THE strength of any team is in its balance of youth and experience.
Glen Rovers have that in their quest to win another county title, next Sunday, against Imokilly, the reigning champions.
One ‘elder statesman’s’ form has been a major contributory factor in the club’s march to its 44th final.
Donal Cronin will be seeking his third county medal on Sunday and he’s enjoying his hurling as much as ever.
It’s the club’s fourth final appearance since 2014, when they lost to Sars, before going on to take the next two titles.
It’s quite a level of consistency.
“It is really and to be back in a final again. The last two years, we haven’t performed, but, at the same time, we have been beaten by just a point, by Na Piarsaigh, and by Midleton last year.
“It’s not that we have been a million miles away or the form has dipped, but we probably needed a new bit of impetus into the team, from the team that had got into the three finals, the likes of Rob Downey, Simon Kennefick, and Liam Coughlan, and they have brought that bit of freshness and probably that bit more competition for places.
“That has driven us on this year and we are back in another final, which is great. It’s a great credit to the club, too, that they keep on producing those younger lads and, over the years, having something new coming into the team.
“Unless you have that, things will become fairly static, so those lads, and the impetus that they have brought, have helped us enormously.”
The Glen’s march to another final has not been without its complications: a difficult opener, against last season’s beaten finalists, Midleton; two one-point wins, over Charleville and Newtownshandrum; before easily overcoming Carrigtwohill.
“Over the last two years, we lost games by a point, so to come through those games against Charleville and Newtown, particularly in Mallow, against Charleville, has given us the belief that we can win those type of games now.”
Against Carrigtwohill, it was all hands on deck from the outset and the game was done and dusted long before the end.
“It was impressive and I suppose that you go back to the Newtown game: conditions were poor, but we still had all our six forwards scoring, all from play, so that was a good spread, so we built on that the last day.
“The start, that day against Carrigtwohill, was important. We hadn’t been having great starts; that was important for us and it’s all about the confidence now, going into Sunday.
“It was probably needed. There might have been some question marks about where we were, after winning our previous two games by a point.”
A lesser club might not have have won those two titles in 2015 and 2016, after the drubbing it got from Sars in 2014, but Croinin believes that loss galvanised the players.
“It’s funny. It was probably the making of us and some people, probably, the day it happened and for a couple of days afterwards, might have thought that we’d never get back there, but we rallied, as a group. We took confidence from the fact that we had been there in 2010; okay, we lost, but we got back there in 2014 and there was probably a huge learning to be got from it.
“We showed that we had unbelievable character and that character helped us enormously the following two years and it’s probably still evident in the games that we got over this year.
“I think that fellas made a conscious decision, that day in 2014, that it would not happen us again and that we’d win the next one, if we were in it, and we did.”
Next Sunday, they go in as underdogs, against an Imokilly team that some might perceive to be unbeatable.
“Look, they are going in with the favourites tag and it’s well-deserved. They have been great champions over the last two years, winning their games comprehensively this year.
“But there’s no point in going down there and not believing we are going to rock the boat and cause, maybe, a bit of an upset. We back ourselves, we trust the fellas that we have, and the decisions they make. We won’t be found wanting; we’ll have a cut and see where that takes us.”