This Sunday will mark an historic day in the history of Shanballymore GAA club as our junior hurlers go in search of All Ireland glory in the village of Killeedy Co.Limerick when they cross camáns with Tynagh Abbey Duniry from Co Galway.
This journey started back in January of last year when we had our first training session in preparation for the 2015 championship and it really got going when we played Lough Rovers in the first round of the Cork county junior b hurling championship in May. We recorded a massive win against our city opponents 1-29 to 1-7 and the draw for round 2 was kind giving us a bye into the quarter finals where we played local rivals Araglin in Mitchelstown. After a tough hour of hurling we came away with another good win 1-19 to 1-8 and this was thanks to a blistering start to the game.
We marched on to the semifinals against Randal Og and this was played in Rathpeacon in early July and after a very even first half which saw the teams go in level we ran out convincing winners in the end 1-16 to 1-7 to set up a county final date in Pairc Ui Rinn against West Cork side Bantry Blue’s. There was great excitement in the village and surrounding area leading up to the final and on the 24th of July the lads took the field in Pairc Ui Rinn to try and claim a first county hurling title since 1951.
The early exchanges in the final were close with Bantry getting in for an early goal but once our lads settled they scored some excellent points to lead at half time by the minimum 0-9 to 1-5. The second half of the county final will long be remembered by supporters of the red and black as it was a ding dong battle right to the end but thankfully we were able to come out on the right side of an enthralling battle and claim the title 1-15 to 1-13. The final whistle kicked off some great scenes of celebrations by players management and supporters alike.
Winning the county title was a dream come true for this team but over the next few months they set their eyes on a bigger prize and this was to contest a Munster junior b hurling championship. This great competition was organised by Killeedy GAA club in Co.Limerick. We had plenty hurling between the county final and the start of the Munster championship and we went on to claim two more hurling titles when we won the north Cork junior b hurling championship against Killavullen and the county league title against Ballinhassig.
We kicked off the Munster campaign in November against Austin Stacks from Tralee but this game was as good as over after 15 minutes when we had built up a commanding lead of 12 points. We went on to win easily against the lads from the kingdom 5-29 to 1-6 but we knew that tougher opposition lay ahead in Co. Clare champions Broardford. The semifinal was played on a bitter cold day in December but this did not stop the lads from putting in an outstanding second half display to run out winners 1-16 to 0-12 against a physical Clare side who had some excellent hurlers among them.
This win set up a Munster final against Tipperary champions Eire Og Annacarty and this game was played on the 24th of January and it was a match that didn’t disappoint with some great excitement right to the end which saw the game finish all square. Both teams were then summoned back to Killeedy on valentines day the 14th of February for round two and this game went right to the wire as-well with the sides level a number of times but thankfully we were able to get some excellent points in the last ten minutes to see us hold out for a two point win and claim a first Munster title for the club on a score-line of 0-14 to 1-9.
This win had us in an All Ireland semifinal and this was totally new territory for the club and we knew that we were only 60 minutes away from contesting an All Ireland hurling final. We traveled to Killeedy to play the semifinal in February against Killkenny side Barrow Rangers and after a very keenly contested match which saw us a man down after 10 minutes we were unfortunately beaten by just two points.
This we taught was the end to our long and successful journey but in the days that followed our defeat the host club Killeedy were informed that Killkenny club Barrow Rangers had played a number of illegal players in the Lenister final and the All Ireland semifinal against us. This came as a shock and a surprise to all involved and over the next few weeks which involved many meetings the power’s that be in Croke Park ruled that Barrow Rangers be removed from the competition and we were awarded our place in the All Ireland final to be held this Sunday the 26th of June.
Preparations for the final have been building over the last number of weeks and this week has seen the red and black flags flying high again all over the village and surrounding area. The lads warmed up with a great win in the county league against Tullylease which was played last Saturday week and over the last two weeks Jim O’Sullivan, Conor Hannon, Tom Palmer and Pat Walsh have been putting the lads through their paces for the final.
We have a number of injury worries with Haulie Burke(shoulder) and Colman O’Reilly(finger) in a race against time to be fit. It will be a proud day for our captain Brian O’Reilly and his family as he will lead his club out on All Ireland day and hopefully Brian will be lifting the cup come 3.30pm next Sunday.
Whatever the outcome on Sunday it will be an historic day for the club’s player’s, management and supporters and this bunch of players have done the whole village proud with their success over the last 12 months and they along with the management and club officers deserve a tremendous amount of credit for the time they have put into this All Ireland journey.
Throw in on Sunday is at 2pm and no doubt the red and black supporters will be out in force to cheer the team on.