Hard work pays off for Knocknagree and their manager John Fintan Daly as they are promoted to senior football

“We are practically digging them out of the graveyard to keep the team going, we only have 600 people in our parish and every young lad that can put on a jersey is training and playing.” 
Hard work pays off for Knocknagree and their manager John Fintan Daly as they are promoted to senior football

Knocknagree players celebrate after defeating Kanturk in the Bon Secours Cork PIFC 2020 final at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

THREE years after they were crowned All-Ireland Junior champions, and a season after winning the county intermediate title, Knocknagree lifted the Bon Secours 2020 Premier IFC title and with it secured promotion to senior A football.

To achieve the feat, they needed to defeat near neighbours Kanturk in the delayed final at Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Sunday evening and they did just that on a scoreline of 0-12 to 0-9.

It was the culmination of four incredible years of hard work, although their manager insists the club has been building for longer than that.

“It’s been a lot more than four years,” begins John Fintan Daly.

“I started literally on the first of the first 2013. The first thing I asked the lads was’ what are their ambitions?’ 

“I wanted to get feedback and Fintan O’Connor, who was starting there tonight, said he would love to get into an All-Ireland final.

Knocknagree manager John Fintan Daly and Eoghan McSweeney celebrate after defeating Kanturk. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Knocknagree manager John Fintan Daly and Eoghan McSweeney celebrate after defeating Kanturk. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

“I said ‘lads, this is the first day. This is a brave statement but not only are we going to get into an All-Ireland final, we are going to win a county very soon and I will be taking you to Croke Park within three years.’

“Now, as Paudie Palmer said in the All-Ireland final commentary John Daly was not a man of his word, he said it would take them three years but it took them five years.

“It took me five years but that night and the big celebration we had I said to the lads I have one remaining ambition before I finish and that is to take you to senior football.

“To think that we have won three counties, and an All-Ireland in four years in three different grades… I don't believe it has ever been done before.

“The statisticians can check it but I think Castlehaven were the closest that came to it.

“I would be hoping that we can stick at the higher grades for a while even though we only have a population of about 600 people.

“We are practically digging them out of the graveyard to keep the team going, we only have 600 people in our parish and every young lad that can put on a jersey is training and playing.” 

And Daly was keen to praise the squad of players that secured the silverware with four late points despite the loss of Eoghan McSweeney, who had notched three scores from play before being forced off with an injury with 13 minutes remaining.

“Eoghan went off injured, he was a huge loss,” adds Daly.

Knocknagree's Matthew Dilworth and Kanturk's Brian O'Sullivan tussle for the ball. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Knocknagree's Matthew Dilworth and Kanturk's Brian O'Sullivan tussle for the ball. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

“They got a black card but if I had the choice of Eoghan going off and them getting the black card I would rather keep Eoghan on the field.

“It showed some resilience and it showed some guts for our forwards and our midfielders to keep pressing without him.

“For Fintan O’Connor to step up like he did, for my own lad John F, for Matthew Dilworth who is now past 30 years of age, James Dennehy, Danny Cooper down the wing, you could name them all. They are fantastic.

“I have run out of superlatives. This was possibly our greatest victory because we were missing our talisman Anthony O’Connor and Paul O’Connor, good players.

“We are the first club in Duhallow in history - I believe - to put out three teams in league and championship. 

"It has never been done and more clubs should take our lead.

"It’s the miracle of the loaves and the fishes.”

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