“There’s great excitement now. We can’t get over the well-wishes around the town and surrounding areas. We’re very lucky. We’ve a great camogie club and GAA club and town behind us. There’s a great buzz and excitement so everyone is looking forward to it” said Shona Curran speaking ahead of the AIB Intermediate Club Final at Croke Park.
Little wonder that the people of the picturesque Lismore region, nestled around the Blackwater river right on the Waterford-Cork border, are rallying behind their team ahead of the AIB All-Ireland club intermediate final at Croke Park writes Daragh Ó Conchúir.
It’s the first time the town has had any team lining out at the headquarters of Gaelic Games but you sense that there’s more to the depth of feeling than that.This is about a group that has refused to buckle despite suffering plenty of heartbreak. Nobody would have begrudged them easing off. They had a couple of Munster titles and a plethora of county championships. Why would you put yourself through the agony again, with no guarantees?
Well, that would be the easy option. And it would leave you with a little hole somewhere that would nag away at you, long after the hurley and boots were consigned to the back of the garden shed. That they finally have made it to Jones’ Road after suffering two semi-final heartbreaks is why they are the subject of such love.
The devastation of those losses to Ardrahan and Eoghan Rua has been transformed into a positive force, as Lismore dug deep to overcome Newmarket-on-Fergus at the second attempt to add to their provincial haul. They then produced a stellar second half to shake off Liatroim Fontenoys, and in the process, shook off a very persistent monkey from their backs.
“I suppose it’s a very good sign of the team and bunch of players that we have that we stuck at it” says Curran. “It would have been very easy to walk away two years ago having lost two All-Ireland semi-finals on the trot but we said it to each other that the All-Ireland was the ultimate goal and we weren’t going to rest until we had it.
“It was tough but it has galvanised us as a group and even in the back of our minds has helped us when it has gone down to the wire on many occasions like in the Munster final and the (All-Ireland) semi-final; drawing on the experiences of having lost. We were adamant that we were going to go all the way this year.”
The memory of Johnny Flynn is always there too. Flynn was their manager for many years and his death, a little over 12 months ago, shocked the tight-knit community. Seamus Prendergast took on the mantle at the beginning of the 2013 campaign, supported by Austin Curran, Jim Russell and Geraldine Barry.
“There’s something special about this year” insists the Lismore captain. “They were big boots to fill but the new management have given us great backing. When we started at the beginning of this, we said we were going to do it for Johnny and I’d say he was definitely at a few of those matches looking out for us. His role is something we will never forget.”
Most of those that were around in 2010 when they bagged that first Munster title are still around. Even Tanya Morrissey, who called it quits at the end of that year after tearing her cruciate knee ligament for the second time, is still considered part of the gang, generally to be seen at training and around the dressing room.
Jen Hannon had a baby in late August and played in the county final six weeks later. Niamh Molumphy played in the league final last year and gave birth in January. She returned to training this week to the delight of everyone.
As well as that, the likes of Sarah Coughlan, Aoife Houlihan, Sinead Walsh and Sarah Geoghegan have added a significant sprinkle of youth. Geoghegan is 16, the other three 17 and according to Curran “they’re taking this whole Croke Park thing in their stride”.
Curran herself is only 23 and doing a Masters in accountancy at WIT. But the only number she’s interested in now is one. She wants to look at the roll of honour for the AIB All-Ireland intermediate club camogie championship and delight in scrolling down to see Lismore (1).
Getting to the final was great after trying for so long. But once you’re there, you have to win.
“That’s it. There’s great excitement in the town about being the first Lismore team to play in Croke Park but within the camp, we’ve been saying all year we want to win this All-Ireland. We’re not going up to play in Croke Park, we want to win.
“We went back training on Paddy’s Day 2013, it was said in the first day with Seamus and the lads. That was what we were targeting. There would be obstacles to overcome and we’ve gotten over all of them – maybe struggled with a few – but we’re there to win and we’re adamant that we’re not leaving that cup after us on Sunday.”
Lismore v Ballyhale Shamrocks, Croke Park, March 2nd, 1.15pm follow all the action on twitter.com/officialcamogie & @AIB_GAA and #theToughest