Holycross Ballycahill’s tremendous success in the All-Ireland junior B Hurling Final at Raheenagh on Sunday was fashioned on the old fashioned values of hip to hip hurling, and each of the fifteen doing their utmost to get the upper hand on their direct opponent.
The perfect mix of youth and experience saw Jimmy Burkes charges over the line after what was an exceptionally long season - they started out on the journey back in March 2013 and had many narrow escapes en-route to the All-Ireland Final. They drew the Mid Final, County Final and All-Ireland Final, and only lost one game in the entire campaign - against Sunday’s opposition, but in the Munster Final a few weeks ago.
Eight of the starting fifteen were the wrong side of thirty, with quite a few of those only just being on the right side of forty. But, it was that experience which really had a big say in the destination of the Killeedy Cup. The work of Michael Lee and John Fogarty in the half forward line in the first half was vital - Lee ended up with the Man of the Match Award, and deservedly so. They were involved in so much that was good about the side in the half, and Donal Duggan too made a big contribution in attack.
Then, when half time turned over and the pressure came on, it was left to the likes of Philip Ryan, Brendan Ryan and Alan Joyce to come to the fore and use their experience to shore up problematic areas. Denis McCullagh was also vital in this segment of the play while Tadhg Bourke in goal was cool and collected right through.
Youth had it’s day too for Holycross Ballycahill and when a score was needed in the second half, Eoghan Moloney held up a hand, plucked the ball from the sky and fired over a great point. Peter Gavin chipped in 1-3 from play - a brilliant return for a man whose attacking play caused all sorts of problems for the opposition ,while Jack Skehan and Dan Murphy got through an amount of work. Throw in Kevin O’Dwyer, who was all over the field, and Paidi Comerford who was unerring from placed balls, as well as the ever reliable Conor Hayes and you have a team of champions.
Jimmy Burke, Eamon Ryan, Ned Lowry and Gerry Fennessy have toiled long and hard for Holycross Ballycahill - Sunday was surely one of their greatest days. Declan Carr captained Tipperary to All-Ireland senior glory in 1991 - he trained this team and got as big a kick out of the success as he did on that great day in September in Croke Park.
The achievenment marks a great one for the club - a club which suffered towards the end of last year with the minor defeat in the county final in controvertial circumstances. But, they took it on the chin , rallied again and have ended up with an All-Ireland title - the sign of a vibrant organisation with a clearly defined set of objectives.
The celebrations afterwards were tremendous and who could blame them. Bonfires blazed at St Michael’s GAA Grounds as the John Doyle Centre played host to the first ever homecoming. The champions, with joint captains Padraig McGrath and Conor Hayes leading them, were piped up to the centre where a large crowd cheered and clapped the heroes in. The celebrations continued long into the night after each of the players had been introduced to the atendance by club Secretary Donal Ryan but there was general concensus on one thing - this victory was fashioned from hard work, commitment to the cause, and a never say die attitude - traits associated with Holycross Ballycahill for many decades going back to the likes of Doyle, Stakelum and Maher and which are still alive and well in the club.
The key now will be to build on, and enhance, the success of the youthful element, and hope that the All-Ireland title will inspire others in the green and white jersey to replicate their endeavours.
Many of those in the squad have spoken about hanging up the boots and what a way for them to bow out - loyal servants of the game and of their club. No doubt the boots will be used again by some of these men, perhaps outside the tramlines - most are involved with other teams in the club from juvenile upwards. They are the lifeblood of the club and the Association.
Congratulations to the squad and management on a really unique achievement.