Often, teams going forward to represent Cork in the Munster club championships will find themselves facing into completely new territory.
Given the effort involved in coming out on top at home, you might not be paying too much attention to foreign fields. However, when Midleton return to provincial action on Sunday against Kilmallock in the TUS Gaelic Grounds (1.15pm), they will be renewing acquaintances with the Limerick champions, as manager Ger Fitzgerald reveals.
“We played them earlier in the year in a practice match and we drew,” he says.
“It was a very good game for us and we’re very much aware of what they bring. They’re the champion team from the champion county, so they’re serious operators.
“We wouldn’t be under-estimating their challenge at all, they won a fabulous county as well. When you’d be playing teams during the year in practice games, you’d always be keeping an eye out for how they’re getting on. They won a great county, no more than we did ourselves, so it’ll be a very interesting game but a very tough one.”
Midleton’s victory over Glen Rovers last month gave them the Seán Óg Murphy Cup for the first time since 2013, though they also represented Cork in 2018, having lost to divisional side Imokilly in the county final.
Eight years ago, they lost out to Clare’s Sixmilebridge while in 2018 they were beaten by a point by Ballygunner at the quarter-final stage before the Waterford side went on to take the title.
“We gave the lads a few days off and they celebrated, which was fair enough,” says Fitzgerald, “after winning the county, you need to enjoy the experience and come down after it a little bit.
“We were back training the following Saturday and we had a full turnout. There’s a realisation that it’s a terribly hard competition to qualify for, so when you make it you have to make the most of your opportunity.
“We were probably disappointed that we didn’t do more in 2018, given how close we were with Ballygunner, there was a only a puck of a ball in that game.
“But, at the same time, that was an experience and hopefully we’ll be able to draw on that on Sunday.
“Certainly there’s a big focus on doing the best we can and the lads are very focused on putting their best foot forward. Cork’s record in this hasn’t been huge but, as a club, we’ve a proud record and a proud tradition in the competition and we’d like to keep that going.”
As a player, Fitzgerald won two Munster titles and one All-Ireland medal with Midleton and of course they also benefit from the presence of coach Ben O’Connor, who enjoyed success with Newtownshandrum.
Ultimately, the desire to push on will come from the Magpies’ players.
“Certainly, we’re in a unique position in that regard,” Fitzgerald says.
“We’d had very positive experiences, Ben and myself, in terms of this competition.
“When you’re a breakthrough team, like Midleton were back in the 1980s, and you’re looking to take your rightful place as an established team in Cork GAA annals, you’d want to be going on and trying to win Munster and the All-Ireland.
“We know that it’s a massive achievement to try to do that so we’d be very interested in pushing on and that’s fine – our ambition to do that is easy and, really, it comes down to the ambition of the fellas themselves to do that.
“We had a very good discussion around that and they are very ambitious and very interested in driving it on.
“I think it’s a big challenge to win your own county championship and, when you do, there’s no guarantee that you’ll repeat that feat.
“There’s a pressure release when you win the county championship and then it’s a matter of getting back focused and taking your opportunities.
“As well, the competition in Munster is very level, very difficult, so there’s often only a puck of a ball between teams.”