Friday 31 October 2014

Owens lapping up Kilcormac's spectacular wave of success

Published 16/11/2013 | 01:00

Danny Owens

Kilcormac-Killoughey manager Danny Owens is no closer to figuring out just what has changed in the club in the last two years, but he's happy to ride the wave.

Rewind back to 2011 and Kilcormac-Killoughey were Offaly's nearly men in hurling and operating at junior grade in football.

A 1986 amalgamation of two clubs, who had actually once played against each other in a senior final, had threatened to yield high returns, but for years had fallen short, with Kilcormac-Killoughey tending to lose out when games were in the melting pot.

Suddenly, and without much warning, it all changed. Instead of coming up short, they were grinding out wins.

As a club now, they are barely recognisable. In 2014, they'll be senior in both codes, and going for three hurling titles in a row.

Much of the success has been built around the core of talented dual players who have won back-to-back Offaly hurling titles and earned junior and intermediate football championships in their downtime.

Their underage success suggests it's no flash in the pan. The club's minor hurlers contested a third decider on the bounce, to bring to five the number of finals they have played this year.

"It's hard to know what has changed," Owens says, looking back on an incredible two seasons.

"There was definitely a bit of a bounce from winning the senior title last year. We had been in finals (three of them since 2000) but we couldn't get over the line.

"We had a good record at underage level, but maybe we were unfortunate that we came up at a time when Birr were so good.

"We would probably have won one before last year had they not been around."

A breakthrough county final win was celebrated heartily, and Owens agrees that their Leinster adventure started out as an "escapade" but quickly turned serious.

They secured provincial honours, beating Sunday's opponents Oulart-The Ballagh in the decider and they went all the way to All-Ireland final day only to lose out to Galway's St Thomas'.

RESOLVE

That steeled their resolve. Owens was linked with the Offaly job before Brian Whelahan's appointment, but regardless of how that went, he always planned on leading the club this year.

"It probably started out as a bit of an escapade at first alright. But then you get out and you realise that you are as good as everyone else, and to lose in Croke Park is a chastening experience," he says.

"We got a little bit unlucky, losing Daniel Currams to injury before the match. From there we wanted to come back and defend our Offaly title. We decided to try and do that. I don't think there was ever a stage with players or management where we were going to settle."

Currams was perhaps a victim of the heavy schedule the club has endured.

Last year they ran junior football and senior hurling campaigns side by side. It was a similar story this term as they won the intermediate football title, crashing out to Dublin's Naomh Olaf's in Leinster last weekend.

Tomorrow, their attention turns back to hurling and they'll be charged with heaping more Leinster heartbreak on Wexford's Oulart-The Ballagh.

Martin Storey's side have gone down in Leinster deciders for three years on the bounce now and Owens insists they'll be harder to get by than ever.

"They are a very formidable side," he says. "You look at them and maybe half a dozen are Wexford regulars. At this time of year really anything can happen. We'll see how the cards fall for us."

Irish Independent

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