Blackrock powerhouse O'Keeffe has the perfect excuse to postpone his trip to Australia

Blackrock powerhouse O'Keeffe has the perfect excuse to postpone his trip to Australia
Blackrock's Shane O'Keeffe gathers the ball from Na Piarsaigh's Cian Buckley. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

SHANE O'Keeffe is due to jet off Down Under to work for the year but has the perfect excuse for postponing his flights.

Last Sunday he helped Blackrock to reach their first county hurling final since 2003 and next weekend he'll line out for the St Michael's footballers as they face Mallow in the premier decider.

"I'm meant to be emigrating to Australia next week but the flights are on hold now. I'll go working for the year but I'll be back next summer alright. It's a good complaint!"

The Rockies are a powerhouse of Cork hurling, but their 0-21 to 2-14 semi-final victory over Na Piarsaigh on Sunday was overdue. With three county U21 finals in five seasons they're not short on talent or depth in the squad.

"We haven't delivered in senior hurling. We answered a lot of questions in the manner of the victory because it was a real team performance.

"It's a completely new experience. We're a group of younger players, a few 28 or 29, and Dave Cash, but otherwise it's new territory. We came in under the radar getting a bye into the quarter-final, where Na Piarsaigh had a couple of big wins and the pressure was on them a bit more."

Blackrock's Dave Cashman is tackled by Na Piarsaigh's Christopher Joyce last Sunday. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Blackrock's Dave Cashman is tackled by Na Piarsaigh's Christopher Joyce last Sunday. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

The northsiders looked likely winners after Evan Sheehan rifled two stunning goals after half-time to give them a five-point lead. Instead Blackrock outscored them 0-9 to 0-3 for the remainder, with wing-forwards O'Keeffe and Ger O'Regan contributing three points each.

"Sheehan's a real talent and just stuck those two goals. For this team we've been through a few tough times so we've a bit of resolve now. That showed because we upped the ante and got a few scores in a row to put them on the backfoot again."

While this is their first senior championship final as a group, Blackrock did annex the RedFM league crown last winter.

"I think it gave us a bit of belief. We'd lost last year's quarter-final to Erin's Own and had a lot of wides on a bad night. The league was a bit of redemption and showed we could be at the top table again.

"There's a bit of pressure when you're constantly hearing about the history and you can get sick of that because you want to be creating your own history. With the U21, at the start of the year, the lads said it didn't translate into senior success straight away, it takes a few years for players to mature. They reassured us that if we kept working away it would come.

"Winning this match will bring us on in confidence because we do have talent."

O'Keeffe savoured this outing in the revamped Páirc Uí Chaoimh. And has two more games to look forward to. Who needs Australia!

"There are about seven dual players overall and four or five starters but it's well managed. All touch work, keeping the eye in with football. No one enjoys the training slog but playing championship matches every week is ideal."

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