Kerry & Munster champions, Kilcummin stand on the brink of glory following their exploits over the past year.
A successful county campaign ended with a win over Glenflesk which earnt them a crack at Munster where they defeated Cork’s Fermoy in the final followed by a last-four showdown against Kildare’s Two Mile House went right down to the wire eventually ending in a dramatic one-point win for the Kerry side.
The reward for their long and winding road is a visit to Croke Park where they will take on Antrim’s Naomh Éanna in the All-Ireland intermediate final.
However, things could have been very different for the Kerry side as a little over a year ago they stared down the barrel of a 2018 campaign managerless.
Defender Sean O’Leary admits that many people in the Kingdom thought Kilcummin were ‘goosed’ at the start of 2018.
“We had no manager in January and the intermediate championship was starting in April 2018. Ten or eleven players went back training ourselves every Sunday morning. Then lads that had won minor county championships came back into it and then we got Willie Maher.
“He’s a real club stalwart, he’s been in Kilcummin for the last 20 years and he’s trained loads of teams and every one of us has huge respect for him.
“He came in around February and it just went up and up… Everyone outside the club looking in thought we were goosed and could be looking at going down to junior, but we knew ourselves we were on form and we went into the intermediate in April absolutely flying.
“It all turned around so quickly, the morale just started building and the progress came. Before every game, we’d just say to each other, look where we were this time last year and look at where we are now, we’ve come so far and it’s not going to stop now.”
It really is a remarkable turnaround for Kilcummin who were ranked 11/1 outsiders for the county semi-final. Despite facing a Templenoe team littered with Kerry players on that day Kilcummmin came out on top.
It is something that O’Leary highlights as a hallmark of this side, they simply don’t give up. When the going gets tough the tough get going as they say.
“We came into the semi-finals as 11/1 outsiders.
“It’s serious like. We played Templenoe in the semi-final and they had something like four or five Kerry panellists. We were going into that game as massive outsiders like but we came out of it with a one point win again. It’s been that thing, even if we’re down by two or three points with five minutes to go, we just keep on grinding it out.”
For the 19-year-old, tomorrow’s decider marks the fifth occasion that he has lined out in Croke Park following an All-Ireland semi-final and final with Kerry minors to go alongside two successful Hogan Cup wins with St. Brendan’s College Killarney.
A rare achievement indeed given his age, however, no matter how many times O’Leary walks on to the hallowed turf, the same feelings come back to him, it’s an experience that will never get old.
“You know, being up here in Croke Park, looking out at that pitch, it just gets the emotions going again, you just can’t wait to get out there, you could play on that pitch 100 times but it wouldn’t make a blind bit of difference, it’s unreal, you’re just buzzing.
“I’ve played there before with Kerry but it’s unreal to get there with the club, family, friends, lads you grew up with. At the same time, we know as a team that we’re coming up here for a game of football so we’re still focused, we’re coming up here to win.”