Meelin have cap­tured the imag­i­na­tion well be­yond north Cork

The Corkman - - MEELIN V JOHN LOCKES -

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

PIC­TURE: JOHN TAR­RANT

Meelin's De­nis O'Rior­dan gets to the slio­thar ahead of Conor Caf­fer­key, Fullen Gaels, in the All Ire­land JAHC quar­ter fi­nal in Birm­ing­ham.

PIC­TURE: JOHN TAR­RANT

Meelin's Ea­mon Bros­nan wins the ball ahead of Barna/Furbo's Kieran McCor­mack in the All Ire­land JAHC semi fi­nal in En­nis

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