Meelin have captured the imagination well beyond north Cork
NOBODY can deny that Meelin’s performance in last year’s county junior hurling final against Cloughduv was out of the top drawer.
Indeed, it was a display that could be favourably compared with any produced in a county decider at junior level down through the decades.
And, in the wake of it, there appeared to be every chance that Meelin would go on to achieve further glory in the Munster and All-Ireland club championship.
Four games later and Meelin find themselves heading for Croke Park next Sunday, needing just one more big performance to claim a national title.
It’s the stuff that dreams are made of, and there will be a mass exodus from the little Duhallow village as the locals hope to see Meelin delivering the goods at the expense of John Lockes of Kilkenny, and make it the most memorable and momentous day in the club’s proud history.
There is likely to be strong outside support there as well, as it would be true to say that Meelin have captured the imagination of North Cork’s GAA fraternity in general with the quality of the hurling they served up when negotiating all the obstacles en route to the showdown with the Noreside and Leinster kingpins from Callan.
The odyssey began when they opened the defence of their divisional title with an impressive win over Newmarket early last year.
Tullylease and Kilbrin were next to fall as the two-in-a-row was completed in Duhallow which was Meelin’s main target initially in 2010.
Once that was accomplished, however, their attention turned to the county series, and they had good cause to believe they were-equipped to make a bold bid for further glory.
They had been very unlucky to bow out to Cloughduv at the semi final stage in 2009, and it was always on the cards that their youthful side, a year older and wiser, would have gained invaluable experience, making them all the harder to stop this time.
A convincing 2-17 to 011 win over Diarmuid O’Mathuna’s – runners-up to Dripsey in 2008 – further fuelled the notion that they had the potential to go all the way, although they had it much tougher in the semi final against city champions Mayfield.
That was just what the doctor ordered going into the county final of course, because, having looked a class above the majority of their opponents hitherto, it ensured their feet were firmly on the ground when they threw down the gauntlet to Cloughduv.
They really scaled the heights in the final, and they had Cloughduv on the backfoot virtually from the outset.
Their character was put to the test, however, after they conceded a couple of soft goals shortly before half time, and were forced to turn over 2-5 to 1-7 in arrears.
Making light of those setbacks, Meelin took complete control in the second half, and, but for a couple of excellent saves by the Cloughduv ‘keeper, they would have sealed the deal long before the finish.
As it was, they pressed home their superiority to the full in the last ten minutes to run out unflattering victors by 1-19 to 2-9.
It was a superb team performance from Meelin, although the individual contribution from teenager Eamonn Brosnan was immense.
The classy corner for- ward scored eleven points, including seven sublime efforts from play, and he was in devastating form again, notching 2-10, as Meelin got over the first hurdle in Munster, coming through with eight points to spare, 2-15 to 1-10, over Limerick standard-bearers Effin.
Brosnan struck 1-7 in the provincial final when Meelin confirmed they were a cut above the ordinary with a 5-18 to 0-9 demolition-job on St Patrick’s of Tipperary.
But, with D J O’Sullivan bagging 2-2, Brosnan wasn’t Meelin’s top marksman from play in that game, and, while he is unquestionably a key figure, it would be inaccurate to suggest that he has been lacking support in attack.
In the All-Ireland quarter final against Fullen Gaels of Manchester, it was Shane O’Riordan who took the main scoring honours, chipping in with 2-3 from centre forward as Meelin scorched to an emphatic 2-15 to 08 win.
Such as Jeremy Curtin, John Forrest and Brendan O’Sullivan are no slouches either when it comes to putting scores on the board, but, for all that, it has to be acknowledged that Brosnan is the player Meelin could least afford to strike an off day.
He underlined his value to the team with a tally of eleven points, five from play, as Meelin saw off Galway’s Barna/Furbo, 016 to 1-4, in the All-Ireland semi final.
It can be taken for granted that John Lockes will have their homework done, and that they will have devised some sort of a plan with the aim of keeping Brosnan in check on Sunday.
That’s easier said than done of course, and, even if Brosnan is contained to some degree, there is enough quality running through the team to suggest that Meelin will be able to cope.
In Liam Collins and William Murphy, Meelin possess two excellent midfielders, while the defence is a very solid unit.
Mike Forrest, Denis O’Riordan and Diarmuid Linehan comprise an ultra-tenacious full back line in front of Stephen Martin O’Sullivan, who proved his worth with a few top-class saves which did much to smooth Meelin’s path to victory in the All-Ireland semi final.
Further out, Kevin Collins is a highly accomplished centre back, while William Buckley, superb in the Munster final, and team skipper Jerry Forrest can always be relied upon to input effectively in the wing back berths.
There is no disputing that the optimism surrounding Meelin’s prospects of Munster and All-Ireland success following their scintillating display in the county final has been fully justified so far.
And, while any team from Kilkenny team has to be respected in an All-Ireland final, it’s going to be no easy task for John Lockes to prevent Meelin from emulating the achievement of Ballinhassig in 2003, Fr O’Neill’s in 2006 and Dripsey in 2009 and bring an All-Ireland junior club hurling title to Leeside for the fourth time.
The Meelin junior hurlers who stand on the brink of a historic All-Ireland Club championship title as they face Kilkenny and Leinster champions, John Lockes, in the All-Ireland Club final in Croke Park on Sunday
Meelin's Denis O'Riordan gets to the sliothar ahead of Conor Cafferkey, Fullen Gaels, in the All Ireland JAHC quarter final in Birmingham.
Meelin's Eamon Brosnan wins the ball ahead of Barna/Furbo's Kieran McCormack in the All Ireland JAHC semi final in Ennis