WHEN then-18-year-old Jason McDonnell made his Kilmurry debut in the county JAFC final in 2012, the goalkeeper could have easily gone under.
He didn’t and despite the Muskerry team losing that decider after a replay to Rockchapel, McDonnell came out with his reputation enhanced.
The netminder, who has been pretty much ever-present between the sticks since replacing Pat O’Callaghan who went off injured in the drawn JAFC final a decade ago, thought at the time the team would come back the following year and go one better, but sport doesn’t work like that.
Kilmurry had to wait a decade to get their hands on the county JAFC title, following a win over Cobh in November 2022, the club's first adult title since their previous county junior A success back in 1986.
The hard part was done by the time they made their way into Páirc Uí Chaoimh for the decider, last season was unusual in the sense that whoever won the divisional title in their respective divisions would be promoted to the new premier junior grade for this year.
Kilmurry made no mistake beating Aghinagh in the Muskerry final and therefore promotion to the higher grade.
For Kilmurry’s trusted custodian, who has seen his fair share of heartache over the years says 2022 was a “special” year.
“Incredible, such a special year for the club,” said McDonnell.
“It was a huge year for us, we had to deliver, we got to a stage where we were thinking will we ever gain promotion.
"We probably didn’t do ourselves justice over the years, we left a lot of people down, and we wanted to put that right and thankfully we have done so now.
"Everything just came together, Cormac Linehan was the new manager and he brought in a good backroom team, David Drummond, Con Barry-Murphy and Denis O’Mullane and they could not have done any more to be honest.
"The team spirit last year was the best I have ever experienced.
The 2022 Muskerry JAFC final was one of the biggest in a long time given what was at stake and it was no surprise that a huge crowd were present in Coachford, but in truth, the decider never caught fire.
Despite a close and cagey opening, once Kilmurry got going there was going to be no stopping them, and the celebrations after the game were of more relief than anything else, the green and gold had finally delivered promotion.
“It was one of the biggest games of our lives, there were too many games in the past where we left it behind us, but we were well up for the final.
"We knew Aghinagh were going to be tricky opponents especially after they beat us the previous year in championship, but we had that mentality going into the game that we weren’t going to lose, we had gone too far to just leave it all behind us.
"It was a magnificent one to win, it’s always nice to win the Muskerry championship and to achieve promotion as well was the icing on the cake.”
Kilmurry, despite achieving promotion, would go on and win the county beating Cobh in the final.
After a sense of relief winning the division, Kilmurry let the hair down following the county success, the scenes once the full-time whistle blew would have made the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, the Kilmurry supporters in their hundreds rushed onto the pitch to celebrate with their heroes.
There was a special picture taken by Dan Linehan, which appeared in the match report inof McDonnell with his daughter Arianna.
“It’s a magnificent picture, something that I’ll cherish for the rest of my life, all the hard work had paid off.
Kilmurry will be fancied in the premier junior grade this year, and the momentum and confidence should bring them a long way.
The Mid-Cork outfit will be up against Millstreet, Kinsale and St James in the group stage, before that it’s the Division 6 league to contend with, first up for Kilmurry are Gabriel Rangers away from home this Friday night.
“We want to be as competitive as possible. I know people are probably sick of hearing it, but we will take it game by game.”