Christy O'Connor on Kanturk's quest and doubles in Cork club championship

Winning doubles at all levels in Cork has actually been pretty common over the last 15 years, including Bandon, Éire Óg, Grenagh and Valley Rovers
Christy O'Connor on Kanturk's quest and doubles in Cork club championship

Kanturk's Colin Walsh celebates his goal against Fr O'Neill's. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

HEADING into their Premier Intermediate football semi-final against Aghada in the middle of last month, fatigue was bound to be a concern for Kanturk after their senior A hurling semi-final against Newcestown went to extra-time the previous week.

For long stages of that football semi-final, Kanturk looked like a beaten side. After losing Ryan Walsh to a second yellow card on 28 minutes, Kanturk trailed by 0-7 to 0-3 at half-time. Black cards to Lorcan O’Neill and Paul Walsh late on looked like completely derailing the Kanturk train but they found a way with a brace of late points getting them over the line.

“This is great for football at the club, but it’s also great for hurling,” said Kanturk manager Tim Healy afterwards. “Winning gives itself an injection to keep on winning. I would say that coming from behind last week gave these lads the confidence to do it again today.” 

Kanturk's Ian Walsh is tackled by Fr O'Neill's Mark O'Keeffe. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Kanturk's Ian Walsh is tackled by Fr O'Neill's Mark O'Keeffe. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Kanturk had trailed Newcestown by eight points in the hurling semi-final before taking the game to extra-time and eventually running out nine-point winners. Winning against the odds against Aghada was all the more remarkable again considering 12 players featured in both games.

In his interview upon receiving the man-of-the-match award after Kanturk’s hurling final win against Fr O’Neill’s, Lorcán McLoughlin referenced that underlying concern that comes with the toll of such heavy dual demands. “With the football last weekend,” said McLoughlin, “you don’t know how you’re going to fire on the day.” 

One leg has already been achieved but Kanturk have a recent history of managing the double; it’s just four years since Kanturk claimed both Intermediate titles, with the hurlers going on to add Munster and All-Ireland titles to the haul.

Kanturk are operating with a combined squad of 35 but there is such a crossover from both squads that the hurlers and footballers share the one leadership group.

There are hundreds of stories every year of the friction in clubs between both codes but the chemistry in some clubs have got past those barriers by enabling both teams to maintain a highly symbiotic and successful relationship.

“A lot of it is to do with momentum and that kind of momentum is there again this year,” said Kanturk hurling manager Tom Walsh before their final against Fr O’Neill’s. 

“You start winning and, really, there isn’t that much training you can do. Winning matches brings great confidence.” 

JOY

It also brings huge enjoyment, which was a central theme to Loughmore-Castleiney’s incredible achievement in winning the senior championship double in Tipperary over the last two weekends.

“I don’t think any of us can believe what we’re after doing,” said Brian McGrath afterwards. “It’s just unbelievable, every week playing with those lads, there is no better feeling. I’ve never enjoyed a club championship as much. We absolutely love it.” 

The taste was all the sweeter again after Loughmore had narrowly lost both finals last year. That was bound to spark some soul-searching and hard questioning about the difficulty of the dual challenge.

Aside from the nobility associated with the chase, was it ultimately depriving them of actual success? Loughmore just shrugged their shoulders and kept on keeping on, as they always have.

Loughmore’s allegiance to their club, and their absolute commitment to the cause, has always been incredible. They previously managed the double in 2013 and almost did it again in 2014, when winning the football but losing the hurling final to Thurles Sarsfields.

Winning the double was never before achieved in Tipperary prior to 2013, but Loughmore have had a rich history of nearly winning both. In 1983, they won the football final and lost the hurling final to Borris-Ileigh. In 1987, Loughmore won the football again and lost the hurling final to Cappawhite.

It’s never been easy to win both, but this has been an unusual year given the sheer volume of senior doubles achieved around the country. Along with Loughmore, Kilmacud Crokes in Dublin, Naas in Kildare and St Eunan’s in Donegal also managed it. The Letterkenny club secured the double by shocking Setanta to win their first Donegal senior hurling title since 1972.

The excellent Twitter handle ‘GAA Stats’ recently revealed that the only previous time there were four senior doubles was as far back as 1903. However, they did clarify that spelling differences or sister clubs left that stat open to correction.

That number could have been even greater again this year; Slaughtneil were going for the double again (a treble if you include the camogie) but they lost the football final to Glen. Éire Óg also nearly managed it in Clare, winning the football but narrowly losing the hurling semi-final to Inagh/Kilnamona.

Trying to combine both in such a tight window is the biggest challenge; last Sunday was Loughmore’s 18th successive weekend in action. Having a joint management for both teams has been a huge help to Loughmore, but a harmonious relationship between both codes is the key. 

A win is for the club, not the code, which is how Kanturk have always looked at it.

Winning doubles at all levels in Cork has actually been pretty common in the county over the last 15 years; Bandon, Éire Óg, Grenagh and Valley Rovers have all achieved doubles in that time. 

Kanturk's Cian Clernon scores past Aghada goalkeeper Ciaran O'Shea. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Kanturk's Cian Clernon scores past Aghada goalkeeper Ciaran O'Shea. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Yet it would certainly be unique for a club to do it twice in quick succession.

And, in the year of the doubles, Kanturk firmly have that target in their sights now.

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