IF it wasn’t for Colm Casey’s green flag in the last puck of the Cork PIHC final last month, Castlemartyr would have joined the senior ranks of Cork hurling.
Having looked like finally seeing off the Inniscarra challenge in the replay, it will certainly rankle with the team from Imokilly that they didn’t get over the line.
But, nonetheless, when you look at the bigger picture, it has been a magnificent rise in the last couple of years, having won two consecutive County titles, lower Intermediate in the delayed 2020 final and Intermediate A in 2021.
The team in red and white who were a Junior A club in 2014, the trajectory is still moving in the right direction and with a really good crop of young players, they will be fancied to be at the business end of the PIHC next year.
One of the young gems who has had a sublime start to his adult career is full-back Daragh Moran.
The joint-captain has lifted silverware in the last two seasons, not bad for a player who joined the panel in 2018. In 2019, the 22-year-old captained Castlemartyr’s U21 B hurlers to County glory for the first time.
Castlemartyr certainly have a really good crop of youngsters, with their underage amalgamation with near neighbours Dungourney, known as Kiltha Óg, functionating well.
Despite the heart-breaking PIHC final defeat to Inniscarra last month, Moran is confident his team can go one step further in 2023. It was only three years ago, the Imokilly team beat Ballinhassig’s second team in the IHC relegation play-off. They haven’t done badly since then.
The young defender says while the disappointment of the replay defeat came in the most agonising of ways, huge positives can be taken from 2022.
“This was our first season up at this level and the goal was to finish in the top two of the group. That was a really tough ask when we were pitted with Ballincollig, Kilworth and Ballinhassig.
"We were underdogs in all three games. We won well against Ballincollig the first day, lost to Kilworth, which was an eye-opener, and then beat a very good Ballinhassig team to qualify. It was a huge achievement for a young group.
"Then to see off two strong hurling teams in Carrigaline and Castlelyons in the quarter-final and semi-final was just brilliant. It’s a young team and this season will definitely benefit us and if anything, it will make us stronger.”
Ten minutes into our conversation and we finally move onto that goal in the replay.
The East-Cork side were seconds from glory, what did the Civil Engineering student in UCC make of the closing stages of the replay?
“We were playing well, nearly over the line until Colm Casey scored a wonder of a goal, we probably couldn’t have done any more.
"We did everything we could as a team to see the game out.”
The dust has settled on the final defeat, but it can’t take away from the magnificent rise of the team in red and white.
From beating Ballinhassig’s second string in the 2019 IHC to starve off any threat of relegation to within seconds of reaching the Senior hurling ranks three years later, what changed to spark this revival?
“A combination of things to be honest, a few really good young players joined the panel, Ciarán Joyce being one, Eoin Murphy came in as a coach, he played for Waterford and was involved with Derek McGrath in Waterford and manged many clubs, he was a huge addition.
"Also the experience of the older lads have played a key role in getting the team closer, it’s a very tight-knit group.”
The underage amalgamation with near neighbours Dungourney was a bold but brave move for Castlemartyr 19 years ago, under the same umbrella known as Kiltha Óg, the hard work certainly seems to be paying dividends.
“It took time to get going, but the relationship between the two clubs have really flourished in the last few years, it’s working very well, and everyone is on the same page. It will be a great occasion when we play them in the league next season.”