BANDON hurling ace Ronan Crowley produced an inspirational personal display recently for the Lancashire GAA team who participated in the Lory Meagher Cup final.
The Cork hurling star notched 1-9 during the course of the final, with 1-5 coming from play. It was to no avail however as his side were defeated by one point after extra-time by Leitrim.
He is still coming to terms with their tough defeat.
“Losing a final is hard to take. Losing it to a last-minute goal just makes it all the harder. We have lost this final the last two years. However, that's sport. It can be cruel. Without the lows, there would be no highs,” declared the sharpshooter.
Lancashire led by three points with full-time approaching, but their hopes of capturing the Lory Meagher Cup for the first time in their history were cruelly dashed when Leitrim netted with the last action of the game to force extra-time. Ronan is full of praise for their Connacht opponents.
“We had played Leitrim four times before the final and there's never been more than a puck of the ball between us. We beat them after extra-time in a league final last year, but they are a fine team.
"Every one of our players has regrets about the game so we definitely feel as if we threw it away. The goal itself took a huge deflection so lady luck was not shining on us, unfortunately.”
The Lory Meagher Cup champions Leitrim had two Cork players in action for them. Both Cathal O’Donovan (Argideen Rangers) and Ben Murray (Ballinascarthy) played key roles in helping their team achieve All-Ireland glory as Ronan revealed.
“I'd have came across both of the lads playing back home in Cork and would have heard of them growing up. They were two of Leitrim's best players.
"Their fitness was a telling factor in extra-time as they both got on a lot of ball.”
Despite his virtuoso individual attacking performance on the day in Croke Park, Ronan is reluctant to look back on his final display with any sense of joy, given the cruel nature of their defeat as he reflects back upon their heartbreaking loss.
“It is impossible to be happy with a performance after a loss. I missed a few important frees which could have been the difference. It is nice to get a few scores in Croke Park, but it's only the misses that can be thought about, especially after a loss. I never thought I would get to play there so it was fantastic to get the chance.
"Getting to experience playing in Croke Park as a player was a real treat. It was a great occasion for my family and friends as my parents and a good few of the lads travelled up for the game. I was delighted to see them all there.”
The 28-year-old Cork sports star joined Lancashire GAA Club three years ago when he moved to Manchester initially for college. Ronan is delighted he received the offer to play for Lancashire.
“I was delighted to have been asked to play with them. They are a fantastic club. Playing in Croke Park with them was certainly not something I ever imagined would happen.
"It's a great outlet for lads who have to move to the UK and still have a love for the GAA. We are lucky to have a great management team. '
"Stan Murray Hession keeps it all together. He has a great love and knowledge for the game. We have Paddy Hoey who hurled senior for Clare. We also have Pio McCarthy, a hurling man from Kealkil in West Cork, George O’Rourke and an 87-year-old man called Billy Murphy.”
The Lancashire hurling team find it hard to train on a regular basis due to their players being located all over the North of England. They also suffer from constant player turnover and they rely on local sports clubs in Manchester for the use of their facilites. Ronan admits they struggle to garner momentum because of all these factors.
“Our players live all over the Northwest of England, so mid-week training sessions are not possible. Our practice matches this year consisted of two games against Warwickshire.
"There is no such thing as a consistent team and hard to know what the best team is. Our playing pitches would typically be very small and not of a high standard.”
Ronan is delighted to see the so-called ‘weaker counties’ continue to progress in hurling. It is vital for the continued development of the game he declared.
“There is huge work being done. It is all about getting the kids playing hurling in the 'weaker' counties. Work is being done though and Sligo are a perfect example of what can be achieved.
"Their recent success will inspire many youngsters up there.”
The hurling ace still plays his club hurling with his beloved Bandon, with whom he has enjoyed many great memories down through the years.
"I commute back and forth for games. It is very easily managed with the flights.
"Getting to play senior with the club is huge. Most of us had played and struggled at lower Intermediate for many years. There is no better feeling then winning a senior championship game with the club.
"I have great memories of winning four adult counties with Bandon. Hopefully there are more to come.”