This coming Saturday, 18th January will see the smallest of East Cork villages, Ballycotton, Ballymacoda, Garryvoe, Ladysbridge and Shanagarry represented on the biggest of GAA stages – Croke Park.
Russell Rovers will contest the All-Ireland Junior Club Championship hurling final against the Kilkenny representatives, Conahy Shamrocks at 4pm. Neighbouring club, Fr. O’Neill’s are up afterwards at 6pm as they take on Tullaroan, also from Kilkenny in the intermediate final. It’s an endorsement of the thriving Imokilly division that there are East Cork clubs contesting both finals.
Russell Rovers won their first ever adult championship in 2018 under the stewardship of former Carrig player, Frank Flannery, defeating St. Ita’s in the East Cork Junior A hurling championship final. They subsequently reached the county final but lost to Cloughduv. Rovers went one better in 2019, beating Carraig na bhFear in both the East Cork and county finals. Yet again, there was a former Carrig player, Noel Furlong, at the helm. The Shanagarry based club went on to win the Munster championship and All-Ireland semi-final. Hopefully, the fairytale will continue for this small proud club on Saturday in Croker.
Fr. O’Neill’s have travelled the same road as Russell Rovers. In early 2006, they lifted the cup that Rovers are seeking to raise on Saturday, having won their first ever Junior A county championship in 2005. O’Neill’s battled in the intermediate grade for over a decade before finally gaining promotion to premier intermediate in 2016. Noel Furlong (whose mother hails from Ballymacoda) also managed Fr. O’Neill’s to that intermediate county title. O’Neill’s won the premier intermediate championship in 2019 and have also won their way through to the All-Ireland club final. Lismore man, James ‘Joxer’ O’Connor is the bainisteoir and is remembered with fondness in Carrig, as he managed the blue & gold to senior county success in 2011.
Carrigtwohill GAA Club will be shouting on both clubs in the finals. Go n’éirí an t’ádh leo!
(Both matches will be streamed live on the Spórt TG4 Youtube channel: