D-day dawns as wily Knocknagree focus on making it lucky 13 in Croke Park

D-day dawns as wily Knocknagree focus on making it lucky 13 in Croke Park
Matthew Dilworth of Knocknagree. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

SATURDAY: All-Ireland Club Junior Football Championship final: Knocknagree v Multyfarnham, Croke Park, 2pm. 

THE biggest day in the history of the Knocknagree club is almost here. Just one more sleep before the dream of running out on Croker becomes a reality.

The parish, which straddles the Cork-Kerry border and is football-mad, has been giddy with excitement since the Cork and Munster champions breezed into the final.

It really is a case of last one leaving turn out the lights because every man, woman and child from the area, never mind those travelling from elsewhere, will make their way to headquarters.

It's the stuff of dreams, a small rural club, surrounded by their Kerry equivalent, suddenly cast onto the national stage. Surely, they must be pinching themselves to believe it's happening.

And yet, but for a Cork County Board change in allowing beaten divisional finalists entry to the county championships, Knocknagree's season could have ended in another frustrating case of what might have been.

That elusive county title had eluded them in the previous four years as Duhallow champions, their conquerors inevitably going all the way to lift the cup to compound their misery.

Knocknagree were attempting five-in-a-row until Boherbue stopped them in their tracks, squeezing through by a point in a replay, but the bigger picture remained in view.

Their pride stung, Knocknagree picked themselves and went again, steaming past Delanys and Buttevant to a county semi-final, where Iveleary offered stern opposition only to fall short by a point in a high-scoring thriller.

Erin's Own provided unlikely, but difficult opponents in a strange final in which Knocknagree looked to be heading for a rout until pegged back only to come again for a nine-point triumph.

Now representing Cork in Munster, the popular thinking was Knocknagree would make the final against Kerry's Dromid Pearses, a club with far greater experience at this level.

It duly panned out that way because Knocknagree swept past the Tipperary and Waterford champions with considerable ease as did Dromid on the other side of the draw.

Cork-Kerry rivalry was seen at its most intense on that fateful December afternoon in Mallow, when Knocknagree went toe-to-toe with their rivals in a match which required extra-time before the Duhallow side prevailed by three points.

Now, they could start to think of appearing at Croker, though astute manager John Fintan Daly banished all talk until such time as the All-Ireland semi-final against Donegal's Naomh Colmcille was disposed with and a favourable outcome.

Early goals from James Dennehy, whose effort deflected off a defender into the roof of the net, and the manager's son of the same name helped Knocknagree take a firm grip, leading by 2-4 to 0-3 at the break.

They never lost control thereafter and ran out impressive 2-9 to 0-7 winners. Now they could talk of the final and all that's associated with being involved on the great day.

It's championship game number 13 and, of course, all associated with Knocknagree are keeping their fingers crossed that it brings them the required luck.

Standing in their way will an equally determined lot. Multyfarnham is a Westmeath club situated on the shores of Lough Derraveragh on the outskirts of Mullingar and their maroon and white colours will be conspicuous, too.

As you'd imagine, reaching an All-Ireland final has everyone agog, especially as Multyfarnham had to wait 61 years before claiming the county title in 2017.

Their long spell in the wilderness finally came to an end and their hard work at developing a strong and vibrant under-age section was beginning to pay dividends.

Eleven of the likely starting 15 are aged 24 or younger and it's this exuberance which Knocknagree must curb.

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