Effin set for Armagh challenge

Jerome O’Connell talks to Effin captain John O’Donnell ahead of their All Ireland semi-final

Jerome O’Connell talks to Effin captain John O’Donnell ahead of their All Ireland semi-final

MOST people would have been caught up in the rush that is Christmas Eve.

But out Effin way it was very different as coach Peter Finn gathered the newly crowned Limerick and Munster champions for a training session.

“It was a bit of a culture shock, alright,” laughed Effin captain John O’Donnell this week of their Christmas training schedule.

But everything is new for Effin these days with Croke Park in their sights.

“Training has been going well in fairness - isn’t it great to be involved at this time of the year,” O’Donnell said.

“We took a break for about three weeks after the Munster final and it was great. I think everyone came back refreshed and it really did us the power of good.”

It’s back on May 13 of last year that Effin journeyed to Clarina to play Pallasgreen in the opening round of the county intermediate championship.

Little did anyone think that nine games, and eight months, later they would be playing in an All-Ireland semi-final and awaiting the draws for the 2012 county senior hurling championship.

“We really haven’t had enough time to be thinking about it,” said the captain of a remarkable two-year run.

“Since Peter Finn came on board we have had this thing going that we take one game at a time.” So there is no talk of All-Ireland final appearances or Croke Park?

“Of course it would be fabulous to play in Croke Park but honestly we are only concerned about the 60-minutes ahead of us on Sunday and we know that it is going to be a real tough game.”

He continued: “All we are worried about is the next match. When you start looking further down the line that is when you get nabbed.”

The bookies have installed Effin as 6/4 favourites to lift silverware in the Hogan Stand on February 11 but clearly its a hard championship to call with outsiders Middletown listed at 9/2.

“Every game now is going to be so tough. All we are worried about is getting our own house in order. We don’t know much about them only that they are a strong physical team but anyone who has got to this stage will be a good side,” said O’Donnell.

“Some one actually pointed out that we are the only intermediate side left in the championship,” remarked the Effin captain pointing out that the other semi-finalists were the senior champions of Armagh, Carlow and London.

Effin played challenge games against All-Ireland junior semi-finalists Ballygar of Galway and inter-divisional side Western Gaels in recent weeks.

Given that Effin are eight months on the road since they made their IHC debut, could a loss of form be an issue? Not a problem, according to their captain.

“Of course some people will be playing better than others at different times of the year but the one thing that we have is that we work hard. Even if you are not playing that well a block or a hook could be the winning of a game. Work ethic is so important,” he emphasised.

The small south Limerick parish was at fever pitch for their Munster final win over Ballyduff, but O’Donnell’s reports some clam as all come to terms with championship hurling in January.

“It was all a bit hectic for a while and maybe we were a bit nervous in the first half of the Munster final. Right now it suits us all to concentrate on training. Everyone is flying it and in the full of their health,” reported O’Donnell.

On Sunday, Effin bid to go a step further than South Liberties two years ago. Effin could feel some pressure with the favourites tag but breaking new ground is nothing new to the men in green and white. Their neighbours Blackrock reached Croke Park in February 2010 and all going according to plan, Effin should continue their remarkable