COURCEY Rovers are eager to build on a memorable campaign by adding the Munster intermediate title to the Cork Premier IHC trophy annexed at the end of November.
All roads lead to the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick this Sunday afternoon for the provincial final (1.30pm throw-in), as the Cork champions go in search of Munster glory.
It has been a long but rewarding road for Courceys and their supporters. It is not that long ago Rovers came back from the dead to defeat Castlelyons by a point following an enthralling 2021 Premier IHC county decider.
Mungret St Paul’s were overcome in an equally-tense Munster semi-final to set up this Sunday’s showdown with Kerry champions Kilmoyley. Fergus Lordan and his Courcey team-mates are one victory away from adding another remarkable achievement to the club’s history books.
‘Any day you are in a Munster final, it is great,’ Lordan commented to The Southern Star.
‘We got a bit of a break over Christmas and that gave us time to look back over the year and reflect on what we had done. From being eight points down in the county final with not much time to go, we probably looked dead and buried to most people. We always had a belief even when we were eight points down. Since we got the (Christmas) break to reflect on it, it was something else to come from behind and win by a point, especially in the fashion that we did.
‘It is massive for the club, massive altogether. We won a Munster junior in 2001 but this is the highest Courcey Rovers has gotten so far. It has been something else to look forward to. We had a bit of fun over Christmas alright where everyone enjoyed themselves but the focus was back straight away since we got back to training.
‘Kilmoyley, obviously, are there on merit. They are a good side. They are as mad about hurling as any other team in Cork. We will just try to put in a performance, do our best and see what happens.’
Courcey Rovers’ opponents, Kerry champions Kilmoyley, have proven equally impressive en route to Sunday’s Munster final. A 4-12 to 0-14 quarter-final defeat of Moyle-Templetuohy was achieved thanks to Maurice O’Connor (2), Adrian Royle and Daire Nolan goals on the Tipperary club’s home ground. Kilmoyley, coached by former Courcey Rovers and Cork senior manager John Meyler, showed that result was no fluke with a narrow 1-12 to 2-7 victory over Waterford’s Dunhill in the semi-finals at Páirc Uí Rinn.
Meyler is someone Fergus Lordan came across at a young age but the Lioncor Construction Site Engineer is focussing on his own team’s performance ahead of the Munster final.
‘John Meyler’s last year with us would have been my first year playing senior at the age of 17,’ Lordan said.
‘He would be familiar with Courceys but maybe not a whole pile about the current group of players. It is a bit of a novelty, I suppose for John, facing off against one of his old teams. This is a different team though and a different era. I don’t think it will be that much of a factor in the game.
‘As for our own management team, we came so close in 2018 (losing a county final to Charleville after a replay). Diarmuid Corcoran and his team brought us on so much. We went through a transition during those years.
There were a lot of fellas who went away and others retired and Diarmuid brought on. We added a bit of freshness with Seán Guiheen, Tim Lordan and a few more this year.
Thank God, that bit of freshness helped, we won the county and are in a Munster final now so, so far, so good.’
Clearly, momentum has been a key factor for a Courcey Rovers outfit that has improved with every outing. That never-say-die spirit and inner belief was key to overcoming Castlelyons in the county final.
‘Courceys’ county championship win didn’t happen overnight. We put in the work all year. We trained very hard,’ 24-year-old Lordan noted.
‘During lockdown, we trained on our own a few times a week doing our own running sessions and had Zoom sessions as well.
There is a great belief amongst the group, in fairness. You can’t knock anyone for that. It (belief) proved so important in the final.’
Winning a county title and returning to the senior grade was as important to the residents of Ballinspittle and Ballinadee, plus the club’s supporters living overseas, as it was to the Courcey Rovers players and management.
‘Talking to people around the parish after the county final, you could immediately tell how much winning meant to all those outside our own management and players group,’ Lordan said.
‘There were grown men crying after that game (county final). It was great to see. That is just what it means to everyone. It does lift the whole parish. In fairness, it is great to get back to the senior grade too. We have been six or seven years out of it, so it is great to finally get back up there as it is not easy.
‘Courcey Rovers had been there or thereabouts the last few years. We lost to Charleville after a replay in 2018. We had a poor year the year after and reached a semi-final in 2020. It all came together this year, thank God.’
Rovers carried their Cork Premier IHC championship form into the provincial competition, overcoming Limerick’s Mungret St Paul’s, 1-18 to 1-17, after extra-time.
‘We aimed for the Munster championship straight after winning the PIHC and were even talking about it in the dressing-room after the county final,’ Lordan added.
‘We enjoyed our county final win, obviously, but everyone immediately tuned in for the Mungret St Paul’s game two weeks after. It wasn’t an easy thing to do, to travel up to Limerick and they are a very good side. In fairness, they were fairly lively.
‘We were lucky to come out on the right side of the result but always had that belief. We were up for most of the game then they came back at us in the last 15 minutes. Mungret scored the last six points but we held out for extra-time.
‘Again, great belief within the team, we always thought we were going to do it no matter what was thrown at us. The last time Courcey Rovers were in the same position, back in 2011, we ended up losing the first round of the Munster championship. We wanted to right that wrong this time around.’
Not alone have Courceys righted that wrong, but Lordan and his team-mates have excelled with each passing game and this Sunday’s Munster IHC final should be a post-Christmas cracker.