Michael Murphy fourth from left at back
Erin’s Own (Castlecomer) never won the Kilkenny senior hurling league or championship, but last season they all but pulled down eventual All-Ireland club champions, Ballyhale Shamrocks in the knock-out semi-finals.
The champions referenced that narrow escape many a time as something of a season changer, when a late, late goal from wing-back Evan Shefflin broken Castlecomer hearts, leaving them with the Shield final win of 2010 as their only success in the top flight.
“Ballyhale showed that day what was in them,” offered star Erin’s Own attacker, Michael Murphy, when we brought him back to the day during the press launch for the new season. “We had a chance to beat them. We didn’t do it, but they ended up as Kilkenny and All-Ireland champions. They proved their worth.”
Regrets? Michael didn’t suggest Erin’s Own had any. In last year’s championship they played two draws against Carrickshock and James Stephens, and the extra knock-out games brought them on a ton, he felt.
“We have to learn from what happened,” Michael added when he took up the story. “That we did so well gives us a bit more confidence, I suppose. We have a young team. It gave the players a bit of a lift in a way.
“We always felt we had it in us to push the best teams, but that effort showed us we could if we were fully committed. Now we can say to the younger lads we can mix with the best and survive. Positive thinking is a huge thing.”
He was sure the enforced extra championship action in 2018 helped cement belief and hardened everyone for the requirements of knock-out hurling.
“There was only a puck of the ball between ourselves and Carrickshock,” recalled Michael, who is facing into his 13th season hurling at adult level. “That puck was the difference between being in a relegation final and ending up in the championship semi-final. And we nearly beating the eventual champions.
“That is the Kilkenny championship. There is little between the clubs. No one ever looks forward to a soft games, because every match is a hard match. There are no easy touches in the Kilkenny senior grade.
“Look at the results? Rarely is there more than three our four points between teams. The extra games brought us along last season. The run gave us confidence. Young Ciaran Wallace has now been brought into the Kilkenny panel. That is great.
“That is a little boost for everyone. We have three lads in there now, Conor Fogarty and Conor Delaney as well. That is a very rare thing for Erin’s Own.
“It bodes well for us. Little things like that can give everyone a lift. We look up to those guys. They are in with the best in Ireland, so that can be good for us.”
The memory of that terrific effort against Shamrocks carried Erin’s Own through the winter, and the players couldn’t wait to get back training.
“Hopefully we can pick up where we left off,” the 30-year-old continued. “We are on a learning curve. Last season’s close thing with Shamrocks showed we have to learn to close out games.
“We should have had more scores on the board, but I am sure Shamrocks are saying the same. An effort like that, no matter how much people talk about it, is only good if we can make something of it. That is the big challenge for us this season.”
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