Years of hard work by the Rockies at underage level finally paid off 

Years of hard work by the Rockies at underage level finally paid off 

Alan Connolly, Blackrock, holding off Brian Moylan, Glen Rovers in the Co-Op Superstores Premier SHC final at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: Dan Linehan

JOHN Browne, along with current manager Fergal Ryan and fellow selector Joe Young, was a member of the last golden generation of Blackrock hurlers, county champions three times from 1999 to 2002.

The former All-Ireland winning Cork defender was thrilled to be involved as the baton was handed over the Rockies' new wave, top-dogs on Leeside for the 33rd time after an absorbing battle with Glen Rovers. 

"There was real pressure on this bunch to get over the line at senior but myself, Fergal [Ryan] and Joe [Young] are delighted to pass on the next generation.

"We've produced a lot of good hurlers, won minor and U21 counties, but being honest we don't have a Hoggy. He's one of the best hurlers in the country, let alone Cork, so for us it was about consolidating what we had, bringing a couple through each year and making sure our training and in-house games were at a high standard.

"That means you're ready for the physicality and intensity of senior. Look you can't get carried away with underage once you're producing hurlers for senior. The two youngest lads we had today were playing Premier 2 at minor.

"The lads are that bit more mature since they made the final in 2017 but even the younger fellas, Alan and Robbie are only 19 years of age, they were amazing. That's youth, sometimes it just allows you to express yourself and enjoy the occasion."

Blackrock were worthy winners, but the Glen's three second-half goals, left them in trouble in the closing minutes of normal time. They survived and then blasted 10 points ahead in extra time.

"We suffered a few hammer blows by conceding goals but, just like they had against UCC, the lads kept battling away and were able to push on at the end. That's a credit to the fitness work Stephen Casey has done, not just this year but over five years, the lads looked like they could play on for another while in the last few minutes."

Browne felt the decider was a fitting conclusion to a memorable campaign on Leeside.

"We all knew it was going to be a cracker, two fantastic teams. We actually didn't start that well with the wind, Glen got the first three points, but once we settled we hurled very well for most of the game.

"It's been a brilliant season, and not just because we're the champions at the end of it. There was something at stake all the time, no replays, all decided on the time and that all created a momentum since the middle of summer.

"Huge credit should go to the Examiner for the streaming service. We've all watched more Cork club matches that we we ever did and that was without being able to go to games!"

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