In the space of two weeks Ballyea have won their first Clare SHC and qualified for a Munster Final, it’s been a fortnight to remember in the club’s eighty two year history and their greatest.
It has been worth the wait for the Bally boys and they are relishing the success. Leading light Tony Kelly puts in all into perspective. “It’s grand to get the two week break we’ll settle down and get down to brass tax during the week and come up with a gameplan and see how we’re set, we’ll enjoy this moment because we may never win a county championship again, we’re fortunate to have won that and just make the most of our opportunity while we’re here”.
Make the most of the opportunity they will as they prepare to take on Glen Rovers on November 20th in Semple Stadium. Kelly has been one of the key men in their remarkable rise. He’s “buzzing” in the wake of their extra time win over Thurles Sarsfields last Sunday and it’s one he won’t be forgetting anytime soon.
“A performance full of desire, full of heart it was a game when we were dead and buried but we kept plugging away, kept trying to do the right things and we needed a wonder moment and Gary provided that for us. From then on we had the momentum to drive on in extra time and I think that moment really drove us, before that I thought we really hung in there”.
“We weren’t happy in the first half with our performance I thought we got lucky with our goals it was poor play on their behalf rather than great play on ours, we said at half-time we’d keep going no matter what and if you told me with ten minutes to go we’d win the game I’d have laughed at you I’d have said we wouldn’t but we’ll keep fighting and keep going and we’ll try and claw it back, when you claw it back to a score anything can happen”.
At full-time they regrouped in the dressing room as they prepared to take down the Tipperary champions. It was a strange environment inside the four walls of the Cusack Park setting for Kelly but the words of trainer Fergal Hegarty stick out for him in summarising their demeanour.
“It was weird we came in after full-time and everyone was smiling around the dressing room, we’re never dead, Hego has a great saying ‘if you can’t run with your legs run with your heart’ and I thought we definitely did that in the second half, it was a performance full of heart and never say die attitude”.
Before a ball was pucked Kelly felt some of their big names such as Niall Deasy weren’t being mentioned as the focus was put on the marquee players in the Thurles team. “A lot was made of the team they have and rightly so they’re full of stars, a lot of our good players are underrated, there isn’t as much talk of Niall Deasy absolutely fantastic in the county final and again today he’s one of the best forwards in the county and he had a great battle with Ronan Maher he’s able to mix it with the best, Gary is a fantastic hurler, we have lads that are well able to hurl aswell and we’ve a great balance with workrate, heart and desire if you can combine them anyday you go out on the field and give it your all you’re in with a chance of winning”.
Losing Brian Carrigg and Martin O’Leary to injury early tested them but Tony is confident the work being done by their dedicated panellists pays off when they have to revert to plan b. He’s been impressed by the contributions of County footballers Gary Brennan and Pearse Lillis in their campaign.
“The footballers are keeping us afloat with scores they’re chipping in everyday we go out, its even their attitude to the whole thing shoulder to the wheel first but when they get they’re well able to hurl”.
Not that they’re being weighed down by it but the UL student along with his Ballyea teammates are conscious of the fact that they are representing their County in the provincial competition, instead it is making them more determined to prevail.
“We said at half-time that not alone were we representing Ballyea but we were representing Clare, there was a lot made of a week turnaround if we’d celebrate too much but we sat down during the week and said we don’t want to disgrace Clare either this can be a great building block even for Clare hurling going forward and we want to give a good account of ourselves, we want to do Clare and Ballyea proud even the support we got today was fantastic not just from our club but neutrals and it’s much appreciated”.