Kanturk break the mould in '13
Review 2013 - WHAT a difference a year makes.
Kanturk became the first Duhallow club to win a county intermediate hurling title in 2013, thus bridging a barren run on their previous county championship triumph from a junior grade won in 1969 that's sure to be celebrated in style at a function in Killarney on January 18.
Indeed from a GAA season where patrons could not have asked for better entertainment, Kilbrin and Lyre dominated the domestic landscape.
Kanturk's dream became a reality to savour a county IHC title and on doing so, Kanturk banished the failure of the previous season on a narrow loss to Kilworth.
En route, Kanturk shrugged off the challenges of Dripsey, Charleville, Meelin and Fermoy to reach back to back deciders. Opponents Éire Óg were blown away by the intensity of a fired up Kanturk who romped to an easy victory that even the staunchest of supporters could hardly had expected.
Kanturk had encountered some tough battles, crucially their inter county players surfaced to deliver telling scores against Charleville and Fermoy, but against Éire Óg, Kanturk stamped their authority on the proceedings from the outset, comfortably maintaining the whip-hand after scorching into an eight point lead during the opening ten minutes.
Man of the match Lorcán McLouglin supplied the delivery for the game's first goal from corner forward Alan O'Keeffe. And though Éire Óg battled manfully, their fate was firmly sealed when Aidan Walsh fired in a second goal that put Kanturk into the driving seat.
Onward and upwards for Kanturk as they contemplate life at Premier IHC level, a grade that's renowned for its competiveness, but all 16 teams well aware, one of them will secure senior status at the year's end.
At divisional level, Kilbrin mastered all and sundry on the hurling fields to complete a three in a row in the EPS Bison JAHC. Setting out their stall early in the season, Kilbrin collected a league title for the first time since 2002.
That provided a launchpad for the championship, made to work on a win over Freemount, delivering an excellent showing against Banteer before a telling surge in the second half halted Freemount again in the semi-final.
Opponents Tullylease sought to add to their fifth title won in 2008. After losing to Banteer first time out, Tullylease reinvented themselves on two terrific games against Millstreet. And in the semi final, Tullylease looked entirely comfortable to progress past Newmarket.
Cast in the role of underdogs didn't deter Tullylease in the decider yet a late Kilbrin surge allowed the defending champions collect the John Joe Brosnan Memorial Cup for the third consecutive season. Though Kilbrin grabbed a commanding interval advantage, a different story emerged after the break for Tullylease mounted a rescue package and take a shock goal lead.
Faced with a severe test of character, Kilbrin rose to the challenge, free taker Shane Crowley performed the needful with radar like accuracy from placed balls in the closing quarter to divide the sides.
Into the county, Kilbrin enjoyed a promising voyage, boosted by late finishing bursts that thwarted the hopes of fancied Newtown and Castlemartyr (replay). That pitted Kilbrin against a seasoned Grenagh in their first county decider.
However, a sluggish Kilbrin seldom performed near their potential, defeated by a better balanced Grenagh outfit, which carried a far more diverse balance to their game in the trying fare. Probably a sustained game programme over a six week spell and injuries picked up by three key personel drained Kilbrin's resources.
Conditions militated against Kilbrin's open and attacking game, A side only a shadow of a side associated with registering scores with abandon enroute but just seven recorded on a saturated Pairc Uí Rinn surface in November.
Still a rewarding 2013 for Kilbrin and backboned by a young side, they are well equipped to make another impression for the upcoming season.
From a keen and always competitive Kanturk Credit Union JAFC, Duhallow had provided the previous two county junior football champions in Kanturk and Rockchapel. That meant new pretenders to the crown and at the end of a stop start 2013 campaign, Lyre basked in the glow of a steady rise to prominence to add to their lone previous win from 2010.
Earrly in the season, an open championship was predicted. Knocknagree and Millstreet emerged strongly in the Ducon Cup to confirm their intentions. But into autumn, it was two more sides, Lyre and Cullen that dominated the football landscape and given their consistency and dedication, both sides reach the divisional final on merit.
Apart from Banteer's win in 1937, Lyre waited to 2010 to put their own name on the Cup by bettering Kanturk in a never to be forgotton decider.
From early summer of 2013, Lyre delivered a series of convincing performances to hit winning form over Castlemagner, surprising Knocknagree and held the facility to respond well against Boherbue in a semi-final.
A roller coaster crusade for Cullen resulted on a draw and replay defeat to Boherbue in the first round. Bouncing back from that disappointment, Cullen hit winning ways on a win over Kilbrin in the back door.
A delayed semi-final against Millstreet took two games to solve before a heavily depleted Cullen ruled the roost in extra time and prevail after a replay that took 160 minutes and two bouts of extra-time to resolve.
But three games in a week ultimately determined Cullen's fate. A fresher Lyre held both the style and substance to emerge good value in the decider against an opposition that battled gallantly to the last whistle. Despite a late Cullen resurgence that yielded a pair of goals in the closing stages, Lyre held the greater firepower, a dominant opening 30 minutes laying the platform for outright accolades.
Indeed, Lyre started with a sense of urgency, the leadership qualities of Denis Mannix, Brendan Withers, Thomas Vaughan and David Murphy stitched it all together in the greasy conditions to build up a 0-8 to 0-1 interval advantage.
In fairness to never say die Cullen, they summoned up a response that yielded a pair of goals from Brian Kelleher and Alan Regan. Pressurized late on by gritty opponents, Lyre never looked entirely rattled and held out for a deserved win. Six days later, Lyre without keyman Vaughan from midfield, relented to St. Finbars in a county quarter-final.