Clonoulty-Rossmore happy to punch above their weight

From Tony Brennan to Declan Ryan, Clonoulty-Rossmore has produced players who made indelible impressions on Tipperary hurling.

Clonoulty-Rossmore happy to punch above their weight

From Tony Brennan to Declan Ryan, Clonoulty-Rossmore has produced players who made indelible impressions on Tipperary hurling.

This was a rare year when the club didn’t have a Tipp senior panellist but the likes of U21 All-Ireland winner Dillon Quirke might restore that record next year.

Such regular representation and a third county final appearance this decade when they face Nenagh Éire Óg in Sunday’s decider, speaks of a rural club punching above its weight.

John Devane, their manager, knows that well as does their captain John O’Keeffe. Each a former county player but cognisant that their club have had to work harder than others to create such opportunities.

“I don’t think there’s any magic dust or spell that JD has put on us,” says O’Keeffe. “It’s just everybody working extremely hard. That’s really what it’s down to and that’s fundamentally what the team is built on is a work-rate and everybody in for each other.

“We’re a small rural club out there. We haven’t massive numbers and our Junior As are going very well as well so if we can get 30 down to the field and everybody’s rowing in the one direction, it makes a massive difference to our club. That’s really the main thing.

“Everybody’s rowing in the one direction, it’s brought it this far and maybe one more step would be unbelievable.”

With so many players either studying or living outside the county, Devane is well aware their fate depends on the willingness of the group to make journeys home.

“We’re very small and we need everyone to stay coming back,” says Devane.

“City clubs can lose players or gather players, we nearly work off the same base the whole time. So that’s very, very important to us. The lads would say that from 12 up along, we just have to keep lads coming to the field and if their friends are going, fellas stay coming for us and it’s great that way.”

Given the distances traveled, Devane takes a sensible approach to training particularly with the six players either working or studying in Dublin, who train at times with a club in the capital or meet up in UCD.

“They don’t really come down during the week because we can’t expect lads to spend five or six hours in a car of a Tuesday night and again on a Friday night to be giving everything that they have.

“It’s quite hard on a lot of lads but they are fresh and a relatively young team even though we have a good bit of experience there from seven or eight years ago being in two county finals.”

Devane isn’t so sure the new season calendar worked for clubs.

“A couple of lads we had went to America and came back probably even reinvigorated but it’s a grey area whether it’s going to work or not.

“I thought it’d be a really, really good thing. You might say it has worked for ye that ye’re in a county final but I’m sure there are clubs out there saying they never got going again after the break.

It’s frustrating for fellas, very frustrating for club players. I hear a lot of county players, not just in this county, fellas from the county that come back to the club and next thing they see that it does take an awful lot for club players to stick with it.

As a garda based in Portlaoise, O’Keeffe was down to work this Sunday night but made a swap.

A former games development officer in the county, he would have mentored the likes of Nenagh Éire Óg’s Jake Morris and Conor McCarthy.

“I’m now disgusted I taught them so much!

“It’s amazing. I knew I’d see Jake in a Tipperary jersey and even part of the Tipp senior panel. I knew those boys were destined for good things. It’s amazing to think you’re coaching these lads and the next minute you’re coming up against them.

“That’ll be another good battle and I’m sure I’ll bump into the boys.”

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