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First county senior title after 19 years playing, now a Munster campaign beckons for Miskella

2010 Cork All-Ireland winner John Miskella will be in action for Ballincollig against Austin Stacks today.

John Miskella celebrates with the trophy John Miskella celebrates after last month's Cork county final victory. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

AT THE OUTSET of 2014, championship football in November wasn’t a prospect that John Miskella was entertaining.

The 36 year-old had retired from the inter-county game in 2011, injuries calling a halt to his Cork career. He departed with an All-Ireland medal, an accolade he had long coveted, and an Allstar award, a testament to his personal contribution.

Miskella’s body had taken a battering over the years and managing to line out for his club Ballincollig was the major objective. He didn’t think of success as there was no reliable evidence to suggest it was possible. Since graduating to the Cork senior football ranks in 1994, Ballincollig had only reached the last four once and that was back in 1999.

“When I gave up playing with Cork, I just couldn’t take the training load any more,” recalls Miskella. “Keeping going with the club hasn’t been easy either, I have fierce problems with my groin and my back.

“It’s not an easy thing to walk away from though. The biggest thing I’d miss is the training on Tuesday and Thursday nights, meeting all the lads, having the craic. I didn’t want to walk away from that. Winning a county was the furthest thing from my mind. We’d never had any success, no one gave us a shout. I certainly didn’t think that we’d still be going at this stage of the season.”

Yet here they are in mid November, still active and still on the championship road. Last month brought their moment of glory, a first Cork senior football crown achieved at the expense of Carbery Rangers.

Today is a trip to Tralee with the prospect of Kieran Donaghy and Austin Stacks and the Kerry champions. Munster is unchartered territory yet the team’s progress has been relentless to date in 2014. Through it all, Miskella has been at the heart of their victories. Here’s his formula for being able to keep going.

John Miskella with Kieran Donaghy 24/8/2008 John Miskella and Kieran Donaghy in opposition when Cork played Kerry in 2008. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“It’s all about managing my body. I came back this year in February, whereas the lads have been on the road since last November. I feel a lot fresher as a result. I don’t do as much training as the lads as I’d be in bits after games. I couldn’t do a game Sunday and then train hard on a Tuesday. It’s an approach that’s worked so far and the management have been great for me.”

Their metamorphosis has been striking. Last year Ballincollig crashed out in Cork in the fourth round by 11 points yet this year they reversed that result to claim a ten point win.

“We lost a lot of key players last year when they went to America for the summer. We’ve players around the same age and it’s a natural thing that they all go together. We got punished with a heavy loss in football and got relegated in hurling as well.

“But it was turned around this year. You’d 20 lads in the gym off their own bat last November before a management team had even been put together. These lads don’t need to be geed up, we’ve a lot of leaders.”

#TheToughest - AIB GAA Club Championships with John Miskella, Ballincollig GAA John Miskella before today's AIB Munster semi-final Source: Barry Cregg/SPORTSFILE

That their year was capped off with success was something to savour.

“It was an incredible moment after so many years playing senior,” admits Miskella. “I wasn’t the only who thought it was unexpected but those moments on the pitch after the final were amazing.

“I feel lucky as well that I was still around when we won. A lot of guys I played with have retired and then a couple were unfortunate to have had to go away for work. You take lads like Hegga (Eoin Hegarty) and Cotsy (Brian Cotter), they’ve been playing for Ballincollig for years and played underage for Cork. They’d certainly be involved if they were in Ireland but the nature of it is that they’re in Australia because that’s where work is for them.”

Brian Cotter and Cathal Ryan Ballincollig's Brian Cotter in action for Cork (right) in the 2006 All-Ireland U21 semi-final. Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

Today’s a new chapter that bristles with possibility.

“It’s really exciting,” admits Miskella. “You’re playing the Kerry champions, going down to Tralee and playing a team we haven’t come up against before. We were back training the Thursday after the county final and we’ve taken it seriously. Our support has been good all year and it’s going to be enjoyable.”

This article was first published on 15 November at 08.30.

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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