The preparations for a big hurling occasion may have cut across the Christmas festivities, but single-minded Conahy Shamrocks didn’t mind.
They have Croke Park on their minds, and they aim to book a date in GAA headquarters on Saturday, January 18.
The Kilkenny junior hurling championship runners-up and Leinster champions have the serious matter of an All-Ireland semi-final against Eoghan Rua (Derry) in Inniskeen on Saturday (1pm) to be dealt with first, and they are not taking what will be tricky assignment for granted.
But the current wearers of the black and amber hope to follow in the glorious footsteps of the Conahy Shamrocks team of 2008 by appearing in Croke Park, at least. Incidentally, the class of 2008 won the All-Ireland junior club hurling championship in Croker.
“The lads realise they are just an hour away from hurling in Croke Park,” explained manager, Paul Buggy, when he set the scene for the alluring possibility that could be ahead on the 18th. “That is a great carrot to dangle in front of them.”
Conahy may have come off second best against the O’Loughlin Gaels second team in the Kilkenny junior final, but they took on the challenge of the Leinster championship with massive intent.
“The lads achieved something nice for themselves and the club by winning the Leinster championship,” added Paul Buggy, who works hand-in-hand with selectors Diarmuid Healy, Brian Rossiter and Kevin Healy.
“It was great for the players and club to win something. We are very happy. It was nice, very positive, to end 2019 with a cup in our possession.”
That positivity helped drive everyone through the demanding work needed over the Christmas holidays to get into a fighting mood to face Eoghan Rua, who were beaten in the All-Ireland final of 2016 by Glenmore (2-8 to 0-12).
Numbers helped drive on the effort as the Conahy under-19 squad that is still involved in their championship joined the juniors at training.
“It is great to have the two teams going and training together,” Mr Buggy said. “We are trying to get the best out of the lads, training hard and well. The challenge ahead is big.”
The floodlit facilities at the Kilkenny training centre in Dunmore have been utilised, and the players got in a decent amount of hurling during the daylight hours on weekends.
“Things have worked out well,” the manager insisted. “We were out on St Stephen’s morning hurling and after that it was a matter of easing our way towards the match day.”
Things have been so hectic since the Leinster final that Conahy hardly got a chance to think about that achievement.
“Eoghan Rua play a lot of football and we expect them to be big and strong and physical,” the Conahy official suggested. “Big, mobile men is what we are expecting.
“We would imagine there will be a contrast in hurling styles. They will be structured and will want to move the ball man to man; that kind of game.
“We will be trying to get our game going; playing at 100 miles and hour and getting the ball into the danger zone as quickly as we can. We expect conditions to be sticky, but we have trained in those conditions.
“We are serious about Eoghan Rua. We will be fully prepared. There can be no chance taking at this stage. We are ready to go. We will go hard at this.”
Conahy reported a near clean bill of health. Alan Healy has a long term injury and he may not see action until next season. Besides, the troops are ready to go!
Conahy Shamrocks panel - Padraic Delaney, Simon Callinan, Davy Healy, Liam Cass, Darren Cuddihy, Donal Brennan, Brian Healy, Kieran Mooney, Ed Delaney, Eoin Cahill, John Mullan, Tom Phelan, Darragh Dooley, James Bergin, Tom Rice, Karl Downey, Alan Healy, Tom Nolan, Ollie Feehan, Sean Brennan, Michael Bergin, Bill Murphy, David Kennedy, Paddy Mullan, Gary Dunne, Eoin Carroll, Frank Gunner, Cian Harding, Padraig Gunner, Donal Cass, Shane Brennan, Kieran Delaney, Justin Brophy, Nicky Feehan.
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