Inagh-Kilnamona manager Eugene Cullinan insists his side don’t lack belief despite the club appearing in their first ever senior final.
Cullinan states that the belief his side possesses comes from their underage success with the club winning the U21 title in 2016 and ’18. They have also secured top honours at minor level in 2017 and were victorious once more at this grade after beating Clooney-Quin last weekend.
“When you are winning you start believing. The players have gotten a taste of success and so when they came up to senior they were able to win. This group have belief in themselves. That belief comes over a period of time and for us it’s come from the work at underage.”
“There is a lot of work going on at underage level. It doesn’t just happen overnight. It takes a lot of people willing to give up their time to coach the players all the way up to this. It’s something that’s taken a lot of work. We are immensely proud of the work done at underage and it’s been brought through to senior. This is a huge opportunity for us so we are looking forward to it.”
The Inagh-Kilnamona manager believes his side will not be distracted by the understandable hype surrounding the biggest day in the club’s brief history. However, he does insist that Ballyea do hold an advantage in this department after they claimed county titles in 2016 and 2018.
“This group are a pretty grounded bunch. It is great to be here but luckily most of these lads have experience of county final days at U21 and minor. We know it’s nothing like the experience Ballyea have at this level. They have won two of the last five county titles and have won Munster too so experience isn’t something they lack.”
Arguably the most striking aspect of Inagh-Kilnamona’s semi final success against Éire Óg was the composure they showed in the concluding stages of the game. The sides were level 11 times in total but despite losing Aidan McCarthy to injury, the club located West of Ennis managed to surge three points in front before Pa Kelly’s penalty save from Danny Russell’s shot sent Inagh-Kilnamona through.
“Composure is something we have worked on since the start of the year. We will need it for the final. What’s got us to this point is workrate, battle and team spirit. Those have helped us gain momentum and we’ve been able to keep that going. We have one more game so we have to show those qualities again.”
Cullinan states that David Fitzgerald is the biggest injury concern as he nurses a knee injury. Despite retiring injured from their semi final success, Aidan McCarthy was able to play the full game for Kilmurry-Ibrickane against Éire Óg last Sunday while his brother Jason also lined out for the Bricks.
The road to this final has not been straightforward for the combination club as they have had to navigate a tricky group draw to reach the knockout stages before needing to topple Cratloe and Éire Óg.
“It was a very challenging group. You had O’Callaghan’s Mills who reached the last county final while Kilmaley have done huge work at underage. Clonlara have been there before and are always a tricky outfit. In the game against Whitegate there were battles all over the field. We scraped a draw that day and then we had to face Cratloe who have a lot of experience and are always tough to beat. Then there was just a puck of the ball between us and Éire Óg in the semi final. It’s been challenging but hopefully those tests will stand to us.”
Cullinan, who scored two goals in Inagh-Kilnamona’s first ever Championship game at senior level in 2008, believes that despite Tony Kelly’s injury, his side will face a tough challenge toppling Ballyea.
“A lot of talk about them is about Tony Kelly’s injury but they have a team filled with talent. Paul Flanagan and Jack Browne are top class defenders. Then you have hard workers like Gary Brennan and up front they have Niall Deasy, Aaron Griffin and Pearse Lillis so they have no shortage of talent.”
The Inagh-Kilnamona manager believes the key to success will be outworking Ballyea in Cusack Park on Sunday.
“We have to have a higher workrate than them. They are a team who work extremely hard so first and foremost we have to match that. We need to battle hard and move the ball well. We have to play as a team and if we do those then hopefully we can come out on top.”
by Ivan Smyth