Hurling is going from strength to strength in the east Cork area.
Russell Rovers made history this year when they won their first Cork JAHC title — a win which laid the foundation for tomorrow’s Munster Club final with St Mary’s of Waterford (Mallow, 1pm). The story though, could have been so different.
“We lost our way in the club four years ago,” explains Russell Rovers PRO Kieran Roche. “We were thinking of dropping down to junior B because things weren’t good. A few of the younger players didn’t like the idea and was a meeting was called. Fellas got a bit of a fright. It was close. But we stayed up. The younger people then got involved in the club and drove it on. The big drivers would be Kieran Ivers as chairman, Jonathan Walsh (treasurer) and Paul Lane (secretary). All these people are only in the late 20s, early 30s. It was the youngest top table in Cork hurling.”
The Shanagarry based club won their first east Cork junior A hurling decider in 2018 but were defeated by Cloughduv in the county final.
This year, they claimed back-to-back divisional titles, adding a county crown at the expense of Carraig na bhFear. Coach Noel Furlong came in to continue the groundwork put in by Frank Flannery, and there were others who helped.
“Frank might have had a say in getting Noel Furlong because they are both from Carrigtwohill. Noel would have been familiar with a lot of our younger players from Harty Cup and Dean Ryan. There were one or two players came back this year, our goalkeeper Ross Walsh and Kevin Tattan. Then again, we lost four from last year’s team through cruciate injuries. Danny Moynihan is a marvellous captain; this is his fourth year. Michael Mannion is our team manager, his second year. He is involved in the club all his life and he came in with his friend Eoin Ivers. When Michael took over, there was no more missing training. Michael brought certain structures to the club. Nobody was allowed onto the field unless they were wearing their club colours, showing utmost respect. It is strict but it is working. .
“Another factor, in 2015 the boys were training under Donal Óg Cusack with St Colman’s, he improved their skills. They won the Premier 2 minor county. Seven from that team will be with us on Sunday. At juvenile level, we are joined with Cloyne (St Colman’s). There are two teams in the one parish, Cloyne and ourselves. Cloyne will be playing senior A in 2020 and they have their own setup and we have our identity.”
Next-door neighbours Fr O’Neill’s are Munster intermediate club champions.
“There is a great friendship between everyone but it is very competitive as well. If you are looking for someone in the morning, there is always someone to give you a hand. We were in the Fraher Field two weeks ago supporting Fr O’Neill’s. It will be vice-versa in Mallow.
“But for us to be representing Cork in Munster club is massive. If you had told me at the beginning of the year we would be in the final on December 8, it would be hard to believe especially with four players out with cruciate injuries. But the lads bought into it. We watched St Mary’s in the semi-final, they are very strong. They are well coached by Dan Shanahan. We know we have to give 100 percent.” Through hurling, Russell Rovers also highlight the important work of Pieta House. “Mental health is affecting everybody,” continues Roche. “We have the Pieta House logo on our jersey with their phone number. There are people on every team who have issues and they never talk about it. In Russell Rovers, everyone is talking to one another, it is all about helping one another and that is shown out on the field. If someone makes a mistake, it is picked up by somebody else. It is everyone’s responsibility. Nobody is going home sad because they might have made a mistake.”