Wednesday 21 March 2018

All Star Walsh has no fear of Cork giants Castlehaven

Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

HISTORY will not be on the side of divisional team Duhallow when they face up to mighty Castlehaven in the Cork senior football championship final at Pairc Ui Chaoimh tomorrow.

The men from north west Cork are all new to the heady atmosphere of the premier game of the Cork club football season, while 'Haven are driven by thoughts of atoning for defeat to UCC in last year's decider.

Just as well, then, that Duhallow are not concerned with looking in the rear-view mirror as they motor on towards a date with destiny.

Aidan Walsh epitomises the spirit of the north Cork amalgamated football entity. When it comes to history, he likes to make it, not bask in past achievements.

Kanturk clubman Walsh was only a year old when the last Duhallow team brought home a Cork SFC title.

He's now 22, but he has already won an All-Ireland medal with Cork, in 2010, as well as two All Stars, plus a Young Footballer of the Year award.

The big guy has also amassed a haul of medals for club and county at minor and U-21 level at both football and hurling -- and he is hungry for more.

He was delighted to be named in the 2012 All Stars selection, but now he is only focused on tomorrow's big game.

A couple of weeks ago Walsh and his Kanturk clubmates came within a whisker of a landmark success, only to fall just short at the death.

The occasion was the Cork intermediate hurling final. Kanturk had reached the decider at this level for the first time in the club's 111 years of existence, and they lost by only two points to Kilworth.

Defeat stung. An opportunity made, but not taken. Still, the wheel of life continues to turn and tomorrow at Pairc Ui Chaoimh opens another possibility for Walsh.

Reflecting on Kanturk's IHC hurling fate, he said: "It was a game we could have won if we took some of our chances, but we're still a young team.

"This was our first intermediate final. Hopefully, we'll just learn from the experience and drive on next year."

It's on to football tomorrow and the Duhallow supporters are hopeful rather than over-confident, which is probably a help to the players.

Walsh takes a realistic view of the situation, vis-a-vis Castlehaven, in advance of the throw-in.

"The last time Duhallow got to a final was 1998, and they haven't won it since 1991, so we're going in as underdogs," he said.

"Castlehaven have been one of the top two or three teams in Cork in the last few years and they were in the final last year. They went in as hot favourites against UCC, but it didn't work out on the day for them, so no doubt they'll be gunning for it this year.

"For us, looking the way the draw worked out, we were on the easier side.

"Nemo (Rangers), Rosscarbery, the Barrs (St Finbarr's) and Castlehaven were on one side and we were on the other.

"They are all big teams. Castlehaven go into the final probably with better preparation than we have had and having played top-quality games, but we are going in with no fear.

"It's the first time for every player on our team to be playing a senior final. It's a great occasion and we're looking forward to it."

Duhallow defeated O'Donovan Rossa from Skibbereen 0-13 to 0-7 in the semi-final, with county players Walsh and Donnacha O'Connor contributing seven points between them -- two for Walsh and five for O'Connor.


The All-Ireland winning duo will need to be at their best tomorrow, but it's a challenge they are eager to embrace under the guidance of Duhallow manager Ned English.

"Sunday will be our ninth game. We lost our first, but, from there on, we built it up from match to match. I suppose in a few of them we were lucky to come out with a win, but to win a championship, you need that bit of luck," said Walsh.

Castlehaven have a strong back-room team to match the XV on the field, with former All-Ireland winner Niall Cahalane one of the mentors of a side managed by James McCarthy.

The 'Haven lads were impressive in earning the right to play Duhallow, with a 2-9 to 0-9 semi-final demolition of Carbery Rangers. Brian Hurley adopted the role of the Punisher of Carbery, notching up a personal tally of 1-6.

This has the makings of a cracking contest, but, win or lose tomorrow, Walsh is primed for a big 2013 campaign with Cork. A hurley maker in his spare time, he has committed himself to football for the Rebels and won't attempt to emulate fellow county star Eoin Cadogan in playing senior hurling and football.

"Some people can compare my case to Eoin Cadogan, but being in a divisional set-up, I've two more teams to play on than Eoin does," he said.

"I'd love to play county hurling, but for myself, and being realistic, I need to give football 100pc if I'm to get the most out of it."

Irish Independent

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