Jerome O’Connell looks forward to St Kieran’s Munster JHC final against Cork champions Kildorrery. The game is on Sunday, December 9, in Mallow.
BACK in 2010, St Kieran’s lost the County JAHC final to Effin.
They have since watched the progress of the small south Limerick club from junior level to senior level and trough two different Munster championship campaigns.
A new management assumed control in St Kierans for 2012 the question they put to their panel was simple.
“Why not us?”
The men from the Ardagh, Kilcolman, Coolcappa, Carrigkerry villages wanted to prove they belonged at the business end of the junior championship and therefore it was mission accomplished with the county final win over Monagea.
“I could sense the pressure before the county final,” recalls manager David Woulfe.
“No one wanted to loose a second final in three years - we had everything to loose. After beating Monagea twice already, it all would have been for nothing if we lost the final again,” outlined Woulfe.
Promotion to the intermediate ranks for 2013 was the goal.
But this Sunday, it’s a Munster title that the men in green and gold are chasing.
“There is no pressure at all now,” said Woulfe.
“I remember before we played Kilsheelan you could see that the pressure was off the lads. Maybe there was a little pressure again for the Kenmare but on Sunday we are coming into the final in a great position,” he explained.
Their provincial quarter-final ended in an emphatic 0-14 to 1-2 win over Kilsheelan.
“People didn’t give us much credit at the time because they weren’t Tipp champions but they have won it since. Tipperary sides have won the senior and the intermediate, so I’d say their junior side weren’t too bad either. We kept them to three scores and that’s something to achieve that.”
On Sunday in Mallow, Woulfe is looking for a repeat of that Kilsheelan performance.
Fourteen or 15 fellas have to play up to level if we are to have a chance.”
Confidence is another key ingredient that Woulfe continues to stress to his players.
“We didn’t believe we could win that county final two years ago,” he points out.
“Even in the west final this year we were level at half time and it took us until we got four or five points in the second half before we realised we could win it and then we pushed on,” he explained.
“I have been telling the lads all year that they are good enough and they seem to have bought into that now.”
The current management team are in their first year as a unit in charge of the team.
But Woulfe is quick to point to the foundations laid by others.
“We have great experience in the likes of Johnny and Paudie McCarthy and Patrick and Sean Windle and Anthony Molyneaux and then we have about six U-21s.”
He continued: “All those young fellas like Darragh Treacy and Ian Mackessy have come up along from the Bord na nOg and the likes of Deirdre Ambrose and others deserve great credit for helping to bring along all those players”.
The hurling manager is also quick to point to a “great working relationship” with the club’s senior football management.
“We work hand-in-hand with mostly the same players. I would have to say that Niall Crowley and John English came in this year to do the physical training and it has stood to us. The lads are in great condition. We have finished a good few of our games the stronger and hopefully that will be the case again on Sunday.”
Woulfe said that the senior status of the club’s footballers is more a help than a hindrance.
“There have always been hurling teams here - we have been up senior football since 1971 and rightly they get maybe more prominence. In the late ‘90’s and early years of the 2000’s hurling did nearly die.”
They decision was made at the end of 2003 to regrade back down junior B.
The response was immediate and they won the county championship the following year.
“We have been improving every year since - reaching West semi-finals and two West finals before this year,” outlined Woulfe.
The club’s history does show three Munster championship voyages for their senior footballers, but for involved in this hurling side, the provincial championship was new territory.
“I suppose we do have some experience with Johnny McCarthy playing in two or three Munster finals in football and the likes of Paudie and Patrick and Sean Windle have a lot of experience as well,” he outlined.
For all involved in the club its uncharted waters.
“I must say that the club have been great,” said the manager.
“All the officers are fully behind us, led by chairman John Ryan. Anything we need we get,” he said.
St Kierans are underdogs on Sunday but are fully confident in their own ability.
They have travelled to Mallow to familiarise themselves with the surrounds and have utilised the all-weather facilitates of Mick Neville Park in Rathkeale for training in recent times.
“Its hard to believe that the Christmas decorations are up and we are still hurling. It’s normally the other way that we are taking down the decorations and starting to think about the year ahead.”
“It’s a massive thing for our club. We will leave no stone unturned. We are under no illusions as to how hard this is going to be but if we play to our potential we won’t be too far away.”
Getting a good start will be key for St Kierans against a Cork side that are bidding for their county’s seventh title from 10 runnings of this championship.
Three years ago Blackrock shocked Fermoy to win’ Limerick’s only crown at this level.
That day also saw Limerick representation in the football final and all in the St Kierans camp will be hoping that history could repeat itself as they bid to books an All-Ireland semi-final spot against the Leinster champions on January 26/27.