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Calry/St Josephs have won six Sligo SHC titles in a row.

Calry/St Josephs have won six Sligo SHC titles in a row.

Calry/St Joseph's hoping to perform on national stage


ByCianO'Connell


HenryCoxandJoeKeanekeptthefaith,alwaysfirmlybelievinginCalry/StJoseph'shurlingpotential.

Sincetheystartedtofieldteamsatadultlevelin2002Calry/StJoseph'shavewon10SligoSeniorHurlingChampionships.ItisaremarkablerisewhichalsoincludesfourConnachtJuniortitles.

NowanotherAIBAllIrelandJuniorSemi-FinalagainstCork’sMayfieldbeckonsatO’ConnorParkonSundayafternoon.

PanelistDarraghCox,HeadofSportatOceanFM,hasbeeninvolvedthroughoutthepastdecadesasaplayer."CraobhRuadhhadbeenadominanthurlingteaminSligotown,theyessentiallybecameCalrybecauseagreatunderagesystemhadbeenstartedbymyfather,Henry,andJoeKeane,whowasoriginallyfromGalway,”DarraghCoxexplainstoGAA.ie.“TheybroughtupunderageteamsfromCalrywhenIwasgrowingup.

“HenrywouldhaveplayedallhishurlingwithCraobhRuadh,ateamJoeKeanewasmanaging.ItjustmademoresenseintheendbecauseofthefeederplayerscomingfromCalrytobecomeCalryclub.CraobhRuadhwereastandalonehurlingclubinSligotown.”

ThatHenryCox,StephenWhelan,RonanWatters,andIanMcHugh-Calry’scurrentselectors–allhurledtogetherwithCraobhRuadhdecoratesthestoryfurther.

SuccesshasfollowedforCalry,butCoxcanrecallsomedemandingdaystoo."Wehavewonthelastsixinarow,beforethatwewonathreeinarow.WelostinaSemi-Finalin2010andwehadwonthreebeforethat.CalryHurlingClubonlycameintoexistencein2002andwewonourfirstSeniorCountyin2005.

“In2011,IremembertheCountySemi-Final,wewentintherewithjust15players.Wewonagamethatweweren'texpectedto.FourteamswereleftintheChampionshipandeventhoughwehadwonConnachtacoupleofyearsbeforewewereprobablythefourthfavouritestowintheCountytitle.

“WebeatTubbercurryintheFinalandsincethenwehavebuilttheteamupagain.Wewerecomingfromaplacewhereweonlyhad15playersthatdaytoastagenowwherewecancopelikewhenwewenttoBirminghambeforeChristmas.Weweremissingfiveplayersintotal,fourthatwouldhavebeenstarters.

“We'veneverhadasstrongasquadaswehavethisyear.Everyonehasboughtintoit.LadslikeMickeyGilmartinandDavidCallery,ladswhoplayedforSligonumeroustimes,theywerelivingawayfromhome,theyhavebothreturnedtoIreland.Theyareamassive,massiveboosttothesquad,wehavejustmanagedtogetpeopleavailableagainthisyear.”

Hope has been a constant companion for Calry, who planted their flag on the summit of the Sligo game in 2005. “When we came on the scene Tubbercurry were by far the kingpins, they had won 10 or 11 in a row,” Cox remembers.

“Paul Seevers was their man man, I lost five finals to Tubbercurry before Calry won our first one, I started playing with Craobh Ruadh before Calry became a senior team. We were very much the coming team for a few years, but we couldn't get over Tubbercurry. We finally got over them in 2005, they came back in 2006, but then our dominance started from 2007 on. We put a three in a row together and in 2009 we won our first Connacht Junior against Skehana down in Kiltoom in Roscommon.

“We went on to the Semi-Final, but lost to a team from Tyrone, Naomh Colmcille. In Ballyconnell in County Cavan you couldn't see in front of you with the fog, but we lost by a point or two. It was a massive regret, we still would refer back to it. We felt we left that one behind us, but we lost our county title in 2010, we lost to Western Gaels in the Semi-Final that year.

“That knocked us back, them two blows, but we regrouped then. In 2011, led as much by the players as by Henry and Stephen Whelan, who were the management, but the players took more of a hands on role in terms of pushing ourselves on.”

How Calry dealt with the Fullen Gaels challenge before Christmas offers encouragement. “We were over in Birmingham for an All Ireland Quarter-Final before Christmas, this was our first win outside Connacht.

“We lost a few years ago in 2013 to Ballysaggart from Waterford, who had the Bennett brothers, Shane and Stephen. They were an outstanding team. It was in Tullamore too, funnily enough, they absolutely blitzed us.

“Winning against Fullen Gaels was of major significance to us: just to win a game outside of Connacht.”

While the landscape has changed in Sligo hurling since Calry arrived on the senior stage Cox is hopeful about the future of the game in the north west. “Five clubs are taking part, Tubbercurry have fallen away recently, but they are building it up again at underage level,” Cox says about the Sligo Championship.

“You have five senior clubs currently and you probably have another three or four that are building up underage teams which augurs well for the future. It means you could have up to nine teams competing in senior, which isn't a lot obviously, but in that respect it still augurs well in terms that hurling is having a little bit of resurgence.

“The county team has reached two Lory Meagher Finals in a row and there would be a fair involvement of Calry players in both those teams as well, but it certainly wouldn't have been dominated by Calry players. It shows other clubs in the county are also producing players of a decent standard which drives the whole thing on.”

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