Thursday, November 23, 2017

The senior hurling clubs in Cork would do well to take note of Kanturk’s seasonal odyssey, writes Peter McNamara.

Albeit at a level below the senior grade, Kanturk’s willingness to utilise county championship success as a springboard instead of viewing it as the be-all and end-all is admirable.

Following on from previous Munster Club IHC triumphs for Bride Rovers, Ballinhassig, Blarney, Ballymartle and Youghal, Kanturk landed the second-tier provincial title last Sunday after extra-time overcoming Clare representatives Kilmaley.

Granted, many will make valid arguments that winning the intermediate Munster crown should be easier than prevailing in the senior equivalent.

Kanturk’s Anthony Nash. Pic: Sportsfile.

Not necessarily, however, as the qualities of the competing teams are all relative in each of the two competitions in question.

Furthermore, if Na Piarsaigh of Limerick can manage to win four senior provincial titles in seven years what excuse do the majority of senior champions and representatives of Cork have in these last few years at failing to even reach a Munster final?

In the last eight renewals of the Munster final, only Glen Rovers, to their credit, rocked up at fixture in 2016.

Ballygunner, losing Munster finalists now both this year and in 2015, are another example of how being almost content with winning a county title should be frowned upon on Leeside.

Liam O’Keeffe, Kanturk and Conor Cleary,Kilmaley clash during their Munster Intermediate hurling championship final at Páirc na nGael, Limerick. Pic: Dan Linehan.

The main objective for every club in the county, and in the country for that matter, at their respective grade, should be to win an All-Ireland title.

And before people laugh off that theory, they should ask themselves: Why exactly would that not be a feasible target when we all have witnessed so many fairytale sporting stories over the years?

Every club should aim for the stars. There is nothing wrong with that. Kanturk are doing it right now. And look where it has brought them to.

Donagh Duane’s outfit are into an All-Ireland quarter-final against Kilburn Gaels of London, a match they will be expected to win with ease, even if they would dismiss that judgement in public.

And then, as if by magic, they are one win away from an All-Ireland final. One win. When people really appreciate how much is involved in claiming a provincial title and progressing to an All-Ireland decider, it really is not as taxing a journey as is perceived.

It is not as if to get to that point teams have to be victorious in, say, another 10 matches outside of their counties.

Are the contests outside of your own county domain tougher? Yes, obviously they are. Are they even close to impossible to win, however? Well, ask Kanturk about that.

You had to like Duane’s post-match comments last Sunday, too.

He said: “The best thing about this victory is that we are not done yet.

“We have another game in a couple of weeks.”

No resting on their laurels there. Kanturk know now what the real end-game is and should be: National success. It’s funny how getting out of their respective county can open the eyes of a club to the potential riches further afield. It tends to give clubs added impetus. And a revised perspective. Well, it should anyway.

Kanturk now aim to be the best intermediate hurling team in the land. Duane and his players understand the opportunity their attitudes towards the provincial championship has now afforded them.

And they are adamant they can take the next steps to the ultimate triumph. A triumph that would transform their club in historical terms.

The names of every man and woman involved with this team will be remembered forever in Kanturk if they go on to become All-Ireland champions.

Just imagine what a success like that would do for the confidence of the individuals on the playing and management sides of the coin.

Take Lorcan O’Neill for instance. He, as captain, lifted the Hoare Cup in the Gaelic Grounds.

Yet, how amazing would it be for that man to lift silverware in the Hogan Stand in Croke Park?

It would be a moment that, potentially, may not be on offer to another Kanturk clubman ever again. You have to grasp these opportunities when they arise.

At the very least, you have to give absolutely everything you have as a club to try and grasp them.

Back in 2014 I interviewed O’Neill at Páirc Uí Chaoimh in advance of the county championships.

When you speak to any player in any code they will obviously discuss their ambitions and the ambitions of the team they are representing at the time.

However, leaving the venue that night his thoughts stood out as being particularly interesting.

“We (Kanturk) have a lot of potential,” O’Neill explained. “Now, I am not saying it’ll all fall into place for us this season, or even next season.

“In, maybe, three years we would hope that we would be in a position to truly convert that potential into something tangible.

“Of course, we want to win long before then if we can, this year if we can.

“Part, though, of this development is to be realistic at all times and understand the level of work we have to put in to get to the level we know we can operate at in future.

“We are confident we will get there, though.”

Indeed, they are certainly arriving at the point they planned to be at around this time.

And it is that foresight that could also stand other clubs in good stead.

With plenty of realistic ambition goals can be achieved, goals that might have otherwise seemed beyond a club.

Challenging for All-Ireland titles should be the true target for every club.

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