Looking back on their glory days, it’s hard to believe that it’s been five years since the Shamrocks were on the biggest stage of all.
“It’s a long time since we were preparing for a club All-Ireland final, but it’s great to be here,” said T.J. Reid as the build-up to the big St Patrick’s Day clash with Kilmallock stepped up a few gears.
“It’s great to see the parish getting ready for the game too with all the flags going up and all the young lads wearing the green and white jerseys. It’s creating a big buzz around Ballyhale - it’s great to be a part of it all.”
That five-year gap was a surprise, but they’ve worked hard to end it.
“This year it really sunk in that it’s been five years since we were in an All-Ireland final (Reid scored 0-4 in the 2010 final, when the Shamrocks beat Galway’s Portumna by 1-19 to 0-17) so we have to give it everything this time.
“Everything you do, from nutrition to recovery work, we might never be here again. It’s an aging team; the opportunity is there for us so we have to be ready to do whatever it takes to get this win.”
Mention of the players’ ages led to the question - did the older guys give a little more this year? Reid wasn’t having any of it.
“I don’t think the older players made any more effort than they have every other year,” he said. “We had no injuries this year; other years people like Henry (Shefflin), Mick Fennelly, ‘Cha’ (Fitzpatrick) and myself have been out which can put a dampener on things. Injuries can knock the confidence of any side, so this year we’ve been lucky - we’re all raring to go.”
There has been an incredible focus about the Shamrocks as they cut their way through the county championship and out into the provincial game, but Reid believes things have to be just right or there’ll be consequences.
“We’ve started a few games a little slower than we would have liked to,” he said, reflecting on a season of results. “In the county final against Clara we conceded 1-2 after a few minutes but that day we were so focused, our attitude was so spot on, even if they had gone ten points clear I believe that our team performance was going to win that day.
“The Gort game was another big test; we were four points ahead at half-time but they got back to within two,” he added.
“We want to make sure that we hit the ground running in this All-Ireland final, but it’s important that we get a good start to the second half too.”
Much of that is down to the team’s calm and composed nature. They know how to keep cool.
“As a team we don’t really panic,” he said. “We have experienced forwards there who can get scores. We know that if we get a rhythm we can build the momentum that leads to early scores. We believe in ourselves, we believe in our performance.
“If our heads are 100% right it will take a good team to beat us - we might be aging team but I wouldn’t change those players for anything. The effort they’ve put in over the years has been excellent.”
The same can be said for the younger players too.
“It’s been a huge group effort,” he said. “The work the younger players have put in has been exceptional. It takes a big commitment for lads to come training and then drive back for college and work the next morning but they know what’s at stake - they know what it takes to win a club All-Ireland.
“It takes a phenomenal effort from everyone involved,” he continued. “That might seem strange for someone looking in from the outside to understand, but when you love something so much you think of it as the norm. It’s a big commitment, but if you get it right and can get to that All-Ireland final it provides the opportunity of a lifetime.”