These are busy times for Valley Rovers.
Last month, former Clare goalkeeper – and, more importantly, current Echo columnist Christy O’Connor was at the club’s base in Brinny, just outside Innishannon, for a goalkeeping coaching session.
Tomorrow, from 11am-1pm, there is a coaching clinic featuring eight-time All-Ireland hurling medallist Michael Fennelly from Kilkenny, Waterford legend Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh and Limerick’s Pat Ryan, who collected Celtic Crosses with the Shannonsiders in 2018, 2020 and 2021.
Tickets for that are going fast but there are some still available, while an upcoming event that also features some star names is also close to putting up the full-house signs.
On Saturday, April 1, Innishannon House Hotel will play host to a Munster Senior Hurling Championship preview night. A star-studded line-up features representation from all five counties contesting the championship – Jimmy Barry-Murphy and Mark Landers from Cork, Clare’s Anthony Daly, Limerick pair TJ Ryan and Shane Dowling, Tommy Dunne of Tipperary and Dan Shanahan (Waterford), with a combined total of 25 Munster senior titles between them as players.
Valleys club chairperson John O’Donovan gives much of the credit to club member and current intermediate player Colm Butler.
“It was Colm’s brainchild,” he says.
“I thought it was a great idea. Colm and his brother Richie and Mick O’Brien did some great work and we’re all very happy that it’s come together with such a strong lineup.
“It’s great that the Munster championship is still there. There have been a lot of changes to the format since I was a kid, with the introduction of the back door and the round-robin, but the Munster championship is still sacred.
“I know it’s not the same as when it was straight knockout but it’s still there. I know a lot of people love the fact that there are more games.”
While an April start to the Munster championship is still something that traditionalists are trying to adapt to, there is no shortage of appetite for what remains a special competition, as evidenced by the clamour for tickets for last year’s final between Limerick and Clare at FBD Semple Stadium in Thurles.
That interest is something that Valleys are looking to tap into in terms of a novel fundraiser.
“Yeah, it’s about coming up with ideas,” O’Donovan says.
“A lot of fundraisers get exhausted, so you’re looking for new things and to try to get ahead of the curve. I’m only chairperson since December, so it’s all new in a sense. We’re only still finding our way!”
Given that Dalo’s Hurling Podcast has proven so popular, aiming to transpose that to Innishannon seemed like a good place to start. Colm Butler is delighted that the idea has been able to come to fruition.
“I suppose we kind of had the idea in our heads maybe with the last year or two,” he says, “but just with Covid and different things it didn’t work out.
“With so many people listening and talking about the hurling podcast we said why not try and get them down here. As far as I’m aware, there hasn’t been a preview night similar to this in Cork in recent years.
“We had contacts through different people in the club for most of the guests. They were all more than happy to say yes!”
With Innishannon’s population having grown exponentially over the past two decades, providing an outlet for the parish is key, underlining the importance of fundraising.
“Yeah, definitely,” John O’Donovan says. “The population is increasing, slowly but surely, and you need to be able to provide facilities, especially in the winter months.
“It’s hard to expect fellas to be travelling around to other places for training and things like that so that’s definitely something we’d look to address in the near future.”
As well as the hurling chat, the evening will serve as a chance to remember the late Paudie Palmer – while the C103 commentator and Echo columnist was a Kerry native, he settled in Innishannon parish as his wife Colette is a native.
A raffle – featuring prizes such as a two-night stay at the Celtic Ross Hotel in Rosscarbery, green fees for Fota Island Golf Resort and Munster hurling final tickets – will be held on the night, with all of the proceeds going to the Dunmanway Suite at Cork University Hospital, in honour of Paudie.
· Tickets for the event, priced at €40, can be purchased at bit.ly/valleyrovers or at the club shop, Johnny Crowley’s, Barrett’s or the Railway Bar