Charleville are ready to head up the road to Croker

Charleville are ready to head up the road to Croker
Jack Doyle. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

ALL this week there will be only one topic of conversation in and around the town of Charleville.

It’s a near-certainty the word ‘Brexit’ won’t figure too prominently in those conversations or how the Irish rugby team will react in Murrayfield.

No, everything will centre around the local hurling team and their trip to Croke Park to contest the All-Ireland Club IHC final.

Oranmore-Maree from Galway stand in the way in their bid to emulate what their very close neighbours Newtownshandrum did at senior level a good number of years ago.

Nine times out of 10, this is a once-off opportunity for a club, getting into Croke Park to play on the greatest stage of all.

Of course, for the Charleville club it’s a second coming because eight years ago they embarked on a similar journey, ending up at headquarters on final-day only to lose to Ballyragget from Kilkenny in the junior final.

A few of that team still remain, including outstanding captain Danny O’Flynn and there’s no doubt that he will be imparting some of his knowledge from that day on the rest of the team come Sunday.

Charleville have the bonus too of having one of that successful Newtownshandrum team in their ranks now, team coach Ben O’Connor and he will be a massive asset in trying to outline the requirements of a day like this.

It will be all about playing the game and not the occasion and not being overawed by the surrounds of this great theatre.

Kevin O'Connor of Charleville in action against Conor Murphy of Graigue-Ballycallan. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Kevin O'Connor of Charleville in action against Conor Murphy of Graigue-Ballycallan. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Charleville have faced many testing assignments on this journey and have come out on the right side of all of them.

Their mettle has been tested, their character to a huge extent in the Munster final against a very good Feakle team from Clare when they trailed by a substantial margin at half-time and looked to be all at sea.

They subsequently turned it around on an emotional day on the Ennis Road and only god knows what that victory has done for this bunch of players.

One would love to be a fly on the wall in a dressing room at half-time when a team is staring into the abyss and when all hope seems to be lost.

One, however, has no doubt that Ben O’Connor’s words that day in Limerick had a huge effect on what transpired thereafter.

Darragh Fitzgibbon, still so tender in years, is the marquee name on this Charleville team and so much depends on him.

But one of the main strengths of the team is that various other players stand up to be counted on different days.

You had corner-back Darren Butler hurling out of his skin in the Munster final, you had Jack Doyle doing likewise against Graigue-Ballycallan in Thurles in the All-Ireland semi-final.

There have been others too, Jack O’Callaghan, Jack Meade, Conor Buckley and so on, taking up the torch when others might not be igniting.

This is a huge team effort by Charleville and we must mention, too, the role of selectors John Moloney and Tony McAuliffe, men who have been right on the button when the need arose. Two good men on the line.

When a county side gets into Croke Park they will know almost everything about their opponents, having watched them play every game on their journey.

Not so with a club team, their knowledge of their opponents will not be as great and they will be trying to rely on bits and pieces from the video recorder.

If Charleville have Fitzgibbon, Oranmore-Maree have Galway stars Gearóid McInerney and Niall Burke.

At this level an inter-county player is a major asset, having two of them is even greater.

A lot of the Charleville players who will line-out on Sunday were just boys alongside their fathers the last time.

On Sunday, they will get to play on this great day.

This is going to be a very special day for Charleville, for their opponents too and the likelihood is that there will be people attending headquarters for the very first time.

Their chosen sport may be in a different code and that is fine too but on a day like this, a town or a village unites to support the team.

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