WHEN he won his sixth county medal for St Finbarr’s back in 1993, Ger Cunningham couldn’t have imagined that he’d have to wait 29 years for them to make it back to the biggest day in the Co-op Superstores Cork hurling championships.
However, that burden of history wasn’t on Cunningham’s mind in the run-up to their victory over Newtownshandrum in Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Sunday.
“We came down here with one objective, really. We haven’t been in a county final in 29 years so that was our aim, that was our goal, and we’re absolutely delighted to be there. We expected a massive game from Newtown today but we felt that we were ready. We had trained well, we were in a good place.
“Our focus was on ourselves, who was in the final didn’t matter until after our own game. We were just focusing on trying to get a good start, trying to build early into the game and we did manage to start really well. We took our foot off the pedal when Conor Twomey was sent off, it went a bit away from us in the following 10 minutes.
"We started not doing what we’re good at and they came into the game, saw an opportunity pushed on and got some great scores. At half-time there was only five in it but the break gave us a chance to re-group and we got the goal after half-time, tacked on a few points and that was the game done."
There’s no secret about the array of talent coming out of Togher at the moment and Cunningham is happy to see them get a reward for their endeavours, but he recognises the significance of the achievement for the older players too.
“All of the lads worked really hard, all of the way through. On different days different people will get different scores so it’s all about a team effort. We’ve a squad of 30 that work hard, some lads don’t get a chance to perform on days like that but hopefully, they’ll drive on and push themselves in place to play in the county final.”
Twenty nine years is too long for a blub like St Finbarr’s, and that is a fact not lost on the Cunningham.
“It’s massive to the Barrs. You saw the supporters there today, there’s a whole generation of young Barrs players who’ve never seen the Barrs play even in a semi-final, let alone a final, so we’re delighted.
"We pride ourselves on trying to compete at the top level, we haven’t been there for a while, but there’s been an awful lot of work done over the years by an awful lot of people to try and get the Barrs back and I’m lucky enough to be at the end of that work this year in that we’ve a good group of lads coming through."
As for the final?
“We face a massive task the next day against our old rivals, the Rockies, who we haven’t seen in a final for 40 years. But it’s great to be there."