In a tale every bit as full of dashing as anything Dumas ever penned, in less than two years this little club from the south Limerick-north Cork border has gone from rags to previously undreamed-of riches.
It’s all down to a group of players who simply refuse to lose, who have shrugged off the shackles that saw Effin – as proud a hurling parish as any in the nation – slaves to a losing history, too long without a single adult county hurling title.
Last year they won the county junior title and celebrated for months. This year, their first at IHC, they had already exceeded all expectations and won the Limerick title. Yesterday, however, they became Munster champions, again overcoming huge odds, again beating a team to whom they were expected to bow the knee.
“There’s not a whole lot I can say about them,” said manager Peter Finn, though the players have plenty to say about the Bruree native.
“The best coach any of us has ever played under,” stated captain John P O’Donnell. “You just look at the crowd that was here today [supporting us]. There’s definitely not that number of people in Effin parish anyway! But these guys have caught the imagination of everyone, there’s desperate heart in them. I said to them at half-time ‘lads, we have a chance here’.
“We were poor in the first-half, no doubt about it, lucky to be only a point behind. I think it was just nerves, the occasion probably got to us, but in the second-half we really put the shoulder to the wheel. I knew once we got on top we weren’t going to concede much. I knew if we didn’t concede a goal we’d probably win, and we haven’t conceded too many goals throughout the year.”
That’s the summation of the game right there. Ballyduff started very well, corner-forward Pat Joe Connolly’s three points in seven minutes seeming to confirm the opinion of the oddsmakers that this was going to be a one-sided affair. A quick move by Peter Finn and the three wise men (Ger Power, Denis O’Donovan and Jim Byrnes) on the sideline, however — John P O’Donnell over on Pat Joe — and that particular threat was snuffed out.
Andrew Dillon shone in his new position, John Dillon was doing wonders between them while in the half-back line, Michael O’Donnell and Michael Rea on the wings and the commanding Nicky Quaid in the centre began to impose themselves.
In midfield James O’Donnell and Patrick Carroll more than held their own, while the powerful half-forward line of Pierce O’Kelly, Damien Moloney and Conor Kearney began the work that would eventually see Effin home. Inside them, three extremely skilful players in Timmy Rea, Tommy Quaid and Darren Sheehy.
With every individual in every line now fighting like dogs for every ball, gradually Effin began to work their way into the game, and though they were fortunate to be just a point behind at the break, 0-8 to 0-7, they were beginning to look slightly the better side.
The second-half confirmed that impression. Not until the 51st minute did Ballyduff score again, and this despite the best efforts of the four talented Boyle brothers, Liam, Pádraig, Aidan and Mikey, the intelligent clearances of Padraig O’Grady.
Meanwhile Effin had scored four, teenager Timmy Rea really coming into his own. Ballyduff rallied, points from Mikey and Aidan Boyle bringing them back within one (0-11 to 0-10, 52nd minute), but it was Effin finishing with style, three unanswered points.
A magnificent individual display by Nicky Quaid, one for the ages, but more significantly, magnificent team display.
Scorers for Effin: T Quaid 0-4fs, T Rea 0-3, N Quaid 0-3 (2fs, 1 65), D Moloney 0-2, D Sheehy, E Kelly, 0-1 each.
Scorers for Ballyduff: M Boyle, PJ Connolly 0-3 each A Boyle, B O’Sullivan (2fs) 0-2 each, B O’Grady 0-1.
EFFIN: D O’Donoghue; JP O’Donnell, J Dillon, A Dillon; M O’Donnell, N Quaid, M Rea; J O’Donnell, P Carroll; P O’Kelly, D Moloney, C Kearney; T Quaid, T Rea, D Sheehy.
Subs: E Kelly for O’Kelly (30), H O’Neill for Sheehy (45).
BALLYDUFF: PJ O’Gorman; J Bowler, P Costello, D O’Grady; A O’Connor, P O’Grady, L Boyle; B O’Sullivan, B O’Grady; P Boyle, A Boyle, G O’Brien; PJ Connolly, M Boyle, A O’Carroll.
Subs: JP Leahy for O’Carroll (43), D Goulding for D O’Grady (58), T O’Rourke for P Boyle (60).
Referee: M Wadding (Waterford).