HAVING already helped Robert Emmetts to win the London senior hurling title, Ronan Crowley is keen to help them as they begin their provincial championship quest.
Emmetts host Tooreen of Mayo in the Connacht Club IHC semi-final in Ruislip today, having beaten St Gabriel’s to claim the county title last month.
When work as a cardiac radiographer brought Bandon native Crowley from Manchester to St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London earlier this year and Covid restrictions made it unviable to play with the Lilywhites, he joined Robert Emmetts thanks to family links.
“It was my first-ever year not playing with Bandon,” he says.
“It was brutal, the hardest decision of my life, being honest. It wouldn’t really have been possible this year with Covid, having to get so many flights home and with all of the tests and everything.
“The Lordans from Courcey Rovers, Cian and Seán, would be related to me, third cousins I think.
“I was in school with Cian as well and I’d have known the two lads, so when I decided that I was moving to London I got on to him, saw who he was hurling with and said, ‘What’s the story?’!”
Crowley won a Munster minor medal with Cork in 2008 and helped the county to All-Ireland intermediate glory in 2014 while with Bandon he won PIHC, IHC, IFC and JAFC medals. He has continued that winning habit with Robert Emmetts, playing a key role in their final replay win.
“I think ten of our panel, eight of the starting team in the final, are from Cork,” he says, “it’s a Cork- and Antrim-based club.
“It’s just as tight-knit, really, as back home – we train three times a week and spend a lot of time in each other’s company.
“We drew the first game and the replay went to extra time again. We pulled away in the first period of extra time. When the two teams play, it’s nearly always a draw – the final went to two replays two years ago, so there’s never much in it.”
While he lives in Ealing in West London, close to the Emmetts base, his work takes him into the centre on a daily basis.
“It probably takes about an hour – everything seems to take an hour over here!” he laughs.
“We don’t actually have a permanent base and a lot of other clubs are in the same boat – we have to borrow places to train. At the moment, we’re training at a rugby and the team that we played in the final train there as well!”
Winning a championship is nice wherever you do it and, while the experience with Robert Emmetts was not the same as when Crowley helped Bandon to claim silverware, it was nonetheless enjoyable.
However, with the celebrations over, the focus is now on trying to overcome Tooreen.
“Obviously, there’s a big difference in winning with Bandon – fellas you’ve played with all your life and the whole town is out supporting you,” he says.
“When you win over here, you’re just celebrating among yourselves and the people involved with the club. There’s no huge community sense to it but it was still an unbelievable couple of days.
“Now we’re playing Tooreen from Mayo and they’re very strong. They’d have played Robert Emmets a few times over the years and Tooreen have had the upper hand.”
Before moving south, Crowley played with Lancashire, with whom he won a Lory Meagher Cup in Croke Park in 2017. If the call came from London, would he consider lining for them? Or might there be a return to his native club?
“I haven’t even considered it,” he says.
“It’ll depend if I was still based in London but if I got the call I probably would alright. There’s a good league structure here and plenty of teams so you get a lot of hurling.
“With Bandon getting relegated and if Covid restrictions are a bit freer, you’d never know!”