In another time we could be talking about something very different. It just goes to show that a proud history and success offer no guarantees.
Some of us of an age would have seen mighty Mooncoin and brilliant Bennettsbridge operating at a very different level of hurling. They were heavyweights in the game, and way beyond the boundaries of this county too.
After all, they won the senior hurling championship 24 times between them, equally divided, by the way. The last win at that level was by the ’Bridge way back in 1971.
On Sunday in Nowlan Park, the first team from two of the biggest names in the history of club hurling in Kilkenny will contest the junior championship final. It is two levels off the top rank.
That is the reality for this generation of wearers of the colours in Bennettsbridge and Mooncoin. The past was not of their making. They are out to write their own history.
And on Sunday, one side will take the first big step back up the ranking. The intermediate grade beckons in 2015.
Winning a hurling championship is a huge achievement in this county. Winning at junior level is tough, very, very tough.
Just ask Bennettsbridge. They lost the previous two finals! Attempting to add to the successes of 1948 and 1951 at this level hasn’t, and won’t, been easy.
Mooncoin are chasing their fifth junior crown having put their name on the title in 1920, 1937, 1942 and 1961.
Last season they were playing at intermediate level. They dropped down after losing a relegation final replay against Young Irelands (Gowran), 1-11 to 0-8. The slide hasn’t been easy to accept or understand for a proud people in a proud parish.
The hurt of the slide has been turned into an inspiration, and team manager, Eamon Phelan, a winner of two Christy Ring Cups with London, and his selectors have slowly rebuilt confidence and belief.
Mooncoin’s desire was tested to the full against O’Loughlin Gaels in the semi-final. The looked pretty ordinary for long stages, but when they turned to the talent on the bench into the final stretch the selectors got the response they desired.
The overall team effort improved. Four subs came up with five points and rescued Mooncoin from a deficit of 3-10 to 1-14 after an O’Loughlin’s goal from Danny Lenihan in the 48th minute left them staring defeat squarely in the face.
Subs P.J. Rowe and Diarmuid Mackey came up with the points that levelled the game. Rowe scored a second time and fellow reserves, Ray Wall and Padraig Walsh also found the target as the Suirsiders escaped, if you like, to victory.
The manner of the success doesn’t matter now. Mooncoin are in the final. They are within an hour of achieving something huge.
They are a squad still digging to get the best out of themselves. They have the hurlers. Their half-back line of Niall Mackey, Cormac Daly and Eoin Hennebry is a fair strong unit.
Midfielder Ethan Ryan, James McGrath and Kieran Dillon Dunphy are talented too.
Stephen Crowley lined out at full-forward in the semi-final. He was the only one among the starting attackers who failed to raise a flag, but he was a lively player maker; one who made scores and opening for others.
His spirit epitomised what Mooncoin and every team looks for - an unselfish commitment to the cause.
Bennettsbridge too struggled in the semi-final. They did fairly well when playing against the elements in the first half, but still they found themselves at the wrong end of a 1-16 to 0-12 lead turning into the last quarter.
Opponents Galmoy set up what would have been the biggest upset in championship hurling in years, but they weren’t able to deliver the knock-out punch against the title favourites. The fact that the ’Bridge had the nerve and hurling to dig their way out of trouble has to be praised, but they got a warning, a serious warning.
The ’Bridge lost the two previous finals against Lisdowney (2-16 to 1-18) and Thomastown (3-13 to 0-10) in 2012.
Perhaps it was because things came easy in the previous round against another of the main contenders, Piltown, that the ’Bridge failed to sparkle in the semi. They hit Piltown for six goals.
Winning was handy. The fact that two of the goals were gifts, and they turned the tie against Piltown, might have left some of the belief that destiny awaits. Refer back to the final of 2012. Refer again to the final of 2013.
This is a good and young Bennettsbridge crew. Most have enjoyed success at minor level. If they can attain promotion, who knows where they might end up in the long run.
Manager Christy Walsh and his selectors know their players very well. Goalie Enda Cleere brought off a super stop in the opening minutes against Galmoy. He underlined his excellence in that moment.
Robert Lennon, Kevin and Liam Blanchfield (he scored two goals in the semi), Nickey Cleere, the O’Neills’, the Wafers and so on and have already shown they are a gifted lot.
Getting to three finals in-a-row took some doing. Age and maturity were possibly against Bennettsbridge in previous times.
Forget the ‘they deserve it talk’ and the third time lucky stuff. The ’Bridge have the hurlers to win, but they will have to make it happen. What happened in the semi was their warning for the final.
Paths to the final
Bennettsbridge 1-17, Windgap 0-11.
Bennettsbridge 6-13, Piltown 0-10.
Bennettsbridge 2-19, Galmoy 1-16.
Mooncoin 1-18, John Lockes (Callan) 1-5.
Mooncoin 0-17, Kilmacow 1-12.
Mooncoin 1-20, O’Loughlin Gaels 3-11.