Charleville relishing Croke Park trip
By Cian O’Connell
Darragh Fitzgibbon and his Charleville colleagues remained defiant. It had been a grim opening period as Feakle thundered into a 1-13 to 0-6 advantage in the Munster Intermediate decider.
A youthful Charleville outfit were under serve duress as a clinical Feakle team were very much in the ascendancy.
Gradually the complexion altered after the restart with Charleville eventually finishing with a flourish to secure a dramatic and unexpected victory.
“We were 10 points down against Feakle, it was testament to the players that they didn't panic at half-time,” Fitzgibbon admits.
“In the Gaelic Grounds that day there was a strong wind and we knew we didn't play well at all in the first half. We got a good couple of scores in the second half and in the end we got two goals to rob it, I suppose, but it was probably one of the best victories I was ever involved in.”
It kept Charleville’s adventure going and the fact that they will compete at senior level in Cork this year adds another layer of satisfaction. Fitzgibbon acknowledges that a decade of sheer hard graft on and off the field is why the current crop have gained success and silverware.
“The players on the team are getting all of the praise, but when I was growing up we were a Junior team,” Fitzgibbon stresses. “The structures that were put in place were incredible from all the backroom team. For all the young fellas running up and down to have a senior club is unreal.
“We had been there or thereabouts, this was our third year Premier Intermediate. We lost against Kanturk, who went the whole way to the All Ireland, the year before we lost to Bandon and Fermoy, the two of them got to the Final.
“It is really hard to win it, fair play to the players and management. When we met we said we would try to rectify it and we managed to do that.”
All Star Fitzgibbon, who hopes to be available for Sunday’s Final against Oranmore-Maree in Croke Park following a knee injury, acknowledges it will be a proud moment for Charleville to hurl at GAA headquarters.
“It is incredible, you never think you'll get the chance to represent your club at the top level,” Fitzgibbon remarks. “It is a great opportunity for the whole town and for everyone to travel to Croke Park to support their own club is what everyone dreams of really.
“We are in a place we've never been before, this is the furthest we have come. We are under no illusions, Oranmore are a very good side.
“When you get outside your county you only have a couple of weeks to see what they are about. An All Ireland Final in Croke Park is never going to be easy, but it would be great to get over the line.”
Following Cork’s gripping All Ireland semi-final loss to Limerick, Fitzgibbon briskly turned his attention to Charleville duty. “It all goes so quick the way the Championship is structured,” Fitzgibbon comments. “You are going from week to week so you don't really have time to look back. You look back when it is all done.
“After the disappointment against Limerick to come back in with Charleville got you going again straightaway. You didn't really have time to process that disappointment. When we came back with Charleville we started getting on a roll. To win the county was unbelievable, the first time in 50 years. It has been great.
“There has been ups and downs with Cork. When you are playing with Cork you are talking about winning All Irelands, we haven't done that yet so we have a lot to improve. With Charleville we haven't hurled senior in 50 years so we have a lot done, but a lot more to do really.”