FORMED in 1969, Sarsfields Camogie club is now one of the largest growing in the county.
Winning the Junior A championship in 1973, Intermediate in 1979 and Senior title in 1989 there followed a long baron period for the club, to the point where a club meeting was held in the early noughties to consider disbanding. But people like Eithne Allen and Maria Dinan just wouldn’t let it happen.
Eithne went between the posts at junior level to fill in numbers. Star forward in the team that takes to the field on Sunday, Emer Fennell, was another who kept playing throughout those tough years and slowly but surely, they turned the club around. Currently secretary of the club it’s for people like Eithne that you love to see clubs reaching the pinnacle.
All her life Eithne has been involved with Sars. She played senior with them back in the 80s but the one year she decided to go to London for 12 months, 1989, was the year the club won their first and only senior title. Eithne didn’t mind.
"I genuinely didn’t mind missing out. I was just thrilled for the girls and the club that we won it."
Eithne shies away from taking credit for the Trojan work she has done.
"Actually, Maria Dinan did far more than me, she was a constant during all the years," she kept it together. Eithne, mother of current full-forward Lucy Allen and Julie Allen, also on Sunday’s panel, and Maria began back in the day working with U6s, and U7s.
They went into the local schools and got numbers out. Eventually the tide turned.
"Every club goes through what we went through, those difficult years. We won the U16 D title in 2006 when Áine Barry was captain. Then Glanmire got bigger, we went into the schools and I think a big turning point for us was when the club developed the all-weather pitch. We could train during the winter in pleasant conditions and that was key for us."
Moving on, it was 2008/2009 that Sars pushed up the ranks. They won the U14 A title in 2011, managed by Bryan O’Leary, and that team makes up the majority of the squad taking to Castleroad on Sunday, players like Hollie Herlihy, Lucy Kelly, Chloe and Emma Casey, Katie Barry and Maeve McCarthy.
That was a key moment for the club, and they’ve gone from strength to strength at underage. That U14 team contested three minor finals in a row from 2014-2016, winning two, Bryan O’Leary and Tadgh Óg Lynch the coaches. The club also reached four All-Ireland Féile finals between 2016-2019, winning three in a row, losing the 2019 final-those players still coming down the tracks.
The explosion of residents in Glanmire greatly enhanced numbers for the club but without the fantastic facilities available to them and an excellent underage coaching structure, Sars would not be in the county final this Sunday.
It’s 30 years since they last danced on this stage. Many members of that 1989 team have daughters and nieces playing today. Outside of the Allens, you have another famous Sars name in the Barrys. I spent a lot of time in the Barry household as a teenager where hurling and camogie was huge, Billy Barry coaching me at underage in Brian Dillon's.
Katie Barry, Ruth McCarthy and Michelle Barry are all nieces of Geraldine Barry who postponed her honeymoon in 1989 to help her side to that senior title. Michelle is the daughter of Vincy Barry, coach of the 1989 side.
Often, we speak about the characters in Cork Camogie. Marie Kearney, Munster camogie delegate to Ard Comhairle is one of those. Her love for Sarsfields alongside people like Lillian Zinkant, who starred in that 1989 win, are still involved in the game and for them Sunday is a huge occasion.
It’s the ethos of the club that we all love. People like Eithne and Maria are in every club around the country. Many give their lives to it and by doing so, enhance the lives of so many others. It’s a big day on Sunday for Sarsfields. It didn’t come easy. That shouldn’t be forgotten.
At senior level this Sars team are relatively inexperienced, having made the step up in 2016. Four seasons later they are in a county final. Eithne acknowledges that they are up against it.
"Inniscarra are so experienced, they’re a great team. But we’ll give it our best."
Regardless of the result it’s a proud day for Glanmire.