NO question but that 2017 will be known in Cork GAA circles as the year of Kanturk.
The North Cork club followed up their historic win in the Premier Intermediate Hurling Championship with an equally famous intermediate football triumph on Sunday.
This time it was Mitchelstown that felt the full force of a club on the march as another battle of Duhallow and Avondhu was staged in Páirc Uí Rinn. This was a performance of patience, composure and a testament to the importance of fitness and desire.
Kanturk weathered plenty storms in the 65 minutes or so, to pull off the historic double by the narrowest of margins and secure premier football for 2018.
Kanturk kept Mitchelstown in their sights, even when the Avondhu side dominated, and that meant that when the boys from the banks of The Allow and The Dallow got their chance, they were in a position to take it.
No goals, but plenty of chances was the story of the goalmouths, Mitchelstown not taking any of four good chances served up, and that really is the painful truth for Mitchelstown on this day — far too many missed chances.
At times it is difficult to understand why Mitchelstown are not further up the Cork county totem pole when you see them in full flight. Rampaging in packs from the back to the front in seconds, with men either side of the ball making themselves available at all times, Mitchelstown look hugely impressive.
In Sunday’s final, Mitchelstown came out of the blocks as one would expect, full of vigour and passion. They looked by far the better side in the first 10 minutes and one would have been forgiven for thinking that this game was going to be a damp squib, with Shane Roynane’s side cruising to a handy win.
But there is a button somewhere in the Mitchelstown psyche that seems to scream press me, and when that happens all the afterburners that are evident for all to see go into hibernation. This propensity to take the collective foot of the gas has been evident on many occasions this year but still they managed to make it to the final as the most impressive club of the season.
Mitchelstown pressed this button somewhere between the fourth and 10th minutes and were unable to reset it until deep into the first half. Starting emphatically with three quick points, you would have to fancy the men in red to dominate, but by the 20th minute the sides were level, with Kanturk adding another three points before Mitchelstown woke from their first-half slumber.
It was nip and tuck after that, Kanturk’s mass of Walshes — Ian, Ryan, Paul, and captain Aidan all showing well — and Ian in particular keeping his side in it with a host of brilliant points. For the always vocal and ever increasing number of Aidan Walsh watchers and critics, the story of his injury-afflicted season continued.
Walsh struggled to keep pace with this game due to a heavily strapped upper thigh. But when the chips were down and his team needed him, yet again the midfield general delivered — not with a score but with two brilliant pieces of fielding in the last three minutes that simply obliterated the Mitchelstown challenge.
Lorcán McLoughlin impressed with another uncompromising exhibition of what it is like to be a sportsman at the peak of his powers.
Mitchelstown’s Shane Beston is always a man to watch with his amazing speed, agility, and skill, but when Kanturk managed to get to grips with the midfielder, Mitchelstown lost some of their spark. Centre-forward Shane Cahill also shone but it was Kanturk’s rear-guard that had the last word, keeping the Mitchelstown attack to a manageable tally.
Late on Kanturk keeper Jordan Fullerton showed all the grit and determination that we have come to expect from this bunch of Kanturk stars, with a save out of the top drawer when his side could have gone behind.
A game that started a little sluggishly eventually got up to speed and turned out to be a cracker. It was a pity for the losers but there’s no denying that 2017 belongs to the green and white — and they aren’t finished yet.