Ballyhea hurlers are ready to defy the odds against this season in the Cork SHC

Ballyhea hurlers are ready to defy the odds against this season in the Cork SHC
Maurice O'Sullivan, Ballyhea, wins possession ahead of Liam Cashman, Kanturk. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

BALLYHEA, under the direction of new manager Adrian Gilligan will kick off their Premier Senior Hurling championship on August 1 with a game against Douglas in Mallow and the new manager can’t wait to get going.

Gilligan takes the hot seat at the famous Cork club after being part of the backroom team in 2019. And despite hailing from Meath the Royal is now a firm favourite with the Avondhu club's players and fans.

“I grew up in South Meath, Enfield. I never played hurling so I don’t have that background but I guess when I moved down over 20 years ago I had no choice but to get involved in hurling.

“The fitness side of things was what I knew best and have been in Strength and Conditioning for years now. 

"When I looked at it I just felt that hurling and football are fundamentally very similar and I found that an awful lot of the drills I would have been doing myself in football were very easy adapted to hurling and were quite beneficial so that is where I started really.

“I just added a little more every year and I learned most of what I know from others that I have worked with along the way.

“You learn from training and games and I suppose I will always be learning about the game.

“When I came in at the second half of last year I think we did well enough so I guess the players felt it was positive second half to the season and felt that maybe I would be worth a go at the top job so that is how it came about really.

“I am delighted to be involved with such a brilliant club as Ballyhea with such history, such passion and some wonderfully talented and committed players who give their all for the club.

Gilligan has been impressed by what he has seen over the last 12 months but believes there is more to come from a side and from players that are often overlooked when analysing Ballyhea.

“I felt last year that the players have even more to give and felt that I would love to have a go at this so that really is why I am here.

Pa O'Callaghan, Ballyhea, strikes over a point against Carrigtwohill. Picture: Larry Cummins
Pa O'Callaghan, Ballyhea, strikes over a point against Carrigtwohill. Picture: Larry Cummins

“If you really want to dissect that team you would find a lot of talent going through it. Of course Pa O’Callaghan is the household name from the club but if you look deeper you have players of the quality of former Cork intermediate hurler Maurice O’Sullivan. He is still possibly one of our best players at the ripe age of 34 – Maurice is a savage player, always minds himself and keeps himself fit.

“You have a generation gap there between a lot of the younger lads and some of the older guys. 

"The likes of Mick Morrissey at full-back, Liam O’Connor at half-back – stalwarts of the club who will always turn up on the big day for the club – mixed in there with some of the younger talent that is coming through like John Morrissey, young Jamie Copps, what a talent he is, and another young player Tom Hanley. 

"Another undiscovered talent who will hopefully shine when we need him later this month. 

"All that goes to show that there really is plenty of talent here and plenty to get your hopes up."

John O'Sullivan, Blackrock, tries to stop a clearance by full-back Michael Morrissey, Ballyhea. Picture: Larry Cummins.
John O'Sullivan, Blackrock, tries to stop a clearance by full-back Michael Morrissey, Ballyhea. Picture: Larry Cummins.

The contracted season may provide challenges to all but for Gilligan, it isn’t all negative – that said, the manager knows his side have plenty to do to make 2020 a success.

“This whole Covid thing, I believe, has really been something of a leveller for all sides and I think that teams now are starting off on more of a level base - I predict you will find that championship matches will be closer and one off wins are a possibility.

“We know we are up against it this season but I am not one to look for the easy option looking to miss the big sides. If you want to win the championship you have to face and beat the big sides at some stage. We go in here with nothing to lose, our backs are to the wall and we have to come out fighting.

After taking on Douglas, Ballyhea will face two powerhouses of the game as fancied sides, Midleton and Sarsfields come looking to book their spots in the knockout stages. Ballyhea find themselves in a genuine group of death however that seems to be just the way Gilligan likes it.

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