RUSSELL Rovers coach Noel Furlong is in the unique position of having been involved in a similar capacity with their near neighbours Fr O’Neill’s in the more recent past.
Both clubs are Croke Park bound today for the junior and intermediate club finals and the Carrigtwohill native, who is also the Cork U16 coach this year and in line to take over the minors in 2021, believes it will be a huge occasion for the neighbouring parishes.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said during the week.
“I trained Fr O’Neill’s a few years ago and my mother is from there, all my cousins are from there.
“It’s amazing for two neighbouring communities, who have a fantastic relationship, you’d think there’d be a rivalry but it’s the opposite.
“The excitement and the build-up for both communities — and all of East Cork — has been something special and we’re really relishing it.”
The Shanagarry/Ballycotton/Garryvoe/Churchtown South club overcame Galway’s Micheál Breathnach after extra time in the semi-final, reward for festive training.
“I would say that the application and attitude and the effort over the Christmas period was outstanding,” Furlong said.
“The semi-final going to extra time really means the lads are going to be battle-hardened and it’s just about staying fresh from here to the final.”
The Russell Rovers team is expected to be along usual lines with Josh Beausang almost certain to return to the attack.
He missed the semi-final win over Miceal Breathnach from Galway with a shoulder injury but he’s ready to resume again in an attack alongside Bud Hartnett.
Hartnett is in the unique position of having won a Cork County SHC medal during his stint with Midleton in 2013.
His return to his home club has proved very beneficial. The former Cork minor and U21 dynamo had to step up to the plate in the final minute of time added on in the semi-final win over the Connacht champions and had to nail a very difficult free to bring the game to extra time.
Russell Rovers subsequently went on to win the extended period comfortably as a result they will appear in headquarters for the very first time tomorrow.
It’s very much a tale of rags to riches for this proud Shanagarry based club who were winning the East Cork JHC for the first time just two years ago.
Their story since has been quite remarkable but the coaching of Furlong alongside the management structure of Michael Mannion (below) and Eoin Ivers has worked the oracle.
The Rovers will be playing intermediate hurling in Cork this season and their elevation from being a Junior B club not that long ago is the stuff of dreams.
Win today in Croke Park and it will be one of those dreams that do come true.