WHAT a year it’s been so far for Cork Harlequins Cricket Club.
They’ve won their first senior Munster trophy in a decade, reached their maiden All-Ireland semi-final and having overcome Merrion CC in a last-ball thriller, are now playing in their first All-Ireland final in a week.
It’s the first time a Cork or Munster side for that matter, has ever reached a national club final and club captain Matt Brewster has realised there’s so much more to captaining on the field in his first year in the role.
“When Seanan hit the last ball for six to win the match the scenes were incredible.
“Lads weren’t sure what to do, where to run, who to hug. It was madness. We’d taken a bit of stick from the Merrion players when we were batting so getting across the line was even sweeter.
“The win has been huge for the club but one of the parts of it that I wasn’t prepared for was the media responsibilities!
“I thought that was for pro sport! I’ve had to do some radio and some stuff for Cricket Ireland and I was way more nervous doing that than any time on a cricket pitch but it just shows you the interest in the final,” said the Glanmire man.
Things have certainly fallen into place this year for the Farmer’s Cross side who have an average age of 21 in their first-team squad.
They’re scoring more heavily than ever, their winning games not playing at their best and they’re playing with a level of belief that hasn’t been there before.
“In every game this year, a few people have put in match-winning performances but it's been different players each time.
“All of the lads have been consistent but most of all I’ve been pleased with the fact that everyone has contributed in some way in each game this year.”
It hasn’t always been like this of course and there has been plenty of heartache along the way.
About 15 years ago, Quins won three senior leagues and two senior cups in a three-year period but the loss of a good chunk of players in a 12 month period meant that a big decision had to be made.
Do the club try and recruit or promote the younger players even though they weren’t ready?
Even though it would mean a lack of success, option two was the decision and the young players had to learn on the job in a very competitive environment.
However, there was one constant message from the coaches throughout this period.
“We’ll try and win every game but the result wasn’t going to be the focus. The focus was on supporting the teenagers before and after each game and ensuring that their training was accurate as possible to reflect their needs in a league where they were the underdogs in every game they played.”
Club stalwart, Joe O’Mahony agreed when he added that “it was hard to watch at certain times because with such a young side, we had some big loses initially.
“Then we might win a match but lose the next three so we had the odd high but plenty of lows.
The last few years have seen us be a lot more competitive, with more wins but more importantly, when we lost, the margins were really small.
“To be in the All-Ireland final is the stuff of dreams and anything can happen now,”
They will play Brigade or Carrickfergus in the CI club showpiece and right now this Quins group will fear no one.
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