An intriguing rematch lies ahead as Courcey Rovers will take on Fr O’Neills in the Co-op SuperStores Cork Senior A Hurling Championship final on Sunday, October 9.
The game, which has a 4pm throw-in and will be preceded by the IAHC final meeting of Cloughduv and Dungourney, will be a repeat of the Group B clash in Ovens in August, which the Ballymacoda/Ladysbridge side won by 2-20 to 0-19. Having lost the last two finals, O’Neills were the outright favourites at the start of the competition and their progression to another decider is no huge surprise.
However, the fact that Courceys, who finished runners-up in that group with wins over Killeagh and Blarney, have adapted so quickly to the second tier after last year’s Premier IHC triumph may not have been as widely expected.
Having beaten Ballyhea at the quarter-final stage, they followed that with a semi-final victory over Fermoy at Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Friday night. The final score was 5-14 to 0-14 in favour of the Ballinspittle/Ballinadee side, with Fermoy perhaps suffering from the long lay-off after they had earned a bye past the quarter-finals.
For Courceys manager Seán Guiheen, coming through such a tough group has definitely stood to his side.
“Our group was very competitive,” he says.
“There were four good teams so we got three massive games, three very hard games to get out of the group.
“Then we had to play another very good team in Ballyhea so that was good preparation for the semi-final against Fermoy.
“I felt we were that bit sharper whereas Fermoy had had the one-month break and I think that the game against Ballyhea really helped us in the semi.”
Coming up from the PIHC grade, Courceys have never looked overawed and instead they have built on the momentum that the success brought.
“The big thing for us was that we’d take it one game at a time,” Guiheen says.
“You can’t look any further than the first game and we just went from that. When you start winning, you build momentum and you want more.
“You come out of your group, win a quarter-final, then into the semi-final – you want to keep going and that’s the way we feel now at the moment.”
On Friday night, Courceys began well but fell 0-6 to 0-3 and 0-7 to 0-4 behind before Ronan Nyhan’s goal brought them back into contention. From there, they pushed on impressively, with Seán Twomey landing four goals as Tadhg O’Sullivan’s good deliveries were capitalised upon.
The collective effort in the lead-up to the game pointed to something positive, Guiheen felt, and once they adjusted things after the opening exchanges, that was borne out.
“They [Fermoy] played a third midfielder,” he says, “and we knew they’d do that, we tried to prepare for it in training as we’d watched a couple of DVDs of them.
“It was causing us problems in the middle third, they were creating the extra man everywhere, but once we got to grips with it and changed our shape, we got control of the game and drove on from then, I think.
“With Seán, if you can get quality ball into him, like Tadhg was doing, he can win his own ball. If he can get the quality ball and get the right ball, he’s a handful, to be fair to the guy.
“He’s a Cork inter-county hurler, he’s been superb for us. You could see it in training the last three or four weeks, we’ve been coming and there’s been a bit of a buzz there.”
Now the focus is firmly on Sunday week and the possibilities that that may bring. Guiheen knows that Fr O’Neills will be strong favourites but he just wants his team to go out and give a performance.
“We’ll be massive underdogs,” he says, “I know people were saying that the semi-final on Saturday night [O’Neills v Bride Rovers] was the real final.
“We’ll just put our heads down, work hard in training and enjoy it. I just want the boys to go out and hurl off the cuff and see what kind of a journey that takes us on.”