MIDLETON’S 22-year stint as a senior club looked to be under threat all season as they languished in last spot in energia All-Ireland League Division 2C.
The popular east Cork club, whose 30-7 win over Sligo in Portlaoise in 1998 signalled their elevation from junior, were in danger of returning there unless results picked up.
Midleton had 23 points with five games remaining, but were only two behind Bangor and City of Derry, three adrift of Bruff and four behind Sundays Well.
Then, last week’s IRFU decision to declare the season null and void because of the coronavirus pandemic ended all doubts.
Coach Tom Mulcahy, a club stalwart, admitted to being a bit stunned by the news initially.
“Dave Ryan, our director of rugby, passed on the IRFU statement that night. I was a little bit shocked at the time, but on reflection now, I think it was the right decision.
“I know people will say we were the club who benefitted most, but I honestly believed we were going to dig ourselves out anyway.
“The four teams up above us were playing each other the following weekend and we were only two points behind with a game in hand.
“The momentum was with us because we were after two huge wins against the Well at home and Omagh away,” he said.
Mulcahy praised the Union’s swift action. “I think it was right decision because it hit home straight away the seriousness of the situation.
“We closed our gym, turned off all our fobs and closed the gates so that nobody could train there.
“If it had dragged with people humming and hawing it wouldn’t have been as decisive and we may not have reacted with the same intensity.
“I had planned to do a few one-on-ones with the under-age lads, but the club said a blunt ‘no’ and that was that. In my opinion it was time for decisive action and I applaud the IRFU for their decision.”
Midleton are quickly drawing a line through the season and are happy to see the back of it.
“It’s been a horrendous season, on and off the pitch.The first half of the year on the pitch was dreadful, creating innumerable try-scoring chances, but just not taking them.
“You could always see the potential was there even though we had a lot of changes in personnel, especially after Christmas.
“And it’s been an absolutely horrendous time off the pitch as well. It’s been a season from hell, really.”
Football was placed to one side after the untimely passing of one of their most popular players, Cormac Ryan, whose shock death put everything into context.
But, the show had to go on and it was fitting that Midleton won both their games since resuming.
In the last four seasons, Bective Rangers dropped to junior with 28 points, Thomond and Kanturk with 27 and Dundalk with 18.
“You were definitely looking at a record number of points for the team finishing last.”
Mulcahy is a big fan of summer rugby though insurance would be a problem.
Completing the league then carried some appeal for him.
“But to resume the season you’d need two weeks’ training and you could have the year finishing in July.”
He expressed disappointment at his former club Cork Con and Highfield not getting their day in the sun.
“It must be tough to go through a whole season unbeaten and not get the reward at the end of it, as in Con not being crowned champions.
“In fairness to Highfield, they’ve played some fabulous rugby and not to get promotion is tough, too.”