BY JOHN MURPHY
BEHIND every good team lies an equally apt band of mentors and certainly Valley Rovers have a very formidable five-man tried and trusted group on the sidelines.
Denis Kiely, who has Newcestown connections, is team coach, while Michael Guinane, Michael Lynch and Willie Glavin together with manager Joe Crowley complete the group, all five also acting as selectors.
Joe Crowley, the team manager, is of local extraction and involved in the oil distribution business. He is hoping to strike it rich – pardon the pun – in their showdown with Newcestown, but is well aware how far Valleys have come in the interim period since the disastrous opening to their championship campaign.
John Murphy (JM): This is a huge game for the club, an opportunity to play senior hurling again, while claiming dual status at this level in both hurling and football. How have preparations gone?
Joe Crowley (JC): Preparations are going well. The weather is in our favour and we have trained hard. We are injury free bar John Cottrell, who’s out with an appendix problem. He will be a big loss to the team. Otherwise we have a full panel of players to pick from.
JM: Your side contains a nice mix of youth and experience. The winning of the Cork county U21 A football championship is surely a huge psychological boost for the hurlers. Are many of the team on the hurling panel?
JC: Five of the starting U21 football team are involved. Tomás O’Brien at corner back, Darragh Murphy at wing back, Darragh Looney at midfield, Eoin O’Reilly and Cork minor star Chris O’Leary.
JM: There must be a great buzz of expectancy in the village, as clashes with Newcestown are always special and this one is no different?
JC: Newcestown are near neighbours. Anytime we play them it is always a tough, physical battle. They are a great championship side and to beat them every player has to perform to the pinnacle of their ability. We went in last year to meet them in the quarter-final with good expectations and they gave us a real hiding. We have to up our standards yet again. It takes a tremendous effort to beat Newcestown. That is the way it is and always will be.
JM: Beating great rivals Ballinhassig in the semi-final was a huge achievement – was it the team’s best performance to date?
JC: Ballinhassig are a fine team and on the night everything went right for us. We got off to a dream start, we got the goal at the right time, and it turned out to be the cushion required for the entire match. There was really only a puck of the ball between the teams, we got a few scores at the end to win it, showed a bit of character and just survived.
JM: After that disastrous start to the campaign (losing first two rounds), the team really turned the season around on its head, playing seven matches in total during the campaign. Did the draw and replay against Kanturk improve the standard of hurling the team played?
JC: It did actually. The replay against Kanturk was one of the best games we played all the year. We were extremely lucky to fashion a draw in the first match. We were down six or seven points at one stage. But we survived and as they say the rest is history. Here we are in the final.
JM: There will be huge pressure on Sunday – will the young players cope?
JC: We are hoping they will. A lot of them have sensible heads on their shoulders, so we are keeping our fingers crossed that everything will work out.
JM: There is a huge prize, dual status for the victors?
JC: That certainly is the case. We have been premier intermediate since 2010 and whoever wins will attain senior hurling and football status. As I said at the outset it will take a colossal effort to best Newcestown.
JM: Is there any particular area or line of the teams where you could envisage this game being won or lost?
JC: That is a real six-marker to answer. Look, firstly it has to be won on the scoreboard. Newcestown are very physical and strong, particularly around midfield and they have great cohesion defensively, especially in their half-back line.
It will be a hard graft, but if we get sufficient scores on the board, we certainly will be there towards the end of what should be a cracking final.