‘The only thing that’s keeping Tournafulla alive is the bit of hurling’

Was every citizen of Tournafulla in Dromcollogher on Saturday to witness the club’s first-ever Limerick Junior A hurling title?

‘The only thing that’s keeping Tournafulla alive is the bit of hurling’

[team1]Tournafulla[/team1][score1]1-17[/score1][team2]Killeedy[/team2][score2]0-10[/score2][/score]

Was every citizen of Tournafulla in Dromcollogher on Saturday to witness the club’s first-ever Limerick Junior A hurling title?

If half the 1,600-crowd vacuum-packed onto the bank were from Tour, it’d account for every parishioner, players and management included, and 40 more passers-by.

A delayed throw-in for a Junior A final isn’t common, especially one involving Limerick’s smallest hurling club, but such was the tailback from the neighbouring parishes, from those too coming from Galway, from Wexford, from across Limerick, that the 2.30pm start was put back by 15 minutes.

By the end, it was Tournafulla fans who lingered longest, soaking up the buzz and joy and beeping their car horns in celebration of an historic derby victory.

At least one phone streamed the presentation of the Jap Ryan Cup for a family member in Australia — a reminder of the crisis of 2011 when a whole team of players emigrated. It’s been some comeback since then.

The man-of-the-match presentation to Stephen Cahill was also beamed to Australia and he played like a man possessed by the knowledge it was his last-ever game for Tour. And it was — for now at least. He’ll enjoy the celebrations before catching his flight to Australia tomorrow.

“My mother has my bag packed all week,” he said, lest celebrations get in the way. “I’m good to go. I’ve a job sorted and all so I’ll work away for a year anyway and see then.” His two blocks in front of the stand sent a wave of energy through the crowd and set up a move which ended with Eoin O’Sullivan’s rifled goal on six minutes. He went over, around and through Killeedy men to score five points from play.

“[The performance] makes it even sweeter. 15 years since the last time we were in a county final and against our arch-rivals — it couldn’t get any better, really.

Tournafulla players celebrate with the trophy
Tournafulla players celebrate with the trophy

“There was a good buzz around. I’d like to thank all the supporters for coming, the whole parish probably!” Over 70 training sessions and 16 games, up to 34 players at training, players coming back early from holidays and players putting off operations, that’s the investment that’s gone into this.

“James Brouder is due for an operation for the last six weeks and he’s put it off until after championship. Tom McCarthy was in Lanzarote for the semi-final and flew home after two or three days, left the girlfriend over there,” said captain Jeremiah Moroney.

“We’ve been working towards this for five or six years so it’s a phenomenal feeling to get over the line.”

Goalkeeper Padraig Collins, a student nurse in Watford General Hospital, has been flying over every weekend since college started back.

“I’ve had 12 flights in six weeks. I fly home on a Thursday night or Friday morning. Training or matches, whatever we have, I’m home for. It’s unreal now!”

The players celebrate on the final whistle
The players celebrate on the final whistle

Niall Curtin took over as manager in his first year off the team. He’s still lining out at Junior B alongside selector Jimmy Mulcahy. Along with his brother-in-law Andrew O’Shaughnessy, the management team is nearly as youthful as the team itself.

“It’s unbelievable. In a small club like this, county finals don’t happen every year. This is very, very special,” said Curtin.

“Their goal at the start of the year was to win a county championship, we spoke about what was required and every single man gave it.”

There were great stories on the Killeedy team too. A sub-goalie in his 50s, a midfielder in his 40s, a centre-back travelling from Longford, but this was Tour’s day.

It took Killeedy 25 minutes to score from play and they didn’t score at all in the final 19 minutes.

Tour led 1-7 to 0-6 at the break and scored the first five points of the second half, each from play, each from a different player, each a step closer to victory.

Tournafulla and Killeedy players scramble for a dropping ball at Dromcollogher on Saturday.
Tournafulla and Killeedy players scramble for a dropping ball at Dromcollogher on Saturday.

Seamus O’Sullivan, club secretary and father of the goalscorer, buzzed around the cup.

“I’m stone delighted. It’s a fantastic day for the club, a brilliant day for the parish. We’ve lost our shop, we’ve lost our post office, we’ve lost our garda station, and the only thing that’s keeping rural Ireland in places like Tournafulla alive is the bit of hurling.”

For all that’s closed, a pub is soon to reopen in the village after 10 years out of business. It may need to open early. There’s a home Munster JHC quarter-final against Kilgarvan to come.

“Terrible, I found watching it hard,” said James Brouder’s father Connie. “You’d have to when your son’s playing. You’re so anxious to win as well. I wouldn’t begrudge Killeedy but this was a big one for us. We mightn’t win again for ages so we’ll enjoy it.

“It’s not good for that,” he adds, tapping his chest. “You’d want to be getting a drink!”

Scorers for Tournafulla: A Hartnett (0-6, 3 frees, 1 ’65); S Cahill (0-5); E O’Sullivan (1-1); J Brouder (0-2); T McCarthy, C Moroney, P Smith (0-1 each).

Scorers for Killeedy: J Ahern (0-6, frees); PJ Bourke (0-2); P Ahern, T Larkin Jr. (0-1 each).

TOURNAFULLA: P Collins; E McMahon, J Lenihan, D Brosnahan; J Curtin, E Moroney, J Moroney; T McCarthy, C Moroney; M O’Mahony, A Hartnett, S Cahill; E O’Sullivan, J Brouder, P Smith.

Subs: C O’Sullivan for McCarthy (55), B Curtin for O’Mahony (57), C O’Connor for Brosnahan (58), G O’Reilly for E O’Sullivan (60), D Smith for Brouder (60+2).

KILLEEDY: J Kennedy; M Cunningham, J Cunningham, P Casey; E Shine, C Mullane, S Butler; P Cremin, J Ahern; T Larkin Jr. PJ Bourke, E O’Connor; M Barry, M Begley, P Ahern.

Subs: C Moxey for O’Connor (27), S Cunningham for Shine (38), G Downey for Butler (49), A Culhane for Casey (52), C Magner Flynn for Barry (52), Barry for J Ahern (59-60, blood).

Unreplaced: G Downey (57, inj).

Red card: PJ Bourke (60+1).

Referee: J Murphy (Glenroe).

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