“As a club, we wrote to the MSL informing them that we did not want to return back until it was safe to do so, but at the same time, we expected the league would restart and take off from when it was interrupted. You have to reward success and we just felt that didn’t happen.
“Just before the Covid disruptions, we had six games to go in the league. We were on top by four points with a game in hand to our nearest competitors Mayfield. All of a sudden Covid came upon us and for us that was two years of work gone down the drain.
“At that stage we were almost guaranteed promotion unless we collapsed and to be fair up until then, we showed no signs of that happening."
They had played 12, winning 10 in a row.
“There is no guarantee next year will be a repeat of this season. The First Division is so competitive. There is no game that you could turn up expecting a definite win.
"Every game had to be won on merit and you had to prepare well. We did that all last season. We had a minimum of 19 training, normally 22 or 23 but the main factor for us was that the players bought into what we wanted to do. They committed to it.
"You could be a great manager but if the players don’t buy into what you’re trying to do then you’re wasting your time. The players efforts went unrewarded and that is what’s most disappointing.
“From the club’s perspective, playing premier was an aim for the club. Playing at the highest levels has the benefit of attracting players and this is where I feel we have also lost out as a club.
"I feel we would have attracted a few players who would have liked to see what the club have done, especially over the past two years. I feel they would have liked what they see and buy into our ways.
“Could the MSL not have just held on as it would have taken just about three weeks to finish the season and I think that easily could have been done.
"You can let it tear you up and become bitter over it, but I spoke with my players last week and we agreed been bitter serves no purpose for us, so we just got to move on, even though it was very hard for us and genuinely it really hurt. There’s so much goes into it, training twice a week and a game at the weekend, our whole lives are caught up in it.
“To be fair to the FAI they gave an avenue and a window for the season to be finished but unfortunately the MSL jumped a little too early. For our sanity I’ve moved on from their decision, but still disappointed they didn’t feel it was necessary to reward success."
He does do not hold any grudge against the MSL.
"They made a decision, I don’t agree with it but that doesn’t matter now, I’ve moved on from it.”
Blarney had some memorable seasons in the top tier but unfortunately since 2013 when relegated to the first division by a point, they have struggled to be promoted.
Murray knows it is a difficult task, hence the disappointment of not been given the chance this year, however he believes the lads will be ready to hopefully have a repeat of last season.
“Our aim is the same as last year with promotion being the goal. At the beginning of last year we felt Mayfield were the strongest team in the league so between ourselves, Ballinhassig, Leeside and Castleview, we felt we would compete in that group hopefully for the second slot.
“However after Christmas Mayfield had a dip in form, and we changed focus to drive on and win the league. We won 10 in a row and were well on course for promotion.
"Hopefully we can carry on this form but I know it will be difficult as some teams are already back training a few weeks whereas we haven’t returned just yet apart from our session last Tuesday, which was basically to wrap up last season.
“It is unbelievable to be back training. I’ve been golfing for a while now but nothing beats been back on the training ground with the lads. Nothing compares to it. So it just confirmed to me that football is my number one, which I always believed it was really," laughs Murray.
They had 26 training, while adhering to the social distancing.
"Our session was just to wrap up last season really however the following morning we hear that the season will return in seven weeks time, so all of a sudden I’m setting up my six week pre-season planner, which is great. We’re really looking forward to it now.
“We’ve lost two players from last season. Dave Welch feels he’s too old for senior football and has decided to go play junior. Dave will be really missed as he is a brilliant character and a great goalscorer for the past four years for us.
"We also lose Alex Moynihan, one of our goalkeepers. Between work and study, he cannot commit and he too, will be a huge loss.
“We did gain one player. Kieran Murray is home from Australia, so we now re group and prepare for the season ahead.”