Kilcormac playing with heart on sleeves – Healion
WHEN Kilcormac-Killoughey finally got over the line in Offaly, that was enough for Ger Healion.
The club had spent the last decade going close, losing three county deciders and a handful of semi-finals.
Healion had even flown home from Australia as they moved towards the business end of the 2009 championship. He was there when they saw off favourites Coolderry, but was helpless as they fell to an unfancied Tullamore.
"My twin brother was captain that year. He said to me: 'You have to come home', so I came home at the semi-final stage when we beat Coolderry. That was one of our best games. We went into the county final expecting to beat Tullamore, who were complete outsiders, and they beat us."
Around Offaly, Kilcormac-Killoughey's bottle, rather than talent, was questioned. Manager Danny Owens conceded as much in the run-up to the Leinster final. "Over the years, we were found wanting when it came to the crunch in the last 10 minutes of big games," he said.
After all, there was no reason they shouldn't be lifitng titles. The club had a hugely successful underage system that was reaping the rewards of the two clubs' decision to amalgamate in 1986 after a previously failed attempt.
"The thing with our club is that we had a lot of underage stars and they tended to burn themselves out," said 29-year-old teacher Healion.
"If you look at the '90s, we dominated underage hurling and had five or six minors and maybe seven or eight U-21s.
"Sometimes too much underage success can actually be counter-productive in bringing players forward. We had some very good young stars who never went on to play county. Sometimes when players get so much so young they can say: 'I've had enough', and they don't really try to go any further."
This campaign, Kilcormac-Killoughey learned a lesson about how carrying either the favourite or the underdog tag has no influence on the scoreboard. It's a policy that has served them well as they saw off two of the competition's hotly fancied sides in Wexford's Oulart-The Ballagh and a star-studded Thurles Sarsfields.
"The way we looked at it was, would Oulart-The Ballagh have been such huge outside odds if they were playing Thurles? So why were we?" Healion reasoned.
For Sunday's All-Ireland final, they are rank outsiders once more. One bookmakers is offering 9/4 for the Offaly men against Galway's St Thomas', who themselves won their first Galway title last year.
"I am not going to say that we are going to lose the final, but our main aim at the start of the year was to win the county title and after losing three county finals in the last 10 years, I would have happily ended the year there and then. From there, winning Leinster was a huge bonus.
"We are hurling with our heart on our sleeves and why not? We have nothing to lose."