LAST year, Duhallow were one of only three entrants to the divisions/colleges section of the Co-op SuperStores Cork Premier SHC along with reigning champions Imokilly and the side that emerged into the competition proper, UCC.
The north-western division are back this year, waiting for the draw for the games which will take place in mid-July. They are under the management of Kilbrin man Donie O’Mahony, who is in charge for the first year at senior level.
“I volunteered and I didn’t think much more about it,” he says, “but then things get a bit closer!
“My involvement with Duhallow has been with underage teams over the years. For the last few years, I would have been a selector with the U21 team and, going way back, the U16 and minor sides – we’d still have a few misgivings that that facility to take part in the county championships was taken away from us.”
Being able to play in underage county championships helped to create a pathway to senior level and gave players pride in wearing the orange and black.
“That was the cornerstone of being able to compete at senior level,” O’Mahony says.
“Lads had a bit of a tradition of playing with Duhallow. When it comes to senior, we all know the level of club commitments, which is understandable, but we never had any trouble to get fellas to commit to playing for Duhallow.
“All of the fellas playing senior for Duhallow now and in the next couple of years will have played at least U21 and maybe some of them at minor also. After that then, with the restructuring of the underage, players get a lot of games with their clubs now and all of a sudden, it might be hard to get them to commit to something else as adults.”
That familiarity with representing Duhallow at underage meant that there was never any real doubt in taking part in 2021, O’Mahony feels.
“No,” he says, “and, to be fair, that stems from players being used to representing Duhallow and, when they’re asked, they do their best to answer that call.
“One other thing is that the board is very supportive and has been down through the years with regard to entering underage teams.
“Okay, there’s no U21 championship now but presumably it will be back next year and Duhallow will be in it. That does help us and without that, we’d struggle.
“There was no major difficulty, notwithstanding the fact that Meelin, Rockchapel, Boherbue and Dromtarriffe are still involved in 2020 competitions. We’d be relying on players from those clubs, some of the Boherbue lads play hurling with Dromtarriffe and the Rockchapel lads do so with Meelin, there’s a crossover of commitments left, right and centre.
“Still, to be fair to them, they do answer the call and the other thing I’d have to mention is that, over the last decade, Steven Lynch our chairman has filled lots of roles on the Duhallow board and he has been outstanding in networking with all of these lads.
“Even out of season, he gives a great facility to stay in contact with the lads and he has a great rapport with them. When it comes to turning out for the division, we’d usually prevail on Steven to send that message and say, ‘Look, it’s Duhallow.’
“That cuts a bit of ice with them anyway and he has been invaluable in that sense. He’s well-regarded by all of the players as well.”
Also in the set-up is coach John Hartnett, a St Catherine’s club member by birth but “domiciled in Millstreet with a long time so he’s a Duhallow man now!” as O’Mahony puts it.
“Duhallow accounted for themselves pretty well last year against a strong UCC team who made a bit impact in the championship.
“We’d concede that, on paper, UCC and Imokilly might be a little bit stronger than us but when it comes to playing them, we might take the other view!
“We’re hopeful. The Covid fear element has been removed but the remaining 2020 competitions are the complicating factor which wasn’t there last year.
“There are different things which crop up each year and it’s a challenge to get a team out but we’re confident we’ll do that and be as competitive as we can be. We’re lucky to have great support from the Ayrton Group and Kieran Linehan from Meelin. There’s good support and goodwill there.”