Croke Park should suit Charleville's high-tempo hurling but Fitzgibbon's fitness will be crucial

Croke Park should suit Charleville's high-tempo hurling but Fitzgibbon's fitness will be crucial
Tim Hawe in action. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

BEHIND every good team is an equally strong management team and Charleville are in the very fortunate position of having one of the best around.

Outstanding team coach Ben O’Connor, John Moloney and Tony Mcauliffe have run the rule over matters throughout this wonderful campaign that they hope will culminate in All-Ireland club glory at Croke Park on Sunday.

John Moloney has been heavily involved in all aspects of hurling in the club for a long time now and he is eagerly looking forward to Sunday’s date with destiny against Oranmore-Maree, the champions of Galway and a very highly-rated team.

“It’s a big game for us but there appears to be a nice low-key preparation around the place and everything seems to be good at the moment.

“Everybody is okay, Darragh Fitzgibbon, hopefully, he will be ok but we won’t be fully certain until the weekend. He hasn’t done anything with us since the last game but we are hopeful that he will be ok.’’ 

Any club side playing in Croke Park for the first time can find it to be an intimidating place but, according to Moloney, there is just great anticipation in the club at the prospect of playing there on such a big occasion.

“Everybody is nice and calm, nobody is overly nervous and that’s a good sign. We have four or five lads who played there in 2011 so they will be a positive for us." 

It will be a strong blend of youth and experience that will run onto the famous green sward on Sunday and there will be a strong input from a lot of players who are still in and around U21.

“Yes, the way things have gone over the last couple of years, both at club and inter-county level, it seems that players are coming in younger, playing much more hurling but they are retiring younger too.

“That’s the way it seems to be going. There are great demands on players these days and that’s at all levels.

“We have a lot of lads playing underage, they are involved with colleges and they are getting into adult teams much younger.

“There are great demands being put on players now for matches, things have really intensified at club level and you have to manage that.’’

Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Next Sunday’s return to headquarters will be a massive occasion (they were there before in 2011 when the club’s junior side lost the All-Ireland junior final by just a point to Kilkenny team Ballyragget), and it is a far cry from some of the darker days from the past.

In fact, the transformation of the club’s fortunes has been nothing short of amazing and in one decade they have gone from being an ordinary junior club to be one now be preparing to line up alongside with the elite of Cork’s senior clubs over the coming months.

Moloney has seen it all.

“Yes, it has been a great decade for Charleville, we have gone up to senior from junior in less than 10 years.

“It has been a great decade for us in Charleville. But we had bad days too and I remember losing to Churchtown in the North Cork junior championship back in 2010.’’ 

On Sunday almost an entire community will head to Dublin hoping to see this great club secure the biggest prize that club hurling can offer at this grade.

Days like this are similar in all clubs, it’s all about the team obviously but the support of the local community and surrounding areas is huge too.

“There has been a great buzz around the town and it continues to intensify all the time. The flags are up, they are still going up, the banners too.

“However, at the same time, we must try to keep things as low-key as possible for the players even though it’s an All-Ireland final.

“We cannot afford to get caught up and our job is to prepare the team as best that we can and do all that we can to try and win the game.

“That is our goal, we have a young team and we must try to keep them away from that kind of thing as much as possible.’’ 

Charleville goalkeeper Cian Collins hits a free. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Charleville goalkeeper Cian Collins hits a free. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Coming out of the opposite corner in Croke Park next Sunday will be Galway’s best team in this grade, a very highly-rated team that contains two Galway senior All-Ireland medal holders in centre-back Gearoid McInerney and wing-forward Niall Burke.

History has illustrated that any Galway club in a final will be a very difficult obstacle to overcome.

“The Charleville mentors have seen them play, being present for their All-Ireland semi-final win over St Gall’s from Antrim.

“Yes, we saw them against St Gall’s and they are a genuinely, big and strong physical side. In that game against St Gall’s, they conceded two late goals but other than that they managed only four points against a strong defensive unit.

“They are a good, lively team and we will have to be at our best to beat them.’’ 

The Charleville players got to have a look around Croke Park last week, something that most clubs do these days before a final.

“We went up there, had a good look around the place to familiarise the players and the pitch that day was in immaculate condition.

“It was like a carpet and it should suit our style of play and we certainly can’t have any complaints about the pitch.’’ 

Wise words indeed from a great Charleville clubman and it’s men like Moloney who keep the fire burning bright in all clubs.

There are no guarantees on Sunday but one thing is certain no stone will be left unturned in the bid to bring home the trophy to a very proud hurling club.

Charleville's Ben O'Connor, Tony McAuliffe and John Moloney after defeating Courcey Rovers. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Charleville's Ben O'Connor, Tony McAuliffe and John Moloney after defeating Courcey Rovers. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

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