KILSHANNIG go into Sunday’s Co-op SuperStores Cork JAHC final against Erin’s Own chasing a double, having already claimed the Bons Secours Hospital Cork IAFC title.
Prior to this year, the club had only ever reached the Avondhu JAHC final once, losing in 2020 to Harbour Rovers, but the silverware was won as they beat Liscarroll/Churchtown Gaels in October’s decider.
Captain of the team Bill Curtin felt that there was a clear sense of purpose with regard to the small ball this year.
“We always knew that there was talent in both codes,” he says.
“Hurling mightn’t have got as much of a look-in as football did in recent years but this year we gathered in early February and we discussed our situation.
“We made it clear that there’s definitely room for improvement – we knew that we were good enough to have a crack at the North Cork championship and win it.
“We got to the North Cork final in 2020 but we were down a few injuries. That year, I had done my cruciate and there were one or two other fellas. This is the first time since we played Iveleary in our county semi-final in the football in 2019 that we’ve had a full squad.”
As much as that injury was a major setback to Curtin, who is in the final year of a biochemistry degree in UCC, the timing coincided with a long period of enforced in activity for the GAA and he ensured that he made the most of it.
“I tore it in my first game back after Covid in 2020, a hurling challenge match against Banteer,” he says, “and I wasn’t back until July of the following year.
“I had the lockdown in my luck, in a sense. I was able to do my gym-work away quietly at the club and there weren’t any other distractions other than college work.
“I did a fairly good rehab and I actually probably came back fitter than I was before. I used to be mainly a full-back, but since I returned from the cruciate, I’ve played more as a half-back.
“I’m a bit faster now and maybe a bit leaner than I was! I was haunted in a sense – obviously, it wasn’t a good thing to do my knee but it’s transformed my game in a sense, too.”
He has certainly played in his part in what is already a memorable year for Kilshannig. Victory over Aghabullogue in the county final gave them a second football championship in the space of four seasons and now they are one game away from county hurling glory too. With so many dual players, success in one code fed off the other.
“We had gone on a bit of a winning streak and we knew that there was a massive opportunity there to win both,” Curtin says.
“Our focus was on performance and thankfully, when we got to the North Cork hurling final and intermediate football county final, we performed well in both.
“That’s really been our motto this year – worry about performance and don’t have fear of losing, just go out and play the game.
“We had a bit of a fright when we played Gabriels in the group stage in the football. We knew that that was do-or-die and we were down a point with a minute left but we scored two to win it and keep our hopes alive.
And that experience of winning if football should ensure that nobody is overawed by the occasion, Curtin believes.
“We’re lucky in the sense that we played there three years ago and this year,” he says.
“We won’t be one bit shy of the occasion as it’s a massive opportunity for the club.
“We’ll go out on the day just focusing on the performance with no fear of losing. Don’t think about the occasion, you can worry about that when the game is over, it’s just all about performance and beating your man at the end of the day.”