Conahy Shamrocks back on the glory trail
By Cian O’Connell
It has been a strange campaign for Conahy Shamrocks, but the promising James Bergin wants to end 2019 by securing success and silverware.
Saturday’s AIB Leinster Junior Hurling Final between the Kilkenny outfit and Wexford’s Ballygarrett in Enniscorthy promises to be interesting with Conahy Shamrocks eager to respond following a County Final loss last month.
That defeat against O’Loughlin Gaels second team hurt deeply, but Shamrocks are keen to make a mark on the provincial stage. Leinster and All Ireland glory was sampled by Conahy Shamrocks just over a decade ago so Bergin is hopeful another chapter can be added to their story.
“It has been a bit of an indifferent year,” Bergin admits. “It is a strange one that we didn't win the County Final, but we are still in Leinster. We got beaten by O'Loughlin's second team, but the lads responded well after the defeat. We all rowed in together because you mightn't get this opportunity too many times.”
So Conahy Shamrocks were primed to summon a response in Leinster and that is precisely what has happened with wins over Fingallians and Clonguish.
“We played Fingallians from Dublin, it was a dogged affair for the first 15 or 20 minutes, we got on top towards the end of the first half,” Bergin states.
“We finished off well and we were comfortable winners in the end. Then we played the Longford senior champions, we won convincingly enough, but again we didn't fire on all cylinders. We came through a few tough periods, hopefully we can get a better intensity for the next match.”
Bergin stresses that Conahy Shamrocks’ panel possesses a nice blend of emerging and established hurlers.
“You'd have seven or eight of us Under 21 that are playing in the team,” Bergin remarks. “There is a lot of youth. It is a mix between old and youth, you have nobody really in the middle.
“We won the Junior Club All Ireland 11 years ago, you have three or four still from that panel. They have been around and know their stuff. Then there is us the new generation coming.”
After the All Ireland Junior triumph Conahy Shamrocks competed strongly at Intermediate level in Kilkenny for a period before suffering relegation.
“We held our own for a couple of years, they did compete very well,” Bergin recalls. “They were a team getting so far, but as soon as Championship came we weren't able to get beyond it.
“Then for a period after 2012 or 2013 we struggled with numbers more so than anything. We got relegated from Intermediate in 2016, then the same again we struggled for a year or two. We might have been seen as a team that wasn't dogged enough, but this year we certainly all brought it together.”
There was always a hope and belief within the club that the work carried out in the underage ranks would eventually be translated to the adult grades once more. “When I was younger at Under 14 we were in A, we contested County Finals and Feile Finals at Under 14,” Bergin comments. “We won a League Final at Under 16. Our Under 21 team from this year would have always been the strongest coming along. Now we have lads progressing into the Junior team. Lads are stepping up.
A victory this weekend would put a different complexion on the year, while the opportunity to perform in Croke Park next January for Shamrocks remains a burning ambition.
“Exactly and the lads have been saying we could put all this effort in and still come out with no trophy,” Bergin says.
“This weekend is just to push on, to get some sort of success for the year. If we lose on Saturday we wouldn't have a trophy even though we'd have been hurling the whole way into December.
“We will try on Saturday to make it some sort of successful year and then if you win on Saturday you are only 60 minutes away from Croke Park. Every club hurler from the age of five upwards, the dream is to play in Croke Park.”