Premier SHC: Kanturk look to build on good league campaign

Newtownshandrum provide opposition for last year's senior A champions 
Premier SHC: Kanturk look to build on good league campaign

Pictured at the launch of the 2022 Co-Op Superstores Cork Club Hurling Championships at Páirc Uí Chaoimh were Pat Horgan, Cork County Board vice-chairperson; Darren Browne, Kanturk; and Liam O'Flaherty, Dairygold Co-op agri-business general manager. Picture: Jim Coughlan

In terms of readjusting to life back at the top tier of Cork hurling, the RedFM Hurling League could scarcely have gone better for Kanturk.

Following last year’s Co-op SuperStores Senior A Hurling Championship win, the Duhallow club are in premier senior, having been in the ‘old’ senior grade in 2018 and 2019. Nine games – most against fellow premier sides – in Division 1 Group B of the league saw them record seven wins, a draw and just one defeat, in the final match against Sarsfields after both had secured qualification.

The semi-final will be against Douglas, doubling up in Kanturk’s second championship game, but before that there is a meeting against Newtownshandrum in Mallow at 7pm tonight. Manager Donagh Duane is hoping to build on the league form, while knowing that it can’t be fully relied upon.

“To be honest, it was a pleasant surprise,” he says.

“We took the league on a game-by-game basis, trying to work on blooding young fellas and getting them to the level. There were some fantastic games against the Glen and St Finbarr’s, to name just a few, in that division.

“As we progressed, the young fellas responded brilliantly and they trained incredibly hard during January and February. I think that stood to us, that we had that strength in depth in the panel that we could mix it up a bit.

“Obviously, we’re a dual club, we had the football fixtures to fulfil every weekend as well and maintain a good focus on that.

“So, yes, it was a pleasant surprise to qualify. We haven’t had a chance to play the semi-final yet, it’ll double up with the group game against Douglas.

“That’ll be an extra incentive on the night but, as of now, it’s just about concentrating on championship and being ready for each game. Newtown is our main focus at the moment.”

When the championships were restructured at the end of 2019, Kanturk were among the unlucky few senior sides who missed out on premier – they failed to reach the quarter-finals, which would have guaranteed it, while two seasons weren’t sufficient to amass enough ranking points to take the other four spots.

In 2020, they reached the SAHC semi-final, losing to eventual champions Charleville, before going all the way last year with final victory over Fr O’Neills. Duane hopes that they can put the previous experience of senior to good use.

“Our first year was 2018 and, incidentally, it was Newtown we played in our first game that time as well,” he says.

“We had two years at senior and I think we learned an awful lot from it – as a club as a whole, we needed to learn to be part of this grade.

“It’s a huge, huge ask, especially because of the dual situation. The panel struggled back then but we have the young fellas coming through now, which has given us a bit of a backbone.

“Frank Flannery has come in as coach as well and given us huge, huge experience and knowledge for this particular Cork level of championship.

“I suppose 2018 and 2019 were harsh to us, but we had to take it as a learning curve. Where we stand and where we’re at now – we’ll only know Saturday night, when we play Newtown.
“That’s a huge test, it’s a big derby, it’s a huge local fixture. We need to see where we are and no better team to play than Newtown to see where we are.”

As ever, the challenging of balancing dual demands is present for Kanturk, but they’re off to a good start so far, having beaten Naomh Abán by 4-13 to 0-9 in the Premier IFC last week. Duane hopes that they can harness that momentum.

“We only saw it ourselves in training when they came back,” he says.

“There was a great pep in their step and a great buzz about them. There’s a good vibe in the camp and that’s one thing we’ve always taken as a dual club over the years – momentum is absolutely massive.

“We don’t want any negativity coming in or frustrations or disappointments. We were delighted as a club that they won in the football and the benefits of that were shown in hurling training – there was a great attitude and it was an excellent session, helping us build for this weekend.”

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