Erin's Own hope junior success aids development of young hurlers in Caherlag

East Cork side lifted their first Junior A title in 15 years with a team featuring a mix of veterans and new players
Erin's Own hope junior success aids development of young hurlers in Caherlag

East Cork Board chairman Donal O'Keeffe presenting the cup to Erin's Own captain James McMahon, after they defeated Cobh in the East Cork JAHC final at Carrigtwohill. Picture: David Keane

ERIN'S Own are fully focused on their County JAHC campaign following their win over Cobh in the East Cork final. 

A very impressive second-half show saw the Caherlag side earn a merited success by 4-12 to 2-9 and thus book their place in the county quarter-final against Nemo Rangers.

The divisional success was a day of redemption as many of the victorious Erin's Own team were on duty 12 months earlier when they fell to St ita's in Dungourney. At Carrigtwohill, there was to be no repeat performance as they battled bravely back against a good Cobh team who twice had led by six points. Then with the scent of victory in the air, Erin's Own, driven on by Man of the Match Mark Collins and superbly guided in defence by former Cork hurler Shane Murphy, closed out the game to secure the Jamesy Kelleher Cup for the first time in 15 years.

Erin's Own came through a tough campaign to top their group with seven points from a possible eight and secure an automatic semi-final ticket. A ding-dong hour with St Ita's resulted, before the game went to extra time, which led to a favourable 4-16 to 2-19 outcome and some level of consolation for last year's final reversal.

Remember Erin's Own had reached the semi-final of the Premier Senior Hurling Championship and their third team were just edged out by one point in the semi-final of the divisional B grade championship. A similar scenario resulted at Premier 2 minor level when Killeagh again secured victory by the minimum. So it's been a championship season where the club have been very much in the conversation at all levels.

Reflecting back on their recent junior success manager Eoghan O'Connor admits that it is very special.

"It's absolutely fantastic to win the final, it means a huge amount for our club. It was great to see some of the senior citizens rolling back the years and at the same time to see so many young players make their debuts in East Cork finals. I have no doubt these guys have great futures ahead of them. It's a proper learning ground here in East Cork. I am very much looking forward to seeing these young players develop in the years ahead.

"We were in deep holes against St Ita's in the semi-final and came through there. Maybe that stood to us in the final as fellows knew what they were capable of doing. We had to jig things around a bit at halftime. When they work it's wonderful but when they don't you're the worst in the world.

"All through the season there was a great relationship with the senior management, they were so easy to work alongside. Any problems we had were all worked out between us. Martin Bowen played some of our players in league games and all of our guys had the benefit of training with the senior squad and that made a huge difference. All the young players have got a lot of exposure during the year, it is invaluable."

UPTURN

He says the current upturn in fortunes in the club can be traced back to when things were not going so well.

"We had a good look at things a few years ago and felt we were losing championship games a bit too easily. We reorganised that ourselves and it has paid dividends. 

At the moment there is a great bunch of players coming through between the ages of 16 and 23. The onus is on us now to provide the platform and the facilities for them to express themselves to develop their skills and to get into the winning mentality at all times."

Erin's Own certainly have a very balanced team that will prepare well for the challenges that now await in the county arena.

Mark Collins and Jack Sheehan are now both 31, while Cian O'Callagahn (29) and Michael Murphy (34) bring a raft of experience to the attack. Further back Shane Murphy (39) and Pat Fiztgerald (38) have bagfuls of big-game experience and country-winning pedigree.

Young players such as Andrew O'Sullivan (21), Riain O'Regan (22), Cormac O'Sullivan (19) and Cormac McDonnell (19) strengthen the opinion that this is a club with a bright future.

The immediate target for all is the Nemo Rangers quarter-final, though that won't be played until after the Premier Senior Football final at the end of the month.

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