WHEN Castlemartyr and Cobh produced a splendid hour's football on a scorching hot day in the group stages of this year's Michael O'Connor Motor Factors East Cork Championship, it showed they both had the capacity to make a big impact later in the season.
On this Sunday afternoon, 3pm, they will renew acquaintances in Caherlag to decide the destination of this year's championship crown and with it a place in the new county premier junior championship next year.
It will be a case of bridging a long gap for whichever side emerges victorious in Sunday's final showpiece. Cobh, with nine titles, haven't lifted the silverware since 1988 while Castlemartyr's last success of six was in 1991.
Both sides are similar, with an exciting array of quality young footballers blended with some seasoned campaigners. They both have been very impressive on the way to the decider. Cobh, who will be appearing in their third final in four years, have had the longer journey, playing five games to Castelmartyr's three.
Castlemartyr began with a low-scoring draw against Carrigtwohill - Mike Kelly's late penalty earning a vital share of the spoils in a tight group. Their subsequent 2-12 to 2-10 win over Sunday's opponents in their second game put them in a strong position and when Midleton then awarded them a walk-over, a direct pathway to the semi-final emerged.
An exciting penultimate round fixture resulted in a merited 4-13 to 1-16 win over Cloyne, to book the club a final ticket for the first time in 31 years.
Meanwhile, Cobh, who had accounted for Midleton, 1-11 to 0-4, the first day out, recovered well from that narrow loss to Castlemartyr by posting a 1-9 to 0-8 win over Carrigtwohill in their final group game. Cobh hit the high spots in the subsequent quarter-final against Bride Rovers recording a very impressive 4-8 to 0-8 win, avenging last year's final defeat.
Their good run continued in the semi-final as the Harbour town men again took an early grip and built up an impressive six-point interval lead, 1-6 to 0-3, with Adam McCarthy getting the vital goal. Nathan O'Connell registered his side's second goal late on, as the Cobh defence held Carraig na bhFear scoreless in the second 30 minutes, to win by 13.
Cobh manager Declan O'Connell is hoping to get over the line this time.
"We are hoping the influx of a few young players in recent years and the work done at juvenile level can make the difference to see us over the line. It would mean an awful lot to the entire club and the people of Cobh if we could win this time.
"We have had a super match against Castlemartyr already this season. It was real end-to-end stuff and we were mighty impressed with the quality of Castlemartyr that day. As a result of that defeat, we had to win against Carrigtwohill.
"They also provided us with a real stiff challenge and it was good for our fellas that we were able to overcome them."
Then came two huge games in the knockout phase.
"I thought we took the life out of the game early against Bride Rovers as we converted our goal chances and were able to see it out. Mentally and physically we were ready for the Carraig na bhFear game in the semi-final.
"We might not have landed all the knockout blows, but did enough to get through." For a club the size of Cobh, 34 years is too long to be waiting for a football title.
Castlemartyr joint-manager Paul Kelly explained their players are looking forward to a "whole new experience".
"We still have a proud connection with some of the players who won the club's last title in 1991 and we also have several bands of brothers in our current squad.
"Looking back, our opener was played in very difficult weather conditions against Carrigtwohill on a day that both sides played better against the elements.
"We were delighted to come away with something from that match. Cobh and ourselves played out a fine game next time in what was a really challenging hour. We were fortunate to build up a six-point lead, but Cobh showed great character to come back very strongly.
"In the semi-final, again it looked like a really good game against a very seasoned Cloyne team, but credit to our players who all put their shoulder to the wheel and delivered the result."