Like every other club that had qualified for a 2020 county final without yet being able to play it, Castlemartyr welcomed the clarity provided by Tuesday night’s Cork County Board meeting.
The club will take on fellow East Cork side Russell Rovers in the Lower IHC decider on the weekly of July 10/11 and their coach, former Waterford hurler Eoin Murphy, is pleased that there is now a target to aim for.
“It has been a long wait,” he says, “for the players in particular, more so than players or management.
“They’ve been trying to keep themselves ticking over without knowing when to build up for or what they’d be doing. We’ve all been going around a bit in the dark so it’s fantastic now that we have a date and we’ve been given a good run into it.”
Given the big prize on offer when action resumes, Castlemartyr’s players were trusted to work to their own devices during the period when club activity was closed.
“With a county final on the horizon, they were self-motivated to do the work themselves,” Murphy says.
“I left myself available if they wanted to contact me for any help and advice, that line was always open, but they’re a good group.
“The county final was a great carrot to have, knowing that it was going to be played at some stage. It gave the lads something to push them out the door and to do a little bit, whatever it was.
“It may not have even been hurling-related – it could have been cycling or a walk or whatever. They were just getting out and trying to stay as active as they could.”
Knockanore native Murphy retired from playing with the Déise in 2011 and was a selector under Derek McGrath when the county reached the 2017 All-Ireland final. However, the Castlemartyr job, as coach alongside manager Séamus Lawton, is his first at club level. So far, things have gone well, with wins over St Finbarr’s, Milford and Ballymartle earning them a semi-final spot.
“To be honest, while I’ve been living here a while and I’d have been keeping an eye out, I wouldn’t have been that close to the club scene,” he says.
“But when Castlemartyr came and asked me, I was interested. It’s a very proud club with a good tradition.
“The championship that they were in is very open and I was hoping that we’d be contending. We did okay through the league section but there were games that could have gone the other way very easily towards the end.
“We were lucky to see them out and we ended up going straight to a semi-final against Kilbrittain, which was a very tough game. Jamie Wall had them in really good shape and very well organised.
“It was a low-scoring game and defensively we were able to keep them out, even though our goalkeeper made a good save near the end to put off extra time.”
That sent them to the final, with their Shanagarry/Ballycotton neighbours in the opposite corner. However, the prize of promotion to intermediate A outweighs any derby element to the game.
“I think it will help in that I know very little about any of the rivalries around the place,” Murphy says.
“I don’t know how often they’d have played back along the years, but they’re obviously not far from each other.
“Russell Rovers have been on a great run the last few years – I watched them play the All-Ireland final in Croke Park in January of last year, they’ve been very successful and they’re a team with a lot done. They’ll be tough, very tough for us, they’re a well-organised team as well.
“But it’s so hard to know, going into a final with nothing really to go on – you can’t even really look back at last year.
“Both teams had momentum built up and were looking forward to it and then the plug was pulled. It’s new ground for all the clubs who are trying to play last year’s county finals but hopefully we’ll try to manage it okay.”