IT’S been some journey for Éire Óg football with four county titles in a dozen or so years, but nothing will compare to the 2pm throw-in in Bandon on Saturday.
That’s when the Ovens club know they’ve become members of the elite as the 2016 champions Carbery Rangers await in an historic opening game in the Bon Secours county premier senior championship.
Éire Óg are in the same section as the powerful Castlehaven and equally dogged Newcestown. Welcome to the top table!
The road began with the 2008 junior triumph and took in the 2014 intermediate success, having been finalists two years before, the premier intermediate victory in 2019 and the 2020 senior A title, played in mid-June recently.
Club legend Daniel Goulding has been ever-present in this amazing success story and the All-Ireland winner and All-Star brings a wealth of experience at 35.
“I started out when we were playing junior and I thought I’d never see the day, when we’d be playing senior,” he said during the week.
“There was a big emphasis on hurling at the time. When you were knocked out of the hurling you’d have a go at the football.
“Back in 2002, when I was 16, we won a minor county and a lot of the team came on to the junior side.
“We won a junior championship which gave us a bit of confidence.
“Then, myself and Ciaran Sheehan played with Cork and a lot of others started playing football.
There’s been hurling success to run parallel and with both panels operating with the same players, give or take, it’s a hectic time for all.
Whether it’s advantageous or not to have already played and won two county finals while others are only warming up remains to be seen.
“There’s a lot of mileage on the clock already this year, but then there’s the experience and confidence that comes from that.
“Fellows were back training a week after winning the hurling and were tuned in straight away, so from a training point we know what’s required.
“It’s unchartered territory for us, but we’ve six games in seven weeks with the majority of the players involved in both.
“You just focus on the next game and bank on the work you’ve done for the past three months.
“We’ve Paudie Kissane in football and Niall O’Halloran in hurling and both are very capable in their jobs, helping us peak at the right times.
“They left us alone for the week after the hurling final so that we could enjoy it and come back refreshed.
“Paudie will have us ready, no doubt about that, but there’s no denying it’s going to be tough.
“Yet, we’ll be resting long enough in November and December so you might as well enjoy it and make the best of it while you can.”
Sheehan is unlikely to play football as his body recovers from the ravages of an illustrious career, but Éire Óg are primed.
“As to what to expect, I’m not sure. We’ll be taking each game as it comes first of all and that’s in both codes.
“It’s new territory for us and all we can do is be as focused and as ready as we can.”
And while Goulding’s obvious experience and know-how are invaluable, he believes it’s a two-way street.
“There is a good group there with a nice blend and while it’s serious when we’re training, it’s good fun, too.
“That’s half the battle, really, because if you’re enjoying it things become a bit easier.
“We’ve learned from playing league against senior clubs and the same against intermediate clubs that if you’re not 100 percent you’re going to be found out.
“At this level you have to put in a performance every day and I’d imagine everything will be a second faster than was the case in the grade below us,” Goulding concluded.