Not a single challenge game played or a proper workout has had – this is the grim reality of Duhallow heading into the Cork Premier SFC College / Division Finals tomorrow night.
As their opponents UCC entered the wash as late as Wednesday night for what was a hotly contested play-off semi-final against Muskerry, Duhallow enters that game with next to nothing done as a group.
They met collectively, yes, but the management having made a commitment to the starting clubs that their recent Monday night meetings would not involve heavy loads inside the whitewash, coupled with a complete lack of it. of challenge games, Duhallow shoots a lot in the dark tomorrow.
Duhallow manager Ned English has offered the above information not as part of a complaint or to criticize in any way the clubs in the North Cork division. It simply paints a picture of the hindrance to their accumulation.
“This year, for the first time in my coaching career, we haven’t been able to organize a single training match or any training session,” began the veteran coach.
“It’s really success and hope, motivating the players and trying to put them in place during the day, but without any preparation and without really knowing how we’re going to play.”
A big factor in their non-existent preparation has been the participation of so many Duhallow clubs in the 2020 County Cork Championship competitions which have only concluded in the past two months.
Knocknagree and Kanturk played in the delayed Premier Intermediate final on August 1, the same weekend the Dromtarriffe pitchers were in the junior semifinals. Boherbue was involved in the junior football game the following weekend, while Rockchapel defeated Mitchelstown in the Intermediate A final two weeks later.
“The minute all of those 2020 championships were over, the 2021 championships had started. And because all of our foster clubs are dual clubs, they have had hurling or football every week, with no respite.
“We didn’t manage to have a practice session because the clubs were calling left, right and center practice sessions. We had a few meetings with sporadic numbers on a Monday night after the County Championship games the day before, but we made a commitment to the clubs not to practice. So we went through and discussed a few things, but that’s all we could have had for about two or three weeks. We have absolutely failed to set up a game to test our selection. “
With this weekend break for clubs, the Englishman had organized a challenge against Clare’s Kilmurry Ibrickane for last Tuesday night, but the Limerick pitch on which it was to be played became unavailable at the 11th hour, and the match was therefore been withdrawn.
Despite all this, English is beating a positive drum. He knows the talent is there. After all, this is a division whose 2017 and 2020 county semifinals beat back-to-back county finals appearances.
“These guys are very united. There is a spirit in this division, there is a unity in this division. We will have a meeting on Saturday night with them to discuss how they should play and what to do, and I have no doubts that they will do their best to implement what we offer them.
“We’re not second, but naturally you would be naive if you didn’t think this was a major obstacle.
“The big hope, without taking anything for granted, is that if you were to make it through this weekend, you won’t be playing for three or four weeks, and some of the starting clubs might no longer be involved in their respective county championships. by then, and that would allow you to collect more players for practice.
The 2021 campaign marks the Englishman’s third stint at the helm of Duhallow, his second stint at the helm including a narrow county final loss to Castlehaven in 2012.
His reason for coming back for one more round is that there is still a scratchy itch.
“Passing the finish line, getting that extra step of the way, which I thought they probably could have done in the last few years,” he said.
“They were very, very close. That’s what tempted me to come back.