WHATEVER the result at Páirc Uí Chaoimh next Sunday, Fermoy GAA is in a healthy place.
After being beaten in county hurling and football finals in 2016, their premier intermediate footballers are of course desperate to get over the line this time.
So too their opponents St Michael’s, who tasted bitter defeat by the minimum in three county finals this decade.
Hunger won’t be an issue.
Getting back to the senior grade would be a terrific achievement for either club and, in the case of Fermoy, a reflection of the massive underage work that has gone in across a 15-year period.
At adult level they were intermediate hurling champions in 2014 — having come up from junior following success in 2009 — and were football winners in ’15.
The club is as strong as it has ever been since the halcyon days of the 1940s, when they lifted the last of their seven senior football counties and also reached four other finals.
There’s a great buzz around the town and the hope is a big crowd will head to the Páirc in a bid to get over the line on the big stage.
“To come back to the final a second time is amazing really and a great reflection of the attitude and mentality of these players,” explained club secretary Bosco Creed.
“Last year, there was definitely a hangover from losing the two finals in 2016, but we know we can’t use that as motivation because Michael’s were only beaten by a point against Mallow themselves, so both clubs are in the same boat.”
After defeat to Charleville in the PIHC quarter-final, it’s been all systems go on the football front.
“There’s a fierce crossover in both panels, which of course has its own challenges, but people have to get on, as they’ve no choice but to! It works well for the most part and, if it didn’t, we wouldn’t be getting to county finals. Simple as that.”
Like any other club on Leeside, a huge effort has gone into developing the young talent by going into schools and selling the GAA academy.
Noel O’Brien operates in the primary schools with a 10-week football programme at this time of year and a hurling initiative in the spring.
“We tie it in with the Sciath na Scol seasons and we have seven primary schools, so it’s very spread out.
“We push GAA in school, but then we have to pull them into the club.
“A lot of resources and time are being invested underage and that’s the way it has to be.
“We have really ramped up the nursery section with people who have been around the block and might not have kids at that young age but have the enthusiasm and experience you need.
“It’s a long-term development.
“About 25% of our population in Fermoy would be new to Ireland, so that’s the next area for us. We are a very inclusive club and that’s hugely important to us.”
No doubt it helps Fermoy that St Colman’s, a second-level hurling powerhouse, is on their doorstep, while Coláiste an Chroaibhín is growing steadily.
“Second level GAA is vital, of course, but the most important thing for us in the club is that all our teams are competing at the right grade for them. That could be U16 Premier 2 or A or Premier 1 if they were good enough.
“Once you have teams in the mix in the league or championship, then the players will be back for more the following year.”
This season they fielded a third adult team in hurling and football, which was unheard of before.
“I remember struggling for players for first-team games at one stage not so long ago.
“When you have a junior B or C team, you’re catering for older players, but also the lads who might be away with college or on the fringes at minor and U21, but deserve an outlet.
“We have a lot of quality players from 18 to 21 and they’re not all going to make that step up to adult.
“The more teams you have the better your chances of just keeping them involved.”
That’s the bigger picture, but the priority, for now, is county final glory.
“It would be just amazing to get back to senior level.
“Tomás Clancy is our best-known footballer because of Cork but we have a very good team and you’re just hoping they can perform on Sunday and then the result will look after itself.”