Pat Ryan Reports
THIS Sunday, the tiny village of Shanballymore will be deserted as most of its inhabitants make their way to Raheenagh, Killeedy in West Limerick for the Munster Junior B Hurling Championship final.
This competition, organised by the Killeedy club is in memory of a great player who died a number of years ago the late Michael Fitzmaurice. Michael scored the winning goal in Killeedy’s only Co SHC final success in 1980 against South Liberties.
Two of his brothers Paudie and Canon Willie played senior hurling for Limerick, they played in the 1980 All- Ireland SHC final loss to Galway. Shanballymore Hurling Club is steeped in tradition.
Beginning back in 1902, when their senior hurlers contested the Co final against Dungourney. Incidently, Dungourney, who defeated them in that Co final are also in action this Sunday when they face Glenmore in the All- Ireland JHC semi-final in WIT Waterford.
In 1942 Shanballymore won the North Cork JAHC and Co JHC titles. The following year they upgraded to Intermediate level and won the Co IHC in their first year in the grade.
Following on they contested two more Co IHC finals in 1948 and 49 losing both to Midleton and Carrigtwohill. In 1951 Shanbally were crowned Co IHC kingpins when they overcame Midleton in the Co final.Pat O’Keeffe and Jimmy Ryan of that winning side are still alive and well. Retirements took their toll and Shanballymore went through a lean period dropping down the grades. They won the Novice Hurling title in 1965.
Tom Palmer, a current selector, was a member of that winning side. In 1979 they won the Divisional U16 A HC and also were crowned Co U16 champions. In 1981 further success came their way with the winning of the Co Minor HC. At that time there was a very good blend of youth within the club that saw them reach the Avondhu U21 A HC finals of ’83 and ’84 but they lost both to Ballyhea. The Junior A hurlers reached the Avondhu final in 1989 but were beaten by Clyda Rovers.
Clyda Rovers went on to claim that Co title with a win over Ballinascarthy in the Co final after a replay. In 1996 Shanballymore had another very good season — they won the Divisional League, North Cork JAHC title and also the Autumn League. The following year they retained their JAHC title with a win over Dromina in Ballyhea. In 1996 Conor Hannon current selector was a member of the Avondhu side that won the Co SHC while another player Tom Mannix won a Co SFC medal with Clonakilty that year.
Winning back-to-back JAHC titles was a huge success for the club breaching a 52 year gap since their success of ’42. In the lead up to Sunday’s final Shanballymore appointed Jim O’Sullivan (Castlemagner) as coach. Along with selectors Conor Hannon, Tom Palmer and Pat Walsh they have been in action since early January last and to date they have completed 105 sessions including championship games, league games, challenge and training sessions.
Having lost to Ballyclough in the 2014 Co semi-final, Shanballymore were all out from the start of the season to do very well. They competed in the Div 1 HL. They had one big win over Dromina who were the table toppers at the time and also the defending JAHC kingpins Habour Rovers. Results in the Div 1 HL saw Shanballymore beat Fermoy 1- 11 to 0- 13, beat Buttevant 1- 13 to 1- 9.
They lost out a vital game to Newtownshandrum that cost them a place in the semi finals. They took part in the Co JAHL. In the Co JAHL they recorded wins over Ballygarvan and Ballinhassig.Other teams in that Co JAHL were Laochra Óg, Crosshaven and Belgooly. Shanballymore met Ballinhassig in the Co final in Mallow where they were victorious by 1-14 to 1- 7.
In the first round Co JBHC Shanballymore met Lough Rovers. They led 1-13 to 0- 5 at half time and in the end were winners by 1-28 to 1- 8. Nine points on the trot in the last quarter by Jerome Fitzgerald, Michael O’Donovan, Colman O’Reilly, Brian Sheedy, and Shaun Cronin saw the side have one of their biggest wins. Over the hour, 11 players got on the scoresheet.
In the quarter final Shanballymore played Araglin in Mitchelstown. In wet conditions, they were won 1-19 to 1-8. The 1-19 was again shared by 11 players. The semi-final was against Randal Óg in Rathpeacon. An even first half had the sides level on six occasions. In the second half Shanballymore took control to win 1- 16 to 1- 7. The county final was against Bantry Blues. Played in Páirc Uí Rinn. Bantry led by a point at half time. The second half was very close with Shanballymore holding out for a close 1-15 to 1- 13 win.
Shanballymore had two games in the Munster JBHC. The first was a quarter-final 5-29 to 1-6 win against Austin Stacks. The semi final v Broadford (Clare) was a lot closer with the Avondhu side victorious, 1-16 to 0- 12. They face Éire Óg (Tipperary) in the final on Sunday.
Richard Burke is the Club Chairman for the past eight years. He is the longest serving member of the side being corner back all season. He started hurling in 1995 and over the past 21 years has been involved. He has seen good days and days that were not so good. He is very passionate about the club – saying we have massive support. “It is only a small village one pub, post office, a school, church and community Hall, no shop,” Burke said. “We have great family tradition and loyalty. After last year’s loss to Ballyclough we brought in Jim O’Sullivan as coach and along with Conor Hannon, Tom, Palmer and Pat Walsh there has been a great focus.
“The mindset of the team has changed. Discipline has been brilliant all year and the work rate of the entire panel is enormous. All players are treated equally. We’ve a very good balance of youth and experience with our recent U21 successes a major help. “There is a great atmosphere in the village and the banners are erected. We know we face a very tough task against Éire Óg but we will relish the moment of being in a Munster final. It does not happen too often.”