YEARS of hard work was paid off last weekend as Blarney seniors secured promotion to the top tier of MSL football in Cork.
A 3-1 win against Leeside last Friday evening brought scenes of celebration for Brian Murray’s side as their 10 year wait came to an end and now they can look forward to playing premier football next season.
Having caught up with Blarney stalwart and captain Ray O’Leary, here he tells about the joys of promotion and their focus to finish the league strong with the hope of picking up silverware.
“Being promoted to the premier division is fantastic for everyone involved with the club,” said O’Leary.
“That was our main aim three years ago before lockdown took over and it didn't change when we started back training last year.
"Now that we have that promotion, we can now focus on the last three games of the season which will all be really tough but hopefully we can keep the form going and add a bit of silverware.”
O’Leary has been a key player for Blarney through the years and as one of the longest serving players from the current squad, he knows how difficult it can be to get out of the first division.
The father of two from Tower is just one of four players from the squad who have played premier before but he believes the mixture of youth and experience in the squad will stand to the team next season.
“We haven't played in the premier division since 2012. We were very unlucky that year.
"We had a few long term injuries that season and we were probably a team in transition but even having a points total that would have kept us up most seasons, unfortunately it wasn't enough that year.
“It's taken a huge commitment. We have collected 92 points from a possible 102 in the last three years but due to lockdowns etc, we just haven't been able to see that hard work rewarded.
“The lockdowns were hard for everyone so it was nice to get back on a pitch when we were able to try and pick up where we left off.
“We have a very young squad so we don't have too many guys who have played premier.
"Allan Weldon, Paul Mullins, Ivan O’Leary and myself would be the only members from the squad but there are no fears about any of our lads playing in the Premier division.
“We have a huge academy and some great under age teams coming up so it's very important that these teams see the senior team in the club playing in the top division.
“We have been close in a few recent years and again we probably felt we had left a few promotions behind us over the years but I suppose there is one guy that has been there throughout the successful years and stuck with it in the less successful years and that's Con O’Riordan.
"Connie brings an unbelievable passion for the club and that rubs off on all of us.
“There is a great Management in place and an excellent backroom staff. Brian Murray, Dave Moynihan, George Lindsay, Niall Murphy, John Corcoran, Noel Kelleher and Con O’Riordan have all done Trojan work and gaining promotion was down to their hard work and commitment.” With the club throughout his entire football career, O’Leary has experienced many highs and lows but he believes the club is in a very strong position at the moment.
“I’ve played with Blarney all my life and we’ve enjoyed many great times. However there have also been disappointments along the way, but experiences we’ve learnt from nonetheless.
"I’ve been lucky to be part of some great teams which brought us a lot of success. At youth level (Murphy youth Cup and Coca Cola trophy), AOH Cup winners x 2 , league winners x 2 and mossie lenane in AUL before stepping up senior to win the first division unbeaten in our first year.
"I’ve also won the Keane Cup, Beamish Cup, O’Connell Cup and a few Pop Kellers in subsequent years during my time with the club. "Representing Ireland at amateur level was an added individual bonus and losing the intermediate Cup final against Avondale was a low in my career.
“However now it's all about enjoying the success of being promoted and to finish the season on a positive note.
“When we met up three years ago, the aim was promotion.
"Due to the pandemic, leagues have not finished in the last two years so meeting up last year that aim didn't change. Promotion and to be competitive in each Cup that we played in was the focus and it’s great to have achieved this.
“Our squad is very young. Brian has added a lot of guys from our youth teams in the last few years and has continued to do that this year with our current under 17s, 18s and 19's squads.
We have Martin O’Sullivan who has been added to the Ireland amateur squad this year on the back of his performances this season with us and that’s a great boost for the lads.
“We are all looking forward to finishing the season strong and then prepare to compete at the top next season.
"While we know it will be a bit of a step up, If our lads show the same level of commitment, determination and drive that they do now, they'll have no problem competing at that level."