‘We took what they threw at us, and came back with better’

EVERYTHING you want in a team – any team – Effin have it, and not for the first time in the last two all-conquering seasons, they showed it again yesterday.

Skill yes, bucketloads of it in every position, and intelligence, heart, honesty of effort, tenacity, teamwork, total concentration, commitment, composure and courage under pressure, they have it all.

Everything you want in a team captain they also have, in corner-back John P O’Donnell. Shifted as early as the 10th minute from his usual right corner to the left to curb the threat of Ballyduff dangerman Pat Joe Connolly, who had already scored three points from play.

He made a fine acceptance speech also, eloquent and generous, paid fulsome tribute to the supporters, the backroom staff, tribute especially to gallant Ballyduff: “By far the best team we’ve met all year.”

Most of his praise was reserved for his own team-mates and manager Peter Quinn, the man who guided to them to consecutive county titles at junior and intermediate level in Limerick, and now Munster intermediate kingpins.

“It’s a fantastic team effort – Nicky Quaid [centre-back], John Dillon [full-back], Damien Moloney [centre-forward), Thomas Quaid [full-forward], they’re all very strong down the middle but it’s a team effort and has been for the last two years especially, and thanks be to God it’s really paying off now.

“A lot of that is down to the trainer Peter Finn, the type of things he has us doing in training in our matches — fierce intensity, fierce hardness, and that’s really after standing to us. The matches we’ve had as well over the past few months, we’ve been able to claw a win from these tight games.”

It’s been a meteoric rise for John P and his team, from never having won an adult hurling county title in Limerick to this, Munster intermediate champions. Looking through the programme yesterday, the honours won by the Ballyduff players, they were simply bristling with quality.

Kerry have been in two Christy Ring finals in-a-row and are reigning champions. They have also won two All-Ireland U21B crowns – most of this Ballyduff team were on one or the other of those sides.

“We knew coming down here this was going to be the toughest battle we’ve had over the last two years,” said John P.

“I think we were a bit nervous in the first five or ten minutes, I know Peter was saying to us – and we always have that outlook – that this was just another game, but definitely in the opening ten minutes these fellas tried to blitz us. In fairness to us we never panicked, took what they threw at us, and came back with better.”

Just a game away from an All-Ireland final now, a Croke Park appearance – is he, perhaps, just a little surprised?

“A bit, but to tell you the truth I always knew we had this in us. It’s a fantastic bunch of hurlers, but the effort and the heart these fellas have shown is just unbelievable.”

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