'It'd be great to win with the lads you spent your life with'
Laois star Whelan out to make club history with Borris-Kilcotton and claim maiden title
After soldiering with Laois with little success for a decade, tomorrow offers Matthew Whelan a rare opportunity of silverware as Borris-Kilcotton chase a first Laois senior crown.
It's a sign of the times that two clubs steeped in hurling history like ten-time winners Kilcotton (their last title in 1929) and five-time champions Borris-in-Ossory (last victorious in 1972) were compelled to join forces.
After amalgamating at all levels in 2011, an impressive underage record now underpins a youthful senior side, with nine U-21s expected to start tomorrow's Laois SHC final against Rathdowney-Errill.
The fact that Whelan will brush shoulders with some old sparring partners from his days in St Fergal's College, Rathdowney and lines out alongside younger brother Paddy would make a win all the more special.
"There is club rivalry there and it's a local derby, it's neighbour against neighbour, lads that went to school together playing against each other, and there is a lot of mutual respect between the teams," the 28-year-old said.
"It'd be great to win with the brother, and I've a cousin on it as well. It's the local lads that you've grown up, that you've togged out beside and spent the best years of your life with.
"We've gone through all the years of underage, but to get a senior medal is what it's all about. There's huge work behind the scenes and this would make it all worthwhile. The senior is the one you want."
Joe Campion's return from America is a welcome boost but ace attacker PJ Scully will definitely miss the game, having torn his quad muscle in the replayed semi-final win over Cha Dwyer's Ballinakill.
But in manager Ken Hogan, they have one of the game's shrewdest operators patrolling the sidelines. Success follows the former Tipperary keeper, with 2010 All-Ireland U-21 title glory with the Premier and a Leinster club title with Offaly side Coolderry a year later the most recent accomplishments on an impressive CV.
Laois honours could be next on the agenda, with Whelan, a secondary school teacher in Portumna Community School hoping he can repeat the oracle in his second year at the helm.
Renowned for his defensive ability with the O'Moore men, Whelan paid tribute to his former county boss Seamus 'Cheddar' Plunkett, who left the post last month after four years rebuilding the side.
"He's left the situation a lot better than he got it and that's a credit to Cheddar. He raised the professional levels of how to train a senior team in the county and I think a lot of the players have grown in the knowledge that they got from him and his team," he said.
"He'll be missed but hopefully the county board will appoint someone that's more than good enough to succeed him so we can continue to move forward like the last few years.
"There have been a lot of retirements the last few years so there's a new wave of players after coming in and they've got a good understanding of the training and commitment that it takes to compete at the top level.
"You want to be trained to have a good chance of winning any game; you can't guarantee results, but do the work behind the scenes and you have a chance."
Contact hasn't been made with any county colleagues, however, as club business and a shot at history is top priority.