Kilmallock Captain Liam Hurley  – “To lead your team on county final day, it’s every dream you can have.”

Kilmallock will take to the field for their first county SHC final since 2014 on Sunday. They will do so against the side that they conquered on that day, Na Piarsaigh.

Club captain Liam Hurley has been a key part of a hugely successful period for Kilmallock hurling, a side that have claimed the Daly Cup three times since 2010 and a Munster title in 2014, before finishing runners up in the All-Ireland club championship the same year.

Last year The Balbec lost out to eventual champions Patrickswell in the semi-final stages. Hurley was forced to spectate on the loss as he was side-lined due to concussion, he says that the defeat served as motivation for his side to go one better this time around.

“It drove us on to this year, last year was a massive downer for us. It was disappointing because the effort the lads put in was phenomenal so we’re just grateful we’re getting the opportunity again this year.”

This season Kilmallock took their chance to avenge last year’s loss as they faced into the same fixture with The Well. James Connery’s side came into the game following a 5-week layoff from competitive action but managed to come out on top in the game, Hurley says the fear was always there against a talented Patrickswell side.

“The more games you play, it brings on your hurling more but we’ve played Patrickswell over the years and we’ve always had good battles with them. The 21’s won an All-Ireland final with Cian Lynch and Aaron Gillane so the fear was always there but we came away with a win and we’re delighted to be in a final.”

Sunday’s opponents, Na Piarsaigh went a step further than Kilmallock in 2015 by claiming a historic All-Ireland club title just 12 months after The Balbec had suffered heartbreak in the final of the competition. Hurley admits the success that Na Piarsaigh had that year has driven his own side on, he believes that there isn’t much that separates the sides in terms of quality.

“From a Kilmallock point of view that drives you on. They’re a good side, they have good players but we have equally as good players so hopefully we’ll give it our all on Sunday and come away with a win.”

Hurley admits that there must be an improvement in performance for the final, especially from an attacking point of view.  “We’ve to take our opportunities more, frees or any chance we get at goal, we’ll need to take those options.”

The captain and his defensive partners will also need to be on top of their game come Sunday against a fancied Na Piarsaigh side who boast a supremely talented front six, the corner back isn’t taking the challenge lightly.

“It’s a massive challenge, they’ve numerous players on the county panel. We’ve played Na Piarsaigh over the years and have had many battles with them, thankfully we got the better of them in 2014. This year is a new year and hopefully whoever wants it more is going to get it.”

Hurley will have the honour of leading his club out at the Gaelic Grounds at the weekend, a privilege that isn’t lost on the seasoned veteran.

“It’s massively special (to be captain) words can’t describe it. It’s a massive honour, the group of players we have are fantastic, the commitment they give and sacrifices they make. To lead your team on county final day, it’s every dream you can have. “

With the Eir Sport cameras once again in situ, it promises to be a huge occasion. Nobody can be in any doubt that the two best teams in the county have made Sunday’s showpiece. Let’s just hope it lives up to the expectation.