Sunday June 26th will be a day that lives long in the memories of supporters, followers, management and players of Shanballymore GAA club near and far. It will go down as the day we became All Ireland Junior B hurling champions after a titanic battle against Tynagh Abbey Duniry from Galway.
The setting for the final was Killeedy GAA Club in Rahenagh Co. Limerick and everything in Killeedy was as always in perfect working order for an historic day for both ourselves and our Galway opponents. If ever a club typifies the GAA it’s Killeedy as they have built this competition from scratch eleven years ago and now this competition is one of the most successful club competition’s within the GAA. Last Sunday was no different with everything running in perfect order from the time the club’s arrived at the grounds to the presentation of the cup afterwards.
This was our sixth visit to Killeedy so it’s a road well traveled and it is a place that will forever be remembered in the hearts of Shanballymore people. Last Sunday week the crowd that turned up to support the famous red and black was outstanding and like the county final last July against Bantry Blue’s and the Munster final in February against Eire Og Annacarty they were left on the edge of their seats as the players battled to record yet another two point win.
On what can only be described as a winter’s day, playing conditions weren’t ideal for both teams as a constant drizzle and a very strong wind made fluent hurling very hard indeed. It was a game that had everything with Tynagh surging into an early lead which was not helped as we missed some early scoreable chances to stay with them. At half time and trailing by seven points we were facing defeat but credit to all involved they dug deep and chipped away at the Tynagh lead. Once we got within striking distance and the crowd sensing a come back it was an all out effort to claim the title.
With tired bodies on both sides at the final whistle it would take extra time to decide the destination of the All Ireland cup and what prevailed was to be a battle royal with our lads surging into a five point lead in the first half of extra time. In fairness to Tynagh who come out and throw everything they could at us in the second half of extra time. Tynagh got within two points but they couldn’t find a way past our defence in the last few minutes with guys putting bodies on the line to win an All Ireland hurling title for themselves, their club and families.
In the end we held out for an historic win and the celebrations at the final whistle had to be seen to be believed with friends, families, supporters and many more streaming on to the pitch to congratulate the management and players on a fabulous win against all odds. After all the formalities had been preformed which included the presentation of the cup to our esteemed captain Brian O’Reilly and also the man of the match award to the excellent Jamie Sheedy it was on to Shanballymore for a night or two of celebrations which went on well into the early hours.
The game itself had a blistering start with Brian O’Reilly winning possession from the throw in and making a great run through the heart of the Tynagh defence only to see his pass to the forward line run out wide. With Tynagh having a strong blustery wind at their backs in the first half it was a case of just keeping in touch and not letting the game slip away too early. They also had the treat of the once great Galway hurler Kevin Broderick in at full forward and he started very brightly along with most of his team mates.
Tynagh went 0-4 to 0-1 in front after ten minutes with Jamie slotting over a free which came from a foul on Richard Burke who was playing a new role in at full forward and Richard was to go on and play an outstanding game winning many frees and also seeing lots of possession. We had some bad wide’s around the 15 min mark and Tynagh stretched their lead with another Broderick point in the 17th min to lead 0-5 to 0-1. This wasn’t the ideal start and at this stage it was a case of hanging on to the coat tails of a very dominate Tynagh side who were winning most of the battles around the field.
Jamie Sheedy pointed another free in the 20th minute but minutes later some very good Tynagh play led to them getting in for a well taken goal and they followed this up with another quick point to lead 1-6 to 0-2 after 25 minutes. Thankfully we stopped the rot with a well taken Brian O’Reilly point but Tynagh added two more to again take total control of the game and keep their big lead intact. We finished the first half with another pointed free from Jamie Sheedy and this saw us go in at half time 7 points down 1-8 to 0-4.
Even though we would have the wind at our backs in the second half nobody present in Killeedy could foresee the next 30 minutes and how we would take total control of the game and fight against all odds, whatever was said in the dressing room at half time certainly had the desired effect as our lads emerged like men possessed. We got an ideal start when Jamie Sheedy pointed a free after Darren Roche was fouled and this was followed with Brian O’Reilly making a thundering run and slotting over to bring the lead down to five points.
