'Knocknagree is a small village but we've a great football culture'

John Fintan Daly on the Duhallow club's remarkable rise up through the ranks since their junior victory in 2017
'Knocknagree is a small village but we've a great football culture'

Daniel O'Callaghan, Clyda Rovers, Kealan Buckley and Patrick Doyle, Knocknagree, under the dropping ball at Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Saturday night. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

THIS may have been his third post-match interview, actually, it was probably his fourth, but the emotion was still as raw as ever in the voice of Knocknagree manager John Fintan Daly on Saturday evening.

Daly had just led his side to the final of the Bon Secours Senior A Football Championship after they defeated Clyda Rovers in an enthralling semi-final clash at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

The class of Cork footballer Eoghan McSweeney from the bench proved to be the difference on the night as his two sublime points late on helped Knocknagree secure a 1-17 to 1-15 victory and set up a meeting with St Michael’s in their first ever showpiece occasion at this level.

“Ah sure listen, it was fantastic,” began the boss.

“People wonder, where do we get the reserves from? Where do we get the belief from? And I say this group... they’re a fantastic group.

“We have a great culture. We are a small village team, and we are like, we’re a very small village team but we are a special group and there is an unbreakable bond there.

“It’s going to be… what is it? Our fourth county championship in six years. I imagine it’s never been done before.

“We won the Cork junior championship in 2017 after struggling for a few years to get our act together, that’s a hard championship to win.

 Cian O'Sullivan, Clyda Rovers, is challenged by Gearoid Looney, Knocknagree. Picture: Jim Coughlan.
Cian O'Sullivan, Clyda Rovers, is challenged by Gearoid Looney, Knocknagree. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

“We became the first Cork club to beat a Kerry club in the Munster final in Mallow in 2017 to win the Munster then we won the All Ireland junior in Croke Park, what a memory that is from 2018.

“We won the Intermediate championship in Cork in 2019 and then we won the Premier Intermediate in 2020 and here we are now in the Senior A final in 2022.

“And people think we are an aging team because it has all been done so fast but we are not an aging team at all.

10 of the guys that played tonight within the 18 are 23 years old or younger. That’s how young they are and some of our best players are out injured with medium to long-term injuries, they’re a huge loss to us.

“One of those is Eoghan McSweeney and you saw yourself when he came on, you can’t beat class.

“He kicked two long-range points that are Eoghan McSweeney specials and that’s what he can bring to Cork when he is playing with them.” 

As this post-match interview was drawing to a close, John Fintan Daly was keen to pay tribute to one of the club’s most important members who unfortunately wasn’t able to attend this famous win.

“It’s an honour for us and there is pride in the club to be here. It’s wonderful and I would like to send out a message to Denis Hickey, who is our most earnestly statesmen with regards to players.

“He won a championship with Knocknagree in 1966 when they won the Junior championship for the first time.

“Six foot three, he’s been to every training session we have ever had, he has been a great follower of mine but he’s in a hospital bed in Tralee so he couldn’t be here tonight.

“It was the first game he missed I’d say in 20 years but what this will do for him in his recovery. These are the people you think of on occasions like this,” he insists.

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