TONIGHT Mallow’s hurlers will take to the Páirc Uí Rinn field looking to make it back to the senior hurling ranks for the first time since the early 1970s.
Kanturk will provide the opposition for this one and the North Cork derby game is expected to be a game of the highest quality with little or nothing between the sides all year.
Mallow coach Dermot O’Riordan has been around the block at this stage but continues with the same love of the game and the club as he ever had.
“I am thrilled to be here.
“I hurled every grade for Mallow and consider Mallow my town.
“I love this town and love the club.
“I never knew if I would ever get the chance or not to coach Mallow so I always gave my best to every club and every team I worked with.
“If the opportunity ever came along I was always going to take it and thankfully three years ago it did.
“We have competed in three Premier Intermediate semi-finals losing one by a point, one by two points and winning the other as well as contesting two Premier Intermediate League finals in the last three years so I genuinely believe that this side have been successful.
“Hopefully now we can grab the big prize this weekend but let’s be clear, this side will not be defined by this one game.
“The players, the team and this club are much better than that.
“This is much more important than that.
“You can’t define what all these people here have given in one 60 minute game.
“It is the same if we win. It still won’t define these lads that have given so much to their town, their families and their club.
“I have nothing but respect for this marvellous bunch of young fellas with a marvellous future ahead of them.
“There is a big future ahead of this team whether they win or lose tonight.”
Managers and coaches constantly bombard us with statements about how young their teams are as a way of defecting expectation however in fairness to Mallow’s coach he may have a point here.
“They are a really young team. One of the youngest around. The average age is 22 or 23 and take out Donal Relihan and it is even lower.
“They have a great hunger to learn, to play well and succeed and they have shown in the last two years in particular that this team has a tremendous ability to bounce back.”
While there have been setbacks along the way Dermot is clear that the philosophy will remain the same.
“I believe in attacking hurling, defend properly, do the basics right and that is how this side have played and will play. That said I always encourage this team to be battlers and go into the trenches if they have to.”
And the winner?
Well, O’Riordan is as much in the dark as the rest of us.
“The margins here are going to be so fine that I couldn’t answer that. It could be someone that has previously been out of the limelight and will now step up and win the county final with a moment of magic.
“I think this one will go to the wire.
“Two fine hurling teams who play hurling the proper way will battle it out and perhaps whoever has that bit of luck on the night will do it.”