IT took Kilmurry six games to win Muskerry, three more to win Cork, another to reach a Munster final and now here they are in an unexpected provincial decider.
Problem is there’s a major obstacle standing in their way of becoming the first Cork club to lift silverware since Knocknagree in 2017, apart from history, as well, because Kerry sides have won 15 of the 18 titles on offer.
It happens that the greatest footballer of this era and several others, it could be argued, happens to be in the Fossa attack and the very mention of David Clifford is enough to have the hairs standing on the necks of the entire Kilmurry team, never mind the defence or the player tasked with marking him.
The Player of the Year lines out in his seventh major final of 2022, starting with division 1 in the league and continuing with Munster and All-Irelands for Kerry before switching to his division East Kerry and Fossa in senior and junior counties in addition to the Sigerson Cup decider with UL.
Now, the gifted one is spearheading the Killarney club’s bid for a first Munster title in a game that had tickets selling like hotcakes earlier in the week.
Someone went to the considerable and commendable effort of compiling his scores for the year and the estimate is put at 20 goals and 157 points for all teams, a phenomenal return by all standards.
Clifford’s obvious importance to Fossa was reflected in the county final against Listry, who managed to score 0-22, but still lost after extra time, as Clifford posted 2-12 of his side’s 0-22 with brother Paudie adding 1-2.
And while the brothers are obviously the mainstays, their 1-22 to 0-5 Munster semi-final win over Limerick’s Castlemahon also showcased another set of brothers, Emmet and Tadhg O’Shea who hit 1-7 and 0-3 respectively.
Kilmurry, duly, note what awaits, as chairman Peter Lyons commented. “That’s the extent of the challenge in front of us with David Clifford and we mustn’t forget his brother either,” he said.
“It suits us that Fossa are the favourites and I’ve no doubt that our management and players will have everything sussed out. We’ll turn up anyway,” Lyons joked.
The parish has been football-mad all year and it’s cranked up a number of levels since reaching a Munster final.
It’s our first time in a Munster final, in my time anyway, so it would be the biggest game in the club’s history.
“We’re delighted to be in it obviously after winning our first county in 32 years. The bunting is still up since the county final.
“The aim at the start of the season would have been to win Muskerry, but it was really one game at a time. Last year we went out in the quarter-final after losing on penalties to the eventual champions Aghinagh.
“It’s tough going in Muskerry and not an easy championship to win. Our neighbours Canovee gave us a right hard game in the semi-final. Muskerry is always a good championship to win and while we pulled away near the end Aghinagh also made it tough.”
Like the rest of the divisional champions, Kilmurry will now take their place in next season’s new PJFC, the draw for which will be made at Convention on Sunday.
“We were taking it game by game and that’s been the case all year,” Lyons added.
It’s all a far cry from the group phase in Muskerry, when Kilmurry defeated Kilmichael, Clondrohid, and Dripsey to reach the knock-out section, where they defeated Éire Óg, Canovee, and Aghinagh by 3-10 to 1-8 in the final.
Three more games against St James, Urhan, and Cobh yielded a most welcome county before embarking on a journey into the unknown in Munster, where Tipperary’s Thurles Sarsfields awaited.
First-half goals against the wind from David McCarthy and Padraig Brehanu helped Kilmurry lead by 2-2 to 0-7 at the break and Liam Wall’s 0-6 contribution was central to a 2-11 to 0-12 victory.
Now, everyone is agog with excitement and anticipation of trying to contain Clifford and maybe ending 2022 on the biggest high of all.