IAN Maguire has been one of the most impressive footballers for club and county for quite some time.
The 25-year-old is captain of Cork and St Finbarr's and last season guided the Blues to a memorable triumph at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Yet in Rebel red, there haven't been any comparable trips up the steps to lift silverware.
Maguire has been a consistent driving force at midfield but even he harboured doubts as Cork suffered Munster final humiliation and relegation from Division 1 contenders down to Division 3.
"These last couple of years there have been some tough days, Tyrone, Mayo, you don't question the commitment but you just question if you're good enough. I did for sure.
"So many of the lads just haven't given up. Kevin O'Driscoll is one example, I saw an article early in the year wondering if Mark Collins was finished and he's probably our leading scorer. You can't give up. This group of players mightn't have been the most popular in the last couple of years but we're getting there."
There is still some distance left to run before we can view Cork as a football force again, especially as they only had to beat Limerick and Laois to make the Super 8s. Yet they moved with a swagger and purpose at Semple Stadium, building on the fine performance in the Munster final.
"It went flat at the end but the manner of our play at times was brilliant. Mark Collins and Brian Hurley combining... when you're out the field kicking the ball in that's a joy. Hurley is a great option inside.
"We started out a bit nervous so we had to get on top of their kick-out and when Ronan O'Toole came in I think we relaxed a bit more and played some brilliant football. Our job is to work hard and let Collins and Hurley do the damage.
"Even when we were 13 or 14 points up, Kevin O'Driscoll, Mattie Taylor and Liam O'Donovan won four or five turnovers. People have questioned our fight and our work-rate but that's just not true. We kept running hard and tackling hard and set the tone that we're here to play serious football and we'll have a right crack off the Super 8s."
Maguire is confident Cork can do themselves justice in a tough group that involves taking on Dublin, this Saturday, and Tyrone, in Croker, and Roscommon at home.
"We've shown the last few weeks that we're not second-guessing ourselves. In the Munster final, we were 1-5 down and people probably thought, 'same old Cork, they'll fold like a chair' but we didn't. We tweaked our playing style and we've been training hard, Adam Doyle with the S&C, we've had him for the last two years and now we're getting a return from that.
"Mattie, Liam and Sean White, to name but a few showed how fit we are. Cork football is finally going in the right direction and that's brilliant.
"It'll be a great experience. I don't care what anyone says you want to play in the big games at Croke Park. The attitude in our group is going to be 'why not?' We'll go up there and having a good crack off it."
"Eoghan McSweeney is one fella (unlucky) because he'd been going great and he's out with a hip injury. Look at Paul Kerrigan, disappointed he didn't start but came off the bench and I thought he was brilliant. Kevin O'Driscoll started and he was excellent.
"Tomás Clancy from Fermoy did a fine job on Seán O'Shea in the Munster final and came on this time and was brilliant. Ronan O'Toole... We now have 26 players gunning for places."