Last Friday week, in Páirc Uí Rinn, Shanballymore junior hurlers wrote themselves in to the history books with a fantastic hard fought win against a tough and physical Bantry Blues team.
It was in an intriguing contest that had the large crowd on there feet till the final whistle.
The build up to the county final had seen the village a hive of activity and leading up to Friday night flags, buntings and posters saw the black and red colours flying throughout the area. Supporters young and old were in the field on every occasion to see the lads training in the build up to the final.
Thankfully we were able to line out with a full strength team on the night and had 32 players togged out ready for battle.
We had the first score of the game after two minutes when Jamie Sheedy pointed to settle the nerves, but within a minute we were rocked when the Bantry wing-forward found himself in space and blasted to the net giving Declan Fitzgibbon no chance. This was a set back for our lads, but they settled down and started to dominate with Sean Lynch, Eoin O’Regan and Jerome Fitzgerald getting on top in the half back line and Haulie and Darren doing very well in midfield.
Brian O’Reilly scored a great point from play before his brother Colman set up Jerome Fitzgerald for another long ranger to see us on level terms and back in the game.
Bantry were on the back foot at this stage and Jamie Sheedy, who was outstanding from place balls all day, put over two more points and then his brother Alan scored a beauty from a tight angle to give us a 0-6 to 1-0 lead.
Bantry, who never ever gave up, stopped the rot with a point from play before Dylan saw the Bantry keeper make a good save from his shot and then we added another point from a 65 from the impressive Eoin O’Regan – who had a very good game at wing back.
Bantry to their credit finished the half strongly and added four points, however Jamie Sheedy and Brian O’Reilly got two more good scores for us to see us leading at half time by the bare minimum 0-9 to 1-5.
We were facing into a strong breeze in the second half and knew that it was going to take an outstanding effort to get over the line and take the title home.
Our boys started the second half very well and had a good score from Brian O’Reilly in the opening minutes. Then we got the vital score we needed, a great run by Colman O’Reilly set up Alan Sheedy who saw his effort come off the crossbar but thankfully Dylan O’Callaghan was on hand to blast the rebound to the net and give us a healthy lead.
The large following of Shanballymore supporters were in joyous mood after the goal and knew that this was the start to the second half that was needed.
Brian Sheedy fielded a great ball a minute later and was fouled and Jamie duly obliged with the free to stretch our lead to six points.
Bantry and Brian O’Reilly swapped points again before they hit a purple patch and had a flurry of points to come within two points with only a few minutes remaining. It was game on, with both teams knowing that a strong finish was needed.
Paul Burke, who had come on for the injured Jerome Fitzgerald, set up his brother Haulie whom after one of his trademark runs scored a great point to stop the Bantry onslaught and see us lead by three points. At this stage our inside back line of Richard Burke, Jonathan Dennehy and Eoin McHugh, who were in brilliant form all day, were clearing any ball that came their way and keeper Declan Fitzgibbon was also very assured under the Bantry pressure.
Bantry just weren’t giving up and got two from play to come close again. Still there was time for more drama in this contest as Bantry had a pointed free to bring it down to a one point game but from the puck out we gained possession and when the O’Reilly brothers combined on the wing, Colman then sent over a beauty from the sideline.
At this stage the whole Shanballymore crowd were on their feet and the tension was almost unbearable as they knew we were minutes from claiming a first county hurling title since 1951.
Them captain Brian O’Reilly stand up for the cause and surged up field to score an inspirational point to again give us a very dangerous two point lead with time almost up.
Somehow Bantry had one last chance, but their full forward was dispossessed by the outstanding Sean Lynch and when Eoin McHugh forced Bantry to cough up a sideline.
As Eoin O’Regan took the cut the referee blew the full time whistle and for the first time in 64 years Shanballymore were County Hurling Champions!!!
What followed were unbelievable scenes of celebrations both on the field and in the stands as players and supporters celebrated this famous victory.
After this Cork County Board Chairman Ger Lane made the presentation of the cup to the proud, winning captain Brian O’Reilly.
When he finally caught his breath Brian went on to thank all those who had helped make this victory possible.
He had special praise for our hard working selectors Tom Palmer, Pat Walsh and Conor Hannon, our kit man Mick O’Keeffe and finally, our outstanding team trainer Jim O’Sullivan – who made a big difference this year with his calm approach to the game.
Brian thanked all his teammates for their hard work all year and he thanked the Shanballymore supporters who had came to Páirc Uí Rinn in their hundreds for the way they always support our team. Then the squad made their way onto the field again, where they were congratulated by proud family members and supporters who all wanted to meet the heroes of 2015.
At around 11pm the team bus arrived back home in Shanballymore and there was a rousing reception as our team got of the bus with the Junior B County Cup.
Friday, July 24 will be a day and night that will never be forgotten in the North Cork village of Shanballymore.
Final score: Shanballymore 1-15 Bantry Blues 1-13.
Team and scores: Declan Fitzgibbon; Eoin McHugh, Richard Burke, Jonathan Dennehy; Eoin O’Regan (0-1, 65’), Sean Lynch, Jerome Fitzgerald (0-1); Hallie Burke (0-1), Darren Roche; Brian O’Reilly (0-5), Brian Sheedy, Jamie Sheedy (0-5, 0-4f); Alan Sheedy (0-1), Dylan O’Callaghan (1-0), Colman O’Reilly( 0-1)
Subs: Paul Burke for Jerome Fitzgerald inj, Kenneth Barry for Darren Roche inj.