A KEY group of Cork players are setting their sights on Croke Park this afternoon as part of the Warwickshire hurling line up in their quest to regain a hold of the Lory Meagher Cup.
When the Bermingham based outfit face Leitrim in a novel decider, they will be bidding to add to their success from 2013. face Leitrim in a novel decider, they will be bidding to add to their success from 2013.
To date it has been a productive campaign for a strong Warwickshire line up that involves five Cork players in the panel including vice-captain and defender Micheál O'Regan, a native of Freemount, goalkeeper Mike Cremin hails from Milford, forward Sean Hennessy Midleton is the son of legendary Cork star Kevin with Douglas pair John Collins and Ronan O'Donoghue also playing a key contribution.
Team captain Donnacha Kennedy is formerly associated with Drom an Inch, the home club of Tipperary star Seamus Callanan as O’Regan explained, the side is not short of talent.
“There are a number of key players involved, most notably former Antrim star Liam Watson, others hold inter-county experience at underage and senior level such as Paul Hoban who played corner back on the Galway senior team, John Reddan played for Clare seniors and captained Clare minors to their lone All-Ireland minor hurling title and Shane Caulfield, the former Galway u21 player”, he said.
“The current season has gone very well with great numbers at training, the sessions and intensity have been great. We have only lost to Longford and they currently play in the Nicky Rackard Cup, everybody hopes we can win some silverware in Croke Park to make up for the league final defeat to Longford earlier in the season."
Star forward Watson scored 3-7 on helping Loughiel Shanrocks land the 2012 All-Ireland Club SHC in Croke Park, such experience is sure to please team manager Tony Joyce who is involved with John Mitchels club, having guided them to All Britain Success twice and to an All-Ireland Junior quarter-final.
Corkman Stephen Ahern hails from St Vincent's club, was manager for the outright victory in 2013, and brings a lot of experience to the team as selector.
“We have had a very professional setup this year under Tony with specialist strength and conditioning coaches taking us every Tuesday throughout the campaign. We have also had advice on nutrition and injury prevention from the back ground team whilst Gavin Duffy who was involved with Loughgiel Shamrocks and Antrim took us for a good session, overall our fitness levels are up a notch or two," said O'Regan.
Its the dream of every player to perform in Croke Park, O’Regan hopeful of outright success but expects a searching examination from the Connacht representatives.
“ There aren't that many hurlers in the country that can say they have played a competitive hurling final in Croke Park, one doesn't get too many chances to play in GAA HQ. I think we have a great chance against Leitrim having already beaten them in the league and the championship but we will need to be at our best as both of the previous wins were hard fought and close contests."
Win, lose or draw, following the Lory Meagher Cup campaign, there will be a two-month break before the domestic championship commences in August, O’Regan operates in the John Mitchels club colours with county manager Tony Joyce also involved.
“Eleven of the starting Warwickshire team are John Mitchels players, our hope is to go on and win the All Britain Championship, go one step further than previously, that’s to reach an All-Ireland club semi-final. There are four hurling clubs in Warwickshire County and about 12 football clubs, the club standard is similar to Junior A level in Duhallow and the county level would probably be of a Cork intermediate level," he said.
A Senior Project Engineer with Jaguar Land Rover in Warwickshire, O’Regan faced a difficult decision to forego his strong family connections with Freemount club and declare for Mitchels.
“Being permanently living in the UK, it was difficult to come home and play, John Mitchels and Warwickshire's home ground Pairc na hEireann is only 20 minutes away so it made sense to move and its a great way to getting to know Irish people. I watch all the Cork matches on tv and I follow the Duhallow GAA Twitter feed to keep up to date with the Duhallow Junior League and Championship matches," he said.