Final thoughts: Can Michael Hurley make a Cork return, Nemo's strange ways, how high can Cill na Martra fly?

Cork Football and Hurling Championships: The weekend's big talking points 
Final thoughts: Can Michael Hurley make a Cork return, Nemo's strange ways, how high can Cill na Martra fly?

AT LAST: Cill Na Martra captain Gearóid Ó 'Goillidhe raises the Billy Long after defeating Bantry Blues in Cork's Premier IFC final at Pairc Ui Chaoimh. 

Cork manager John Cleary doesn’t need to see any highlights reel to know of Michael Hurley’s bag of tricks. Cleary has been watching the younger Hurley brother since his earliest days in the blue and white of Castlehaven.

The pair have worked together at club level. Could that relationship now be rekindled at inter-county level in 2024?

It has been two seasons since Michael Hurley’s Cork stint came to an abrupt end. His county championship form of recent weeks absolutely merits a recall. But will he be recalled by Cleary? And if so, will the 27-year-old accept?

Hurley put a heap of pressure on himself when kicking seven semi-final points. Six of those were from play. The other was a mark. It meant he was a marked man coming into Sunday’s decider.

And sure what did the corner-forward do only go and put one game-winning performance on top of another when swinging over five points from play.

He dummied Kieran Histon for Castlehaven’s opener. He provided an instant response to the first time Nemo got level. He won an early second half free that brother Brian converted. He ended their 18-minute barren spell. He provided the clincher deep in injury-time.

He could have done no more to get Castlehaven over the line. He can do no more to pen a second chapter in red.

Eoghan Cormican

The Haven's new breed.

When Castlehaven manager James McCarthy first put the spotlight on the new wave of talent, we enquired who they are. He has seven U21s in his squad.

Last month when the Premier SFC quarter final was played outside of Páirc Uí Chaoimh, the manager felt it was a missed opportunity to gain experience for his younger brigade.

He needn’t have worried. His tyros took to Cork HQ like a duck to water.

The first player he lists is goalkeeper Darragh Cahalane.

“When regular goalkeeper Anthony Seymour got injured, we asked Darragh Cahalane to try out for goal, he is in his early 20s. He said he would have a go off of it. Anthony is back, but he didn’t displace Darragh for the final.

“You have Thomas O’Mahony wing-back, he is in his second year. The two wing-forwards Jack O’Neill and Seán Browne started for the first time this year. Nobody might have heard of them before.

“Jack Cahalane is only 20 years of age. Micheál Maguire came on this year for us. Andrew Whelton started midfield, a big call, a big day for him. They are all big players. We have only two or three over the age of 30.”

Therese O'Callaghan.

 FAMILY FORTUNE: Castlehaven brothers Brian and Michael Hurley with their mother Patricia with the Andy Scannell trophy.
FAMILY FORTUNE: Castlehaven brothers Brian and Michael Hurley with their mother Patricia with the Andy Scannell trophy.

Nemo lost their identity and then the county final

Up until the second minute of second-half injury-time in Sunday’s Cork Premier SFC decider, Nemo’s season of stifling and shut-outs had served them more than fine. Their suffocation-first approach had not once failed them.

And had they held firm following Barry Cripps' superb lead point on 58 minutes or found an equaliser following Brian Hurley’s even more impressive free in the 62nd minute, the conversation around Nemo’s approach and their deviation from more familiar front-foot ways would be far more muted.

But they could neither protect their lead nor produce a leveller, and so a more audible post-mortem will now play out.

Did Nemo’s containment game-plan speak to a lack of faith in their forward unit? Did it speak to a fear that their forward unit would not better Castlehaven’s?

Fourteen months ago, Nemo and the Haven engaged in a high-quality shootout below in Clon, at the end of which Nemo took a 3-13 to 1-16 victory back up to the city with them. The men from Trabeg went on to put 1-16 on the Barrs in the county final.

It is against this backdrop that their approach for the 2023 season and, in particular, the 2023 final becomes difficult to make sense of.

Luke Connolly was not only starved of possession for long periods as Nemo sat contently and allowed Castlehaven go back and forth across the 45-metre line, he was too often isolated as Nemo struggled to get sufficient bodies forward when counter-attacking.

Nemo have contested 28 Cork football finals. 23 were won, five lost. Sunday’s 0-9 was the lowest total ever recorded by a Nemo team in a Cork football final.

How they went about chasing victory could well stir more regret in the days ahead than the defeat itself.

Eoghan Cormican

Can John Evans bring down the Kingdom?

The dust has settled on another Cork Premier IFC and, finally, Cill na Martra have got over the line.

They have been perennial favourites for this grade, and now with the monkey off their back, they look well equipped for senior A.

It didn’t seem right to be bringing this up Sunday immediately after they collected the Billy Long Cup but we wonder had they any thoughts yet on the upcoming Munster club championship.

Clare’s Kilmihil await in the quarter-final on Sunday week, they welcome them to a Cork venue. The reason for mention? Cork’s record is not good. And Kerry’s is.

And with a Kerry native in charge of Cill na Martra, could this be about to change.

Kerry clubs dominate this competition, the roll of honour currently stands at 14-4 in Kerry's favour. Cork have ony triumphed in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2013.

Clyda Rovers were the last Rebel team to claim provincial victory, it was against St Joseph’s, Miltown Malbay 10 years ago.

Since then, Kingdom clubs claimed eight-in-a-row with 2020 cancelled due to covid.

Obair na gCapall.

When the Cork football leagues concluded back in June, Cill na Martra were ranked as the fifth best team in the land. Only Douglas and the aristocrats from Nemo Rangers, St Finbarr’s and Castlehaven were above them and only Nemo had scored more than them. 

It was some achievement for a club that was only re-established in 1978 and up until Sunday had only one adult county title to their name. Of course, they had reached a Kelleher Shield final in 2019 where they lost out to the Barr’s but they have shown no signs of dropping their standards, showed no sign that their place in the top flight was anomalous.

And yet, when the championships began at the end of July the Gaeltacht men were operating in the third tier of football in Cork. Thrice they had made the final four since their promotion in 2018, and thrice they had fallen. However, even after such disappointment, one got the feeling that simply getting to a final wasn’t going to be enough for them. Shane Ó Duinnín kicked 0-3 when they lost to the Barr’s in 2019, but the 0-3 he kicked against Bantry may well prove to be a defining moment in their history. Last year John Evans was at pains to point out the youthfulness of this team, now that they have liberated themselves from expectation, they could very well climb higher, quickly.

John Coleman.

Sean Furey and Sean O Foirreidh

Newcestown and Aghabullogue remain on track for Cork championship doubles.

Both clubs will separately go to battle in the next couple of weekends. But, there is one man who has already had his own taste of double delight.

Seán Furey inspired Aghabullogue to an IAHC title, and Seán Ó Fóirréidh played his part for Cill na Martra in the Premier IFC decider - yes, the same person performing on successive Sundays.

“Cill na Martra is my home club, these are the lads you grew up with, these are the days you dream of,” he said Sunday. “Even with a few minutes to go, I thought that we just needed to get the ball up to our forwards, they’ve done it all year.

“We’ve gone through stuff where people said that we were bottlers and we were never going to make it. Today we’ve proved everyone wrong, it’s such a great feeling.

“When we played Iveleary (quarter-final), we were down a few points at half-time, we knew we had 30 minutes to save our season and that was a huge turning point. A big local derby, to turn it around with a few minutes to go, that spurred us on for the rest of the season.

“When the pressure came on, we knew we could get it up to the forwards and they’d deliver.” 


Long life to the gallant old Blues.

Relegation officially entered the lexicon of the Cork hurling and football championships back in 2006 and we didn’t have long to wait for the first major casualty of the new system as St Finbarr’s were relegated from the top tier of Cork football, along with St Vincent’s, in 2007. 

Relegation casts a deathly shadow over any club when it comes rattling at your gates, but when one of the blue bloods slips through the trap door, people tend to take that bit more notice.

The Togher outfit have proved that there is life after death as they bounced back up in 2008 after it took a replay for them to see off Vincent’s. Since then, they have been amongst the top football teams in Cork, reaching six finals and winning two while being there or thereabouts every other year. 

On Saturday, their second team took the Donal Hurley Cup home with them after they defeated Kilmurry in the final by a solitary point. It capped quite the journey for Michael Shields, Denis O’Brien and Eoin Keane who were all either playing or togged out back in 2008. Throw in a hurling county for Keane too last year and the southside giants have really shown what they are made of, and the aforementioned trio have shown the true value of service. For the likes of Glen Rovers, Austin Stacks and Kerins O’Rahilly’s, there’s a template in there somewhere.

John Coleman

Newcestown and Blarney: Take a bow.

If Sunday’s Cork football decider was a drudge, then Saturday evening’s Senior A hurling final replay was a delicious treat.

The second half of the drawn game between Blarney and Newcestown had been both enjoyable and littered with quality point-taking, but the opening half of the replay went a couple of rungs higher again. And at a hurtling pace.

In the 10th minute alone, Newcestown reeled off 2-1. And their outstanding goal of three was still another 13 minutes in the distance.

Mark Coleman’s sideline meant this final had been graced by 18 scores in the opening 18 minutes.

All six Blarney forwards were on the scoresheet by the 21st minute. All six Newcestown forwards were on the board by the 24th minute.

Blarney had hit a remarkable 0-19 by the 42nd minute and yet still found themselves three in arrears.

The quality understandably waned in the final quarter as legs, minds, and wrists tired. But where the scores reduced from a gush to steady flow, the entertainment barometer went in the other direction.

Shane Barrett’s injury-time free to narrow the gap to the minimum was initially waved wide. An intervention from the linesman on the South Stand side saw Cathal McAllister award a point. Extra-time was now scribbled all over this replay. Newcestown sub Ciarán O’Donovan said otherwise. His clincher was the last in a long, long line of exceptional points.

Newcestown’s hurlers are long known for their fight and their battle. On Saturday, the addition of flair contributed to one of the best club games on Leeside in 2023.

Eoghan Cormican

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