Knocknagree manager John Fintan Daly felt that it was important his side didn’t become a trivia question as they launched their maiden Bons Secours Hospital Cork SAFC campaign and it certainly doesn’t look as if that will be the case.
Having beaten Kanturk in the 2020 premier intermediate final on August 1, the Duhallow side were back in action on Sunday as they met Kiskeam in another divisional derby in Boherbue and they channelled their momentum into an eight-point win, 1-13 to 1-5 – despite missing seven players, Matthew Dilworth, Danny Cooper, Padraic Collins, Niall O'Connor, Karl Daly, Paul O'Connor and Anthony O'Connor.
Nevertheless, such is the belief in the panel after winning three county championships in four years that they were able to emerge on top against the club that have been the Duhallow standard-bearers in football for the past two decades.
“Momentum is a factor,” Daly says.
“We've looked up to Kiskeam for a long time. I remember commentating on C103 when they played in the 2016 county final against Fermoy – that’s the year before Knocknagree started their breakthrough. Since then we’ve had Cork and Munster champions 2017, All-Ireland champions 2018, intermediate champions 2019 and premier intermediate champions in 2020. We’ve lost only two of our last 25 games now.
“There is momentum, belief, ambition, an awful lot of ambition in an a very small parish. I don't know how long it’s going to last, but every fella knows that, as the calendar turns each year, you’re running out of road.
“The first thing we wanted to do was make a statement that we could stay in senior football and by winning our first game, it gives us a great chance of staying up for what we call a full season. We didn't want to be a boomerang team that won the county premier and then became a quiz question of who went senior for two months and got relegated again. We didn't want that, so we were very motivated.
“We’ve nothing personal with Kiskeam, we’ve no history with them, so to speak.
“They haven’t made their last statement here yet. They lost Seán Meehan and he’s a huge loss, but before the game we were down seven fellas injured and Michael Doyle played with the aid of a pain-killing injection.
“It was never going to be easy, it was a tight pitch, it wouldn’t necessarily suit us but Boherbue put on a great show. It isn’t that long ago since we were playing our football here locally when we were junior and we appreciate the effort put in for both teams.
“I wish Kiskeam the best. I think they’re a fine team. Anthony Casey is a great gentleman and Seán Meehan, I know his family very well, he’s a fantastic young player and he obviously had a hamstring coming in.”
Next up is a meeting with Bishopstown on Sunday, September 26, with another victory almost guaranteeing them a place in the knockout stages of the second tier championship.
They are certainly in a good position and Daly is proud that he has a squad not willing to settle for survival.
“I have a group of players that don’t mind correcting me,” he says.
“When I say we’re thinking about senior status, they say that they’re not thinking like that. The players are driving it, they’re saying, ‘Of course we’re going up and of course we’re going to compete.’
“There’s no doubt that momentum does mean a lot when you get into a winning habit, you believe you can achieve anything.
“My squad will complain if I say the pressure is off, they’re so ambitious. Isn't it great to start well, because the first day in championship is always difficult and we have two really tough games comes up against Bishopstown and St Michael's, clubs that have enormous populations in comparison with us.
“We really shouldn't be on the same field as those teams, but we'll give it our best. That’s all we can do.”