SUNDAY’S AIB Munster Club SHC semi-final against Ballyea in Cusack Park (1.15pm) will be St Finbarr’s first experience of provincial hurling action since a 1-10 to 0-12 defeat to Tipperary’s Toomevara on November 7, 1993.
In the time since, only Newtownshandrum – on three occasions – have claimed provincial supremacy for Cork. While such a statistic isn’t on the minds of the Barrs players, Damien Cahalane – one of their stars on the journey to winning the Seán Óg Murphy Cup – is keen to make the most of the chance.
“We’re not maybe looking at it that deeply in terms of what it does for the county as a whole,” he says, “but, definitely, the message we’d be trying to get across is that you don’t know when this opportunity will come about again.
“I know we’re perceived probably as a young team. I played in my first county semi-final at 16 years of age against Newtown and I thought, ‘Great, this is going to happen every year,’ – it doesn’t, it’s the same for those lads coming through, you don’t know when that opportunity is going to come about again so for sure we’re going to give it our all again.
“If it’s good enough, it is and if it’s not, we’ll be safe in the knowledge of knowing that at least we gave it a good lash anyway.”
Now 30, Cahalane played for the Barrs senior team as a 16-year-old and, while there were some tough days along the way, he never gave up hope that they would end the wait for county glory.
“Every year we’ve been confident of progressing to the latter stages,” he says, “some years it didn’t happen and we ended up in a relegation final and fighting for our lives there.
“Other years, we maybe got to quarters or semis and maybe were unfortunate with injuries. We came up against Midleton or Imokilly or Glen who were really, really good teams who pipped us.
“This year, we had a good core of experienced players who have been through all of that. Added to the youth coming through in the club. Maybe one or two in their first year, others in their second or third year. Gaining that bit of experience all the time. Added to that bit of belief that we could go on and maybe take a scalp.”
Now, they’re hoping to take the scalp of Ballyea. A long way towards that is stopping Tony Kelly, but Cahalane knows that that cannot be the only focus.
“Tony’s an absolutely fantastic player, one of the best in the country if not the best,” he says.
“We’re going to have be on our guard and come up with a plan but I think it’s important not to forget the things that we do well as well and try to focus on what we do well.
“Obviously, someone will have a job to do but we have to concentrate on ourselves and make sure that we’re right as well.”