WHEN Midleton won the county SHC in 2013, it was allied to victory at U21 level and there was a sense that the immediate future on Leeside was black and white.
However, in a similar way to how Tipperary (2010) and Clare (2013) couldn’t establish dynasties despite coupling senior and U21 victories, Midleton have been unable to bring the Seán Óg Murphy Cup back again.
They did reach the 2018 final, losing to a strong Imokilly side, and are now back in the decider again. Paul Haughney was one of the heroes of 2013, hoping to add to his medal collection when they face Glen Rovers on Sunday.
While he would like to have won more in the interim, he is realistic, too.
“We’ve learned along the way that it’s such a hard and competitive championship that one day, one game you’re off, you’re out and that’s it,” he says.
“Another year, you’re waiting and then you’ve fellas that are going away, travelling or moving abroad, and then you could pick up a few injuries the following year.
“Now, I’m absolutely not making any excuses – we would have liked to have gone on and won more but that’s just the nature of the championship. It’s very competitive and anyone who has won it over the last few years has deserved to win it.”
Now 30, Haughney – who works in the IT sector with Planr – is one of the elder statesmen in the side.
“I suppose I’d be maybe feeling some aches and pains moreso than other lads would be!” he laughs.
“I’m just happy to be involved at the moment and trying to contribute as much as I can.”
Last year, Midleton were in a group with Sarsfields, Douglas and Ballyhea and wound up coming third and missing out on the knockout stages. It stung, but at the same time it wasn’t something in which they wallowed.
“It was just a tough group,” he says.
“Now, there were no excuses for not qualifying but there was no real post-mortem either, it was just a case of getting back to it and starting hurling.
“There wasn’t much talk about last year, I think everyone knows individually in the back of their heads that it was disappointing but that’s just how competitive the championship is in Cork.
“We had no complaints or excuses, it was just a case of getting back to it and taking things game by game and that’s essentially what we did.”
That approach yielded wins over Carrigtwohill and Na Piarsaigh to confirm qualification before the final group match, against Sars. While they lost that and missed the chance to reach the semi-finals directly, the response was strong.
“It was tough, but, given the nature of the fixtures, we had to put it behind us,” Haughney says.
“We had another game coming down the tracks two weeks later, so there was a bit of reflection but we moved on again quickly because we had to.
“We knew Erin’s Own would bring physicality and hard work and everything that comes with it. We were anticipating that, but no more so than any game. No matter what match we went out and played this year – if it was a challenge game, if it was a league game – we all went out and did our best to get a result.
“We weren’t easing in any game, there was that kind of an edge to it.”
That was best seen in their impressive 4-22 to 3-19 semi-final win over champions Blackrock, not that Haughney could appreciate the aesthetics at the time.
“I suppose when you’re in the thick of it, you’re probably not taking it in as much as the spectators!” he laughs.
“The pace was quick, the standard was good from both teams and it was played very fairly. Both teams gave what they had and I suppose some moments of individual brilliance were the difference at times.”