BY TOM LYONS
WHEN Newcestown line out in Cloughduv this Sunday in the Munster intermediate hurling semi-final against Tipperary champions, Clonakenny, they will be playing not only as proud Cork champions, but for the honour of the little village as well.
However, they will come up against a Tipperary outfit that comes from an even smaller village that is steeped in fighting battles as underdogs for that very same cause. These two sides, playing in their first-ever Munster championship, could be a mirror-image of each other.
‘All we know about Clonakenny is that they have a fine side and that they must be good to win a Tipperary title,’ Newcestown manager Eugene Desmond told The Southern Star.
‘Their centre back is on the verge of the Tipp senior team and their midfielder scored eight points last Sunday against Portlaw. This will be a typical Cork against Tipperary clash and you must respect any team that comes out of Tipp. We haven’t seen them playing but we know we will be up against a very good side.’
After wins in the premier intermediate championship against Tracton, twice, Blarney and Mallow, Newcestown faced near-neighbours, Valley Rovers in the county final, determined to make amends for the final defeat against Ballyhea last season. They were expecting a real battle against the Innishannon men but that’s not how it turned out, as Newcestown galloped away to a 1-23 to 0-8 victory.
‘We had a fantastic win against Valleys,’ said Desmond.
‘It was a long time coming but on the day everything went right for us. It was the best we played in a long time, everything just came together. We had expected a tougher battle but it was one of those days when we could do no wrong.’
Having won their first-ever intermediate hurling county, Newcestown were forced to take stock of their commitments for the remainder of the season, in light of their upcoming Munster campaign.
‘We took a week off after the county final to celebrate,’ said Desmond.
‘Then the county board fixed our senior footballers to play two relegation games in the league. It would have meant the players being out five weekends in a row between hurling and football as we were also due to play the intermediate hurling league final against Fermoy last weekend. That final was called off because Fermoy drew the intermediate county final and the club committee decided to pull out of the football after consulting the players.
‘There was no way the players were going to go through that kind of schedule with a Munster title at stake.’
Although this will be their first venture into the Munster hurling arena, the club was involved in the intermediate Munster football championship as Cork champions back in 2010 when they were unlucky to lose to Kerry champions, Gneeveguilla.
This game is being played in Cloughduv because the Munster Council insists on a covered stand for supporters at the host venue.
‘This is our first taste of Munster hurling but Cork teams have done well in this grade down the years and we will have home venue which should be an advantage,’ admitted Desmond.
‘As we’re the first hurling team from West Cork to play in the Munster intermediate we’ll be hoping for good support from all West Cork hurling fans. We’re delighted for the supporters, especially the older people that the game is in Cloughduv as they won’t have any problems with travelling. But Clonakenny will be coming down here to win, so we’ll need all the support we can get.’
Newcestown were short a couple of players for the county final but should have a full panel to pick from for this important game.
‘We have a clean bill of health bar a worry over Tadhg Twomey, who suffered concussion in the county final. We’re keeping an eye on him. But all the others, including Trevor Horgan, are fit and ready to go,’ Twomey said.
‘This is a new experience for us, we’re on a learning curve. All we can do is give it our best shot on the day and hope we produce our very best like we did in the county final. If we do, we won’t be far off it but nothing comes easy against any Tipperary hurling team.’