Kan­turk dreams be­come a joy­ous re­al­ity

The Corkman - - SPORT -

KAN­TURK’S hopes be­came a joy­ous re­al­ity early last sea­son, their me­te­oric rise landed All-Ire­land In­ter­me­di­ate Hurl­ing Cham­pi­onship hon­ours at Croke Park.

In do­ing so, Kan­turk scripted an­other chap­ter in a rapid rise to promi­nence, that’s with­out par­al­lel in the his­tory of a com­pet­i­tive cham­pi­onship on be­com­ing the first Duhal­low club to ob­tain se­nior sta­tus. When the pres­sure came on en route, Kan­turk un­der­lined their un­wa­ver­ing re­solve and con­vic­tion.

At var­i­ous stages along the road, Kan­turk faced a ma­jor test of their char­ac­ter but on each oc­ca­sion, they re­sponded mag­nif­i­cently that al­lowed team cap­tain Lor­can O’Neill col­lect the sil­ver­ware.

Time and again, many of the games were de­cided by the tight­est of mar­gins, ter­ri­tory that Kan­turk ex­ploited to hold their com­po­sure to turn the screw to col­lect nar­row wins.

Mal­low looked to had a county ti­tle on one hand when Gerry Hayes pounced for a lead goal. Kan­turk re­fused to be ruf­fled, re­assert­ing them­selves to of­fer great char­ac­ter along with ma­tu­rity for key men Aidan Walsh, Lor­cán McLough­lin and Ryan Walsh to land clos­ing points for Kan­turk lay their hands on county sil­ver­ware.

One could cut the ten­sion dur­ing the lat­ter stages, a Mal­low goal, a Kan­turk penalty miss be­fore the lat­ter yielded the match win­ning scores to seal the deal.

Sub­se­quently Kan­turk’s fairy­tale sea­son con­tin­ued, bet­ter­ing St Marys Clon­mel (Tip­per­ary) and Bal­ly­duff (Kerry) to reach a Mun­ster Fi­nal and record a dra­matic ex­tra-time vic­tory over Kil­ma­ley (Clare). An­other epic sur­faced here, Liam O’Ke­effe de­liv­ered a 1-7 tally to a con­test dead­locked on no fewer than seven oc­ca­sions. The win­ners were well served by An­thony Nash, Dar­ren Browne, Aidan Walsh and Lor­can McLough­lin to trig­ger trade­mark de­ter­mi­na­tion.

Kan­turk had built up a six points ad­van­tage into the se­cond half yet they needed a last-gasp Paul Walsh point to force ex­tra-time where they greater de­sire ul­ti­mately proved de­ci­sive.

Onto an All-Ire­land IHC quar­ter-fi­nal, Kan­turk bet­tered Kil­burn Gaels, the Duhal­low out­fit faced a stiff test from the Lon­don se­nior king­pins and would have trailed at half-time had Cork ‘keeper Nash not saved a penalty. There­after, there was no stop­ping Kan­turk, Liam O’Ke­effe and McLough­lin net­ting goals to put day­light be­tween the sides.

In­clement weather de­ferred the All Ire­land semi fi­nal againt Ul­ster cham­pi­ons Mid­dle­town Na Fianna of Ar­magh where early goals from Alan O’Ke­effe and in­ter-county keeper Nash laid the foun­da­tion for a de­ci­sive win.

The All-Ire­land Fi­nal against Bal­lyraggett proved to be a mar­vel­lous oc­ca­sion, a tra­di­tional Cork and Kilkenny pair­ing, that lived up to its billing, un­ri­valled in terms of qual­ity, skill and ex­cite­ment.

With Duhal­low sup­port­ers thrilled with a Knock­na­gree vic­tory, the pre­vi­ous day, there were op­ti­mistic hopes of a fa­mous dou­ble laid in prospect. How­ever no one left their seats ‘til the last shrill of the full time whis­tle to a game that re­mained in the melt­ing pot un­til Kan­turk’s hunger se­cured late scores.

Kan­turk were the bet­ter team for much of the first half thanks to the dom­i­nance of mid­field­ers Lor­cán McLough­lin and Ryan Walsh, and the ball-win­ning abil­ity of the at­tack­ing Walsh cousins Aidan Walsh and Ian Walsh up­front.

The Cork cham­pi­ons had opened a de­served 0-8 to 0-5 lead by the 24th minute, but three points in as many min­utes from Bal­lyragget tied the game up. Just when it looked like the Kilkenny out­fit were get­ting the mea­sure of Kan­turk, they were sent reel­ing just be­fore half-time, the Duhal­low side de­liv­ered a flour­ish, a goal came from the out­stand­ing Ryan Walsh lit up the fare, charg­ing straight at the heart of the Bal­lyragget de­fence, Walsh fired home a piledriver to the roof of the net.

The tempo of the game went up a cou­ple of notches in the se­cond-half as Bal­lyragget started to find their groove and re­turned with a cou­ple of scores. Cru­cially, Kan­turk were still keep­ing their noses in front be­cause they were play­ing some great hurl­ing of their own.

It looked like the Kilkenny side had a price­less mo­men­tum when Kevin Kelly fol­lowed up a goal with a pointed free to push his side two clear, but Kan­turk ral­lied again, forced to dig into their re­serves of skill, fit­ness and de­ter­mi­na­tion to over­come the odds. Hav­ing led for most of the game, Kan­turk had sus­tained a real body blow when Bal­lyragget pounced for 1-1 in quick suc­ces­sion with six min­utes of reg­u­la­tion time re­main­ing.

Adding to the Kan­turk con­cern was a dis­lo­cated shoul­der in­jury picked up by Aidan Walsh in the clos­ing min­utes. Still Kan­turk held the re­solve and com­po­sure to re­main in touch, hold­ing a con­fi­dence that they could play their way out of trou­ble.

A point from Ian Walsh and two from McLough­lin edged the Cork side into the lead briefly be­fore Kelly made it all square again with a pointed free on 63 min­utes.

There were just two min­utes of in­juryleft to play now, so the next score was al­ways likely to be the win­ner. And when it came, a clas­sic sur­faced, Ian Walsh an­gled over a sub­lime ef­fort, a dream point fit­ting to win an All-Ire­land Fi­nal.

In terms of metic­u­lous plan­ning and team prepa­ra­tion, Kan­turk raised their pro­file to a new level and re­warded with the high­est prize in the land. Lit­tle won­der, joy­ous hordes of sup­port­ers took a huge sense of sat­is­fac­tion on com­ing out late in the Duhal­low cap­i­tal with a rous­ing pa­rade.

Club Chair­man Tom O’Cal­laghan ap­plauded play­ers and man­age­ments on com­plet­ing a hec­tic sched­ule over the pre­vi­ous 10 months, go­ing 16 cham­pi­onship games with­out de­feat in foot­ball and hurl­ing.

“Kan­turk and Bal­lyragget lived up to the tra­di­tional Cork and Kilkenny clashes, I pre­dicted a fe­ro­cious bat­tle thus main­tain­ing the great tra­di­tions be­tween the two coun­ties be­fore we pulled it off. Thanks to our sup­port­ers in the Ho­gan Stand, the noise lev­els en­cour­aged the team to sway the out­come,” said Tom.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.