THE curiosity factor going into Sunday's Bon Secours PIFC between neighbours Kanturk and Newmarket at Páirc Uí Chaoimh at 3pm is obviously huge.
And yet, remarkably enough, it’s their first meeting at adult championship level, though there’s a history of a healthy underage rivalry.
Long-serving Kanturk defender John McLoughlin recalls running a road race between the two towns a number of years ago.
“And sure you can’t get any closer rivalry than that,” he joked during the week.
There are many examples of the familiarity involved, best reflected in McLoughlin’s friendship with Newmarket’s Bart Daly.
“We would have played together from Cork U16s, travelled for minor trials and then on to Cork U21 teams.
“Only four years ago we were on holidays together and that will tell you how very close friends we are. Obviously, I’d still be in contact with him.”
The pair also teamed up with Duhallow down the years, reaching three finals only to end up on the losing side each time.
“It’s very similar to last year’s final against Knocknagree because we would have soldiered with a lot of the lads with Duhallow and going further back with Colaiste Treasa in Kanturk.
“My brother Lorcán is working with Paudie Allen’s father in Newmarket. Paudie also played with Duhallow in the full-back line though he’ll probably be in the half-back line tomorrow.
“Donagh Duane, who is a hurling selector and former manager of ours, also has Newmarket connections because his wife is from there.”
And there are others like current Newmarket coach, Niall McIntyre, who is a former Kanturk coach while ex-Cork ladies footballer, Deirdre O’Reilly, who trained Newmarket last year, is a sister-in-law to Frank Flannery, coach to Kanturk hurlers this season.
And two selectors, Kanturk’s John Healy and Newmarket’s Paul Murphy work together in Mallow.
There’s much more besides, like McLoughlin’s job. “I work on the road with an agricultural company, Howards in Killavullen, and a lot of my customers are Newmarket lads.
“You’d be bumping into others as well during the week and sure last year, Knocknagree, which is only 20 minutes away, their manager John Fintan Daly has a practice in the middle of Kanturk.”
For some players, reaching a county final is an achievement in itself. For McLoughlin, tomorrow is final number 15. Or is it 16?
“I was only saying it to some of the younger lads after the hurling final that from now on it will be relegation finals.
“I was lucky enough to play in three senior county finals with Duhallow, but losing.
“That’s the way it is, you lose more days than you win and that’s the unfortunate thing about it.
“Of course, the higher up the grades you go the more competitive the games become.
“Any final you play in there’s always going to some level of tension even though we’ve a lot of experience in the group, playing in All-Ireland finals and all that.
“Even for a championship there’s still an amount of nerves, especially, I think, when the older you get because there’s a fear of losing, having come so far.
“You simply don’t know what’s ahead, in terms of injuries and all that.
“There’s also the factor that you don’t want to lose to a neighbouring club.
Kanturk are the leading example of how a dual club can function successfully.
“We’re well used to it now, but it does help when you’ve a big buy-in from both sets of managements because everybody wants the best for the club ultimately.
“Preparation hasn’t been ideal going into the football final in terms of the number of training sessions we’ve had.
“Winning the hurling has helped momentum and sure in 2017 we learned how to adapt to both codes quite well.
“The most important thing is keeping lads injury-free and we’ve been lucky for the most part.
“We did lose two prominent players in Dan O’Connell and Tommy Walsh early in the year and then James Fitzpatrick in football."
McLoughlin’s biggest day has still to come, however.
“I’m actually getting married in two weeks time to Kate (Linehan), whose mother is originally from Kanturk, but now living near Glantane.
“With everything going on between Covid and the wedding planning, the county final is a nice distraction.
“It’s great for us to be back in a final three or four months later and we’re relieved to be playing in it.
“Okay, it’s December and you’re training under lights, but, sure, there are worse things you could be doing.”