ANYTHING ye can do, we can do just as well.
That might well be the motto in Shanagarry this week as the local GAA team put the finishing touches to their preparations for next Sunday’s Munster Junior Club hurling final with St Mary’s from Waterford. Russell Rovers have already seen their very close neighbours, Fr O’Neill’s lift the provincial intermediate title and they would love to emulate that achievement.
The two clubs are almost on each others doorsteps deep in the heart of East Cork and right now they are having the time of their lives.
O’Neill’s have the county and provincial titles safely in the bag, the Rovers have the county safe and secure with the opportunity to embellish what has already been a wonderful season for them.
Playing in different grades, the paths of the two clubs have not crossed for a long time but their goals are identical, to bring honour and glory to their native places.
In fact, in both clubs you could say that these are the days of their lives.
If Russell Rovers can land the title in Mallow next Sunday it will be a huge achievement after winning their first divisional title in East Cork just 12 months ago and their first county title only a few weeks ago.
The real beauty of the provincial club championships is that it gives small clubs the opportunity to achieve something that was only a pipe dream in the past, a chance to play on the biggest stage of all in Croke Park if you are fortunate enough to negotiate all the hurdles along the way.
Since the junior club provincial competition began officially in 2001, Cork clubs have been hugely successful in it. In fact, 12 Cork clubs have lifted the trophy, Courcey Rovers, Ballinhassig, Ballygarvan, Fr O’Neill’s, Kilworth, Meelin, Dripsey, Charleville, Kildorrery, Dungourney, Mayfield, Cloughduv.
That story of success illustrates the strength of junior hurling in the county and it’s a tribute to all the clubs who have managed it.
Now it’s the turn of the Shanagarry based team to try and add to the list.
A trip into the club’s website gives a brief history of the club and of its foundation.
The club was founded in 1930. It was popularly believed that the club acquired its name from the neighbouring townland of Ballyrussell, while other research suggests that it was possibly named after a Fr John Russell who was Parish Priest of Cloyne in the 1840s.
Fr Russell was a prominent and sometimes controversial figure, and a prolific letter-writer - as can be seen from correspondence with the Cork Examiner and Cork Constitution newspapers in October 1848 when he took issue with the local Protestant curate of Ballycotton, whom he accused of proselytism; i.e., of bribing hungry children with food to attend Protestant schools.
Fr Russell is also credited with assisting in setting up National Schools in the area.
Some of those years in the interim period have been struggles but their cause has always endured.
They had to lose a county final before they won one, losing to Cloughduv in 2018 and winning against Carraig na bhFear this year.
They certainly saved their best for the county final this time, outclassing Carraig na bhFear, the team that they were fortunate enough to defeat in the East Cork final, a few months earlier, depending on a goal in time added on.
In a grade like junio,r a couple of very good players can make a huge difference and all the more so if they are forwards.
In that regard, Russell Rovers have two of the best in the business in Josh Beausang and Bud Hartnett, the latter a county senior medal winner with Midleton back in 2013.
Both were superb in the county final victory, posting big scores at a crucial time.
But it’s all about next Sunday now, the biggest game in the club’s history and in the villages of Shanagarry, Ballycotton, Churchtown South and and all the little townlands that surround those places the anticipation levels rise on a daily basis.
The team’s coach is the highly regarded Noel Furlong who, by coincidence, guided their neighbours from Fr O’Neill’s to intermediate success a few years ago.
Along with selectors Michael Mannion and Eoin Ivers, he will have them primed for this day.