Midleton aiming to halt Banner momentum
Sixmilebridge and recently-crowned Cork champions renew acquaintances for the first time in 30 years
Conor Lehane: the Cork star turned in a superb o performance for Midleton in the Cork county final win over Sarsfields. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho
Onwards towards Christmas and the sorting of the All-Ireland club championships continues thick and fast. Few sports competitions offer such novel pairings as the provincial stages of the club contests. Tomorrow’s Munster hurling semi-final marks a reunion of the counties who contested September’s wonderful All-Ireland final but for the actual contestants it is a brand new place.
“The clubs met before,” John O’Meara, the Sixmilebridge manager says hazily. “In 1983. Midleton got the better of us that day. So we are looking forward to it.”
And there, in essence, is the most tantalising aspect of the club championship, when matches locked in the vaults and all but forgotten about are suddenly recalled when those clubs happen to emerge from their respective counties to cross paths decades later.
Fashions change, the game changes, some surnames remain the same. But the most startling advance, all but unimaginable when John Fenton led Midleton past Sixmilebridge and on to the Munster championship of 1983, is that Clare are the All-Ireland senior hurling champions.
The old game has never been on such a high in the Banner county and tomorrow Sixmilebridge travel down to Páirc Uí Chaoimh to try to extend the sense of Clare’s unstoppable momentum. For O’Meara, who served as Clare minor manager last year and is the Sixmilebridge manager this season, there has been little time to pause for thought. On Sunday last, they defeated neighbours Newmarket-on-Fergus to win the Clare title for the first time in 11 years. They only learned who they would be playing on the radio that night.
“We were solely focused on getting over the line at the weekend. It was only on Sunday evening we discovered who we would play. Cork had a good year from a county perspective as did Clare and I am sure both clubs want to carry that on. We know that going to Cork and getting a result is a hard task but we are looking forward to it and it often comes down to who gets the break. We won’t treat this Sunday any differently than the last couple of weeks.
“The players enjoyed themselves on the evening of the final but by Monday we were thinking of Midleton straight away. This is Sixmilebridge’s eleventh venture into Munster club territory and we were fortunate enough to win three titles from those 11 journeys and we will be doing our utmost to see if we can make it four.”
A cursory look at Sixmilebridge’s stop-start calendar reflects Clare’s mad and glorious summer of hurling. They played their first round on May 18th. Then the club had a break of 20 weeks. When they played again in early October, Clare were All-Ireland Under-21 and senior champions. Sixmilebridge have been playing for seven consecutive Sundays.