TEN Cork hurling clubs will have one thing in common this week and next, they are all preparing for one of the biggest days in their history, participation in a county final.
The clubs are, Ballygiblin, Tracton, Dungourney, Cloughduv, Courcey Rovers, Fr O’Neill’s, Castlemartyr, Inniscarra, St Finbarr’s and Blackrock.
There will be a great buzz of anticipation in those clubs, all believing that months and months of hard work, on the playing field itself and on the training ground will yield the dividend they so desperately desire.
A lot of the players involved and supporters alike will have had that experience before, winning and losing on the big day but that’s all in the past now, it’s all about conquering that Everest again.
The next best thing to winning a county final has to be preparing for it.
The weeks leading up it create a unique atmosphere in the clubs involved from the tea ladies who give so willingly of their time to the players and management teams, everybody is buzzing about, training is far more enjoyable, competition for places intense and supporters turn up in greater numbers just to be part of the big build-up.
On the inter-county front that is not allowed anymore, of course, more’s the pity but that’s the way it has gone.
Inter-county management teams are paranoid about giving the slightest thing away to the opposition and as a result, the gates are firmly locked.
No stone is left unturned now in a team’s preparation for a county final, the minutest detail has to be taken care of and nothing is left to chance.
Not alone in the club itself that is involved but in the villages, towns and the general community, the excitement builds with each passing day.
Next Saturday night and Sunday afternoon six rural clubs have it all to themselves in the three county finals that are listed, Ballygiblin and Tracton in the Premier Junior final, Cloughduv and Dungourney in the IAHC final and Courceys and O’Neill’s in the Senior A final.
A few clubs have had the experience of final day involvement in the recent past, Ballygiblin and Courceys triumphant last season in the JHC and PIHC finals and O’Neill’s beaten finalists twice in succession in the Senior A final.
Losing the previous final or finals adds a little bit of extra pressure because you certainly don’t want to have to endure that experience again.
On the plus side, the experience of being involved before has to be a motivating factor, trying to rectify the mistakes that might have cost you previously.
The senior final next Sunday week is fascinating, not because it’s an all- city pairing between two clubs with a very rich heritage but the fact that one club has been successful very recently and the other hasn’t even been in a final for 29 years. The Rockies were successful two years ago while the Barrs have not contested a final since 1993.
Some will be of the opinion that the Rockies' experience of winning on the big day, being there and done that will be of enormous benefit but on the other side there is the belief that the hunger of the Barrs to end a lengthy famine will carry them a long way.
All of that, of course, is a matter of opinion and the age-old cliché of it all being on the day will apply again, who will want it more coming down the stretch, who will get a lucky break and so on.
However, one thing is certain this week and next out in Togher, the levels of excitement and anticipation will be huge and it is because of the fact that they have waited so long to be involved again on the biggest day of the year in Cork sport.
Yes, that is what the Cork county senior hurling final is and nobody will tell me otherwise.
All’s well again after that traumatic time so you can only imagine what it would be like if the Barrs win again after 29 years, the green sward of Páirc Uí Chaoimh turned into a sea of blue.
A Barrs win would be like their first all over again but one way or the other, it should be a day for the ages on the banks of the Lee with the Rockies going all out to extend that losing stretch of their opponents.
But it’s first things first next weekend with the aforementioned Ballygiblin, Tracton, Dungourney, Cloughduv, Courcey Rovers and Fr O’Neill’s taking centre stage.
All six clubs have tasted success in various county finals down the years with Ballygiblin and Courceys trying to win back-to-back titles in different grades two years running.
The past couple of months for all the finalists have been about building towards one big day in the Autumn, emerging from a very difficult group stage which applies in all the grades, getting past a quarter and a semi-final to be a part of what is a huge day in any club’s history.
It’s certainly far more difficult to win a county now, there are more games to play for starters with the group stage whereas in the past you might reach a final by playing just three games.
Now to win it outright you have six hurdles to jump, five if you are fortunate enough to take the direct route into a semi-final.
All the championships in the various grades are damn hard to win but there is universal approval that the current format has given an extra and welcome dimension to the whole thing.