Tynagh got a point in the 35min from a quickly taken free to go six ahead and unbelievably this was to be their last score of the second half as our boys closed up shop and started to dominate all over the field. Our inside back line of Eoin McHugh, Alan Sheedy and James Hayes were in total control of the Tynagh inside forward line who had looked so lively in the first half. McHugh had nullified the treat of danger man Kevin Broderick who like many other full forwards is finding out what an absolutely brilliant full back Eoin is turning out to be.
Beside him James Hayes and Alan Sheedy put the shackles on their two very lively corner forwards and these two lads were replaced midway through the second half as the Tynagh line saw they were getting noting from the lads. Declan Fitzgibbon in goals was as always brilliant when called upon and Declan used all his experience when in possession of the ball and his puck outs were causing many problems for the Tynagh defence and leading to many scores in the second half.
Sean lynch at center back towered in to the game in the second half and the tougher it gets the more this guy seems to like it and he made many timely interceptions to break up the Tynagh attack. Beside him we had two outstanding wing backs in this second period with Jerome Fitzgerald back to his best when fielding some excellent high ball and winning some important frees to ease the pressure on those around him. Young Rob McHugh like his brother was a pure colossus when the ball came his way.
Our midfield of Colman O’Reilly and Brian Sheedy for the second half were totally dominating and these two lads really upped the ante and played some exceptional hurling for the remainder of the game. We were well on top in most areas of the field and when Brian Sheedy gained possession on the 45 yard line after a great ball from Eoin O’Regan he turned his man and split the posts to put five points between the teams.
Jamie followed with an excellent free after another foul on Richie Burke and we were now closing in fast on the Tynagh lead. They did have a few chances of scores but most were long range efforts and these were dealt with easily by Declan Fitzgibbon and his commanding back line. Darren Roche who had run himself into the ground and played some excellent hurling was replaced by Kenneth Barry in the 40th minute. From another long clearance by Sean Lynch to Brian O’Reilly who gained possession and played a beautiful pass to his brother Colman who went on a mazy run and struck a fantastic point off the stick to close the gap even further.
Jamie was called upon again in the 50th minute when a high ball into the square was deflected out for a 65 and with pinpoint accuracy Jamie slotted the ball between the posts to see the lead down to two points. At this stage Tynagh were in dire need of a score to stop the red and black tide but once again our defence and midfield were brilliant. With seven minutes remaining we came within a point of our Galway opponents when Paul Burke picked up a lose ball 30 yards out and he duly obliged with a tremendous score from an acute angle.
One point down with minutes remaining in an All Ireland final and with the massive crowd from Shanballymore beginning to believe that this was going to be our day and in the next attack we got the score to bring us level when Jerome Fitzgerald won a free after a great catch and sharpshooter Jamie Sheedy put the placed ball over to a massive cheer. In the dying minutes and with Tynagh totally dejected at this stage we got two chances to win it when first Colman O’Reilly was inches wide and straight after his brother Brian and captain could only watch as his long range effort tailed off to the right and narrowly wide.
Shortly after referee John Murphy blew for full time and somehow we had come back from the brink to draw level and have a chance in extra time to claim the title. Tynagh won the toss but strangely they decided to play against the elements and over the next ten minutes we carried on from the second half of normal time and dominated the first period of extra time.
Jamie was first to score from close range when he picked up a lose ball after great work by Alan Sheedy down the wing and this was soon followed by an opportunist point by Kenneth Barry after excellent pressure by Colman O’Reilly. Jamie followed up with two outstanding frees to see us lead by four points heading into half time in extra time and with practically the last play of the half Brian O’Reilly gained possession out on the wing and scored a monster point to see us lead by five points with only the second half of extra time to come.
With tired bodies our boys knew that Tynagh would come at us with all guns blazing but somehow in those final ten minutes this fantastic group of players found the energy to fight and battle for every ball. Vincent Burke came on for the outstanding Paul Burke and he fought hard for every ball that came his way. Tynagh got a point after two minutes and they followed this up with a free soon after to leave three points between the sides.
They were really upping the ante now and from their next attack they were narrowly wide much to the relief of the Shanballymore crowd. Jerome Fitzgerald won possession from the resulting puck out and he played a neat pass to Brian Sheedy who was fouled after a great run at the heart of the Tynagh defence, this eased the constant pressure on our defence. Jamie was just off target with the resulting free but it had eaten up valuable time that was ticking towards the end of the game.
With two minutes remaining Tynagh got another point and now the score board read Shanballymore 0-17 Tynagh 1-12 and it was backs to the wall and fight for our lives. Niall Barry replaced the excellent Colman O’Reilly and he was to play an important role in helping us get over the line. In the final two minutes some of the commitment and bravery shown was outstanding with bodies being put on the line to make last gasp blocks.
Rob McHugh was one man that felt the full force of a Tynaghs man hurley when he made a last ditch effort to block a certain point and keep our lead Intact. Tynagh had one last attack in the dying seconds and when their high ball was broken down by Sean Lynch referee John Murphy sounded the full time whistle and somehow against all odds and after an unbelievable come back we had held on to win by two points and become All Irelands junior b hurling champions for 2015/16.
Over the next few minutes the large number of red and black supporters streamed on to the field to join in the celebrations and to congratulate their heroes who had just written themselves into the history books with this fantastic win. After all the celebrations it was time for the cup to be presented to our proud captain Brian O’Reilly who has led this team over the last 16 months and this was Brian’s fifth time receiving a cup on behave of this special group of players.
At the presentation there was some well known and high profile faces with former president of the GAA Sean Kelly attending along with Limerick county board chairman Oliver Mann along with Liam Lenihan vice chairman of the Munster council. Representing the Avondhu board was chairman Barry Aherne who was absolutely delighted with our win.
The competition has a very well known sponsor and this is Canning hurleys from Galway and they were represented by former all star Ollie Canning. When all the speeches were finished the Killeedy Perpetual cup was presented to Brian O’Reilly and this was met with tremendous roar from the very large support who had traveled to cheer the lads to victory. There was one more piece of important business to finish off the day and this was the man of the match award which was so generously sponsored throughout the tournament by Brian and Theresa Casey of Caseys pub.
Most of the team had put in a savage effort during the 80 minutes with Eoin McHugh, Sean Lynch, Alan and Brian Sheedy outstanding but the man of the match award went too our free taker and sharpshooter Jamie Sheedy who scored a total of 10 points and also played a tremendous game of hurling.
I must mention the referee and his officials who were very good on the day and Johnny Murphy from the Ballylanders club in Co limerick was outstanding throughout the game and let it flow without ever getting involved. A big thanks to the Killeedy club who have over the last eight months made each and every one of the people of Shanballymore feel so welcome when we visit, they ran this tournament so professional and had everything in order for match day and the hospitality received afterwards in the hall was again outstanding and very much appreciated by every one involved in the club.
No success is possible without the hard work and dedication of so many people so a big thanks to all club officers Treasurer Mary O’Regan, Secretary Noreen Burke, Chairman Richard Burke and all their assistance’s who helped out along the way. To the players who have created their own piece of history with this win they deserve tremendous amount of thanks for the effort put in training and playing matches over the last 16 months since this journey began.
No team would be complete without their leaders on the line and the four men Tom Palmer, Pat Walsh and Conor Hannon along with trainer Jim O’Sullivan who have masterminded this all Ireland win deserve a big thanks for their effort along the way because without their input and knowledge of the game we would never have got this far. We also have our medical man Eddie Roche to thank and he is always at the ready to patch up the cuts and knocks the lads receive, thanks to our kit man Mick O’Keeffe who every night at training has all the gear at the ready and does so much unseen work around the club.
Click HERE to see some great coverage of the pinnacle of Sporting history for Shanballymore GAA
Team: Declan Fitzgibbon, James Hayes, Eoin McHugh, Alan Sheedy, Brian Sheedy(0-1), Sean Lynch, Jerome Fitzgerald, Rob McHugh, Colman O’Reilly(0-1), Eoin O’Regan, BrianO’Reilly(0-3), Jamie Sheedy(0-10 8f), Darren Roche, Richard Burke, Paul Burke(0-1) Subs: Kenneth Barry(0-1) for Darren Roche, Vincent Burke for Paul Burke, Niall Barry for Colman O’Reilly.