St Ita's Seamus Harnedy and Art Supple on the joy of a first East Cork hurling title

Success at last for the Imokilly club, the 22nd to get their hands on the Jamesie Kelleher Cup
St Ita's Seamus Harnedy and Art Supple on the joy of a first East Cork hurling title

St Ita's captain Seamus Harnedy lifts aloft the East Cork JAHC trophy following their victory over Erin's Own. Picture: Howard Crowdy

ST Ita's joy knew no bounds at the sound of the final whistle in Dungourney on Sunday afternoon as they won their first East Cork Junior A Hurling Championship. 

It was a proud occasion for players, mentors and supporters who found it impossible to hold back their emotions after what for some seemed a lifetime of endeavour. At last, the promised land had been reached for the Pilmore-based club, who became the 22nd different club to win the Imokilly Junior A title.

For victorious team captain Seamie Harnedy it was a very special day as he lifted the famous Jamesie Kelleher Cup following his team's 1-14 to 1-5 win.

"It's just unbelievable. I always envisaged that the club would get here eventually. 

"The conditions were very tough so we all had to dig very deep from the very first minute to the last. It's a good sign when we are still playing hurling in November, but being honest it is one of the hardest games I've had in the last number of years, which makes the win all the sweeter. 

"It's hard to put into words what it means, having lost semi-finals and finals over the years. I am just so happy for this cohort of players as we trained so hard and are now rewarded for it. I know this means so much to St Ita's and to our community."

St Ita's Darragh O'Brien attempts to break past Erin's Own's Joe Ryan and Kevin Fenton. Picture: Howard Crowdy
St Ita's Darragh O'Brien attempts to break past Erin's Own's Joe Ryan and Kevin Fenton. Picture: Howard Crowdy

After losing finals in 2015 and 2019, Sunday was a day that would have raised question marks about St Ita's had they not produced the desired result, so was it a day they just had to deliver.

"We had to produce the goods this time around. A lot of us have been there in the two defeated finals. In 2018 we were close against Russell Rovers, but it went against us, so it's just fabulous to make it third time lucky.

"Ed Coleman's goal was so important to us when we were playing into the strong wind in the first half. It put us 1-1 to 0-1 ahead and we then put a lot of men behind the ball in that opening half. Being only a point down at half time meant we could build from there. 

"Ciaran O'Brien at centre-back and his brothers further up the field have been around the block in recent years and proved real calming influences. They used their game intelligence very well to keep the clock ticking down and the scoreboard ticking over.

"Even going into injury time, you just could not be totally sure that we had really done it until we heard the final whistle. It was just a great feeling."

Selector Art Supple summed up the mood of the club and the parish.

The St Ita's management team of Sean Harnedy, Art Supple, Paidí Gould and Martin Walsh celebrate. Picture: Howard Crowdy
The St Ita's management team of Sean Harnedy, Art Supple, Paidí Gould and Martin Walsh celebrate. Picture: Howard Crowdy

"This is all that matters to us now, we reached the Holy Grail. I'm so happy for all the current players and for all the people that have put so much into the club in the past to keep us alive in lean times. 

We never gave up, it's been so hard to get to this point, but now it feels all the sweeter. 

"St Ita's are striking a blow for the smaller clubs in the country. Hopefully going forward we can do justice for the Imokilly brigade on the county stage."

St Ita's have now joined Russell Rovers and Lisgoold as first-time winners in recent seasons and the challenge now going forward is to follow in the same pathway as these previous champions, who both won county titles. First stop is a clash with Ballymartle on Saturday afternoon.

Last Sunday's victory places St Ita's alongside Lisgoold and Youghal, who also have one title to their name. Carraig na bhFear, who St Ita's defeated in this year's semi-final just a few weeks ago, are also relatively recent first-time winners, having captured the coveted silverware first in 2008 and then following up with a second triumph four years later. 

Prior to that, we had to go back to 1996 when Fr O'Neills eventually got over the line following a string of 'Mayo-esque' final defeats. Since then though the only comparison has been the jersey colours as O'Neill's have gone on the glory trail.

This week though as they gaze across the water to their neighbours in Ballymacoda and Knockadoon, St Ita's are experiencing that same first time winning feeling that For O'Neill's enjoyed exactly a quarter of century ago.

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