Kan-turkish delight in senior A hurling championship

Duhallow club set for top-tier hurling again in 2022
Kan-turkish delight in senior A hurling championship

Kanturk players celebrate after defeating Fr O'Neills in the Co-op SuperStores Cork SAHC final at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

It’s hard to compete at the top level of Cork hurling and it’s hard to get there.

Kanturk were all too aware of that: having moved up from junior to intermediate in 2003, they lost the IHC final in 2012 but bounced back the following year to make the premier grade; then, four years on, they came out on top in the second tier.

Senior hurling beckoned, but circumstances intervened – when the top grade was reduced down to 12 teams at the end of 2019, Kanturk were left at a disadvantage in terms of amassing enough points to attain a high enough ranking for the new premier senior championship.

Facing into the new senior A grade for 2020, Kanturk reached the semi-finals, losing to champions Charleville. When the 2021 draws were made, Kanturk were joined by Bandon, Blarney and Fermoy and started with a 1-21 to 0-13 win over the Lilywhites in Coachford on September 12, Aidan Walsh with the goal.

It was an important win given that the next game, just five days later, pitted them against the 2020 premier intermediate champions Blarney. While Kanturk began brightly in Mallow, Blarney were 0-10 to 0-8 in front by half-time. Ryan Walsh’s slaloming run set up a goal for Colin Walsh but the ebb and flow continued and neither side could complain at the end as it finished level, 1-12 to 0-15.

Top spot was still in Kanturk’s hands ahead of the final game against Fermoy, in Buttevant on October 10. Fermoy were dogged in the first half and the sides were level at 0-5 each after 22 minutes. Kanturk made a surge before half-time though as Colin Walsh set up Alan Walsh for a goal and a 1-8 to 0-7 lead at the break. With Lorcán McLoughlin to the fore, a 1-24 to 0-15 win was sufficient to finish first and secure an automatic semi-final spot.

The break was welcome as they were competing well in the PIFC too, but the flipside was that, on November 6 in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, they faced a Newcestown side that had been rampant in their quarter-final win over Mallow.

Kanturk flew out of the traps, scoring five unanswered points in the first nine minutes, but it was 0-10 each by half-time. Newcestown dominated the third quarter, with David Buckley exceptional, and it was 0-20 to 0-13 for them at the second break.

However, a Liam O’Keeffe goal on 51 gave Kanturk hope and after an Ian Walsh point in the 60th minute, they were within three. Parity was restored when Ryan Walsh strode forward and arrowed a shot home and the comeback looked to have been completed as Brian O’Sullivan put them in front again, but Fionn Keane levelled for Newcestown in the 64th minute. It meant extra time, but Kanturk pushed on with O’Keeffe getting a second goal and Alan Walsh also netting while sub Cian Clernon impressed too as it finished 4-23 to 0-26.

The following Saturday, Bride Rovers took on Fr O’Neills in the other semi-final and won the East Cork derby by 1-19 to 1-15. However, they were without Declan Dalton for that and the eight-day turnaround to the final meant he wouldn’t be available, though Ger Millerick was named as a sub, having missed the campaign up to that point.

Kanturk had to do without the suspended Paul Walsh, but they had a dream start as Alan Walsh set up Colin Walsh for an early goal as they established a 1-3 to 0-0 lead inside six minutes.

Kevin O’Sullivan’s frees got O’Neills on the board, 1-5 to 0-4 the score at the break. While Aidan Walsh had a pair of points early in the second quarter, a good Grantis Buckinskas save from Hankard helped to maintain Kanturk’s record of not conceding a championship goal but that record was about to disappear.

Ger Millerick was brought on and had an immediate impact, starting a move that led to Rob Cullinane finding the net. When they followed that with a Cillian Broderick strike in the 26th minute, it was 2-6 to 1-7 for O’Neills. Kanturk replied as Liam O’Keeffe set up Colin Walsh for his second goal, with O’Sullivan tying at 2-7 each by half-time.

Early second-half wides for Kanturk looked to be costly as Tomás Millerick and Billy Dunne put Fr O’Neills back in front but Liam O’Keeffe and Aidan Walsh had Kanturk level again, 2-11 each, and from there they gunned for the line. Just before the water break, Colin Walsh got his hat-trick goal and, after the quick pit-stop, the irrepressible McLoughlin set up sub Daniel O’Connell for a point and O’Keeffe added another. With captain Darren Browne totemic at centre-back, Kanturk weren’t going to loosen their grip again and triumphed by 3-17 to 2-13.

Top-grade hurling beckons once more.

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