After going so close on Cork duty, Lorcán and Nash deserved their glory day with Kanturk on Jones' Road

After going so close on Cork duty, Lorcán and Nash deserved their glory day with Kanturk on Jones' Road
Kanturk's Anthony Nash and John McLoughlin celebrate at the final whistle. Picture: INPHO/Gary Carr

THEY haven’t managed to climb the steps of the Hogan Stand to get their hands on Liam McCarthy, yet, but Lorcán McLoughlin and Anthony Nash have now tasted All-Ireland glory in Croker.

You’d be thrilled for all the Leesiders from Knocknagree and Kanturk who got to savour a glorious day in GAA headquarters, including Cork footballer Aidan Walsh, but it was particularly sweet for Nash and McLoughlin. It’s hard to believe this year makes it five seasons since those September classics against Clare.

It was supposed to herald a new dawn in hurling but of course Kilkenny and Tipp lifted the next three All-Irelands before Galway’s breakthrough last year. The Banner haven’t even got back to the semi-final stage since securing the 2013 crown; Cork have at least landed a couple of Munster titles.

Whatever happens over the rest of their careers wearing the Blood and Bandage, McLoughlin and Nash now have All-Ireland medals with Kanturk. They did it in style too, showing serious composure late on.

Lorcán McLoughlin. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Lorcán McLoughlin. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

McLoughlin appeared to have landed a suitably brilliant winner before their Kilkenny opponents responded. Unlike 2013 when Clare’s leveller forced a replay there was still time for more drama. And Ian Walsh’s actual winning point was even better than McLoughlin’s.

The lower tiers All-Ireland club championships have been a great initiative. While Cork hurling clubs haven’t dominated by any stretch of the imagination, they’ve been competitive. Ballinhassig were pipped in the 2006 final before Blarney in 2009 and Ballymartle in 2011 landed the trophy.

Now Kanturk are on the roll of honour and that they defeated a club from Noreside only adds to the magic. Kilkenny clubs had won four of the previous five finals before last weekend.

Paul Walsh of Kanturk in action against Kevin Kelly. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Paul Walsh of Kanturk in action against Kevin Kelly. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

At junior level, Mayfield memorably became All-Ireland champs this time last year, and Meelin, Dripsey, Fr O’Neill’s and Ballinhassig managed the feat before them, while Charleville lost the 2012 decider – to Ballyraggett incidentally. In an era when Cork’s senior clubs haven’t made an impact, the exploits of the junior and intermediate sides have certainly given Rebel hurling a lift.

It’s been far tougher on the football front. Kerry clubs had an iron grip in Munster until Knocknagree ended the Kingdom’s bid for 10 in a row. Canovee turned their provincial silverware into an All-Ireland a decade ago and the Duhallow outfit did the same last Saturday.

Matthew Dilworth of Knocknagree in action at Croke Park. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Matthew Dilworth of Knocknagree in action at Croke Park. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Though they’ve a young side, their captain Mathew Dilworth has been a stalwart of the divisional team for years and he had the privilege of leading his club to the ultimate glory. Their manager John Fintan Daly has been a football evangelist for a long time, going right back to Duhallow’s county titles in the early 1990s and with the Cork U21 team in 1994.

He even slipped over the border to Miltown/Castlemaine, who were All-Ireland intermediate kingpins in 2013. Fintan Daly didn’t let any setbacks shake his side, as they rebounded from losing to rivals Boherbue in the Duhallow final to sweep to All-Ireland glory, with a county league picked up along the way.

It might not have a direct impact on Cork inter-county football, but Knocknagree’s high-scoring victory at Croker was badly needed all the same. Apart from Canovee in 2008 and intermediate wins for Ilen in 2004 and Carbery Rangers in 2005, Cork clubs haven’t made a mark.

Every little bit helps when it comes to the brittle confidence in Leeside football. Rebel sides often need to a fair bit better than their Kerry counterparts to win.

On that note, it was a pity Coláiste Choilm couldn’t get over the line in the Corn Uí Mhuirí semi-final, defeated by just a point, but they certainly left it all out there. Indeed they were left aggrieved when they ref blew the final whistle after an equaliser tailed wide.

The likes of Colm O’Callaghan and Jack Murphy were key figures throughout the run to the last four for the Ballincollig school, in the wake of a historic first Premier 1 minor county for Éire Óg last year. We’ll watch with interest to see if they can move through the Cork ranks.

Fergal O’Brien, Tralee CBS blocking the path of Jack Murphy, Coláiste Choilm. Picture: Dan Linehan
Fergal O’Brien, Tralee CBS blocking the path of Jack Murphy, Coláiste Choilm. Picture: Dan Linehan

The Cork hurlers continue to bring through their young guns, with Coláiste Choilm graduate Seán O’Donoghue – captain when they won the All-Ireland B football title in 2014 – building on a solid debut against Kilkenny with another fine showing in Wexford. It looked like football would take precedence when O’Donoghue was a marauding half-forward in the U21 team that lost the 2016 final to Mayo, but hailing from Inniscarra he’s a hurler at heart.

Sean O'Donoghue bursts past Cathal Dunbar. Picture: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Sean O'Donoghue bursts past Cathal Dunbar. Picture: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

The Cork U21 development squad took on UCC last Sunday morning on the all-weather pitch at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. It was squeezed in after the Canon O’Brien Cup postponement but ended up turning into a lively game, 2-20 to 2-18 to the College.

Among the rookies to shine were Liam Healy, who hit 1-3, Deccie Dalton, Daire Connery, John and Niall Cashman, Rickard Cahalane, Shane Forde, David Lowney and Seadnaidh Smyth and Darragh Guiney in the corner-back slots for Cork.

Granted, it wasn’t an ideal time for UCC to take on the Cork U21s for any neutrals, but the match proved again these are exciting times in terms of young talent on Leeside.

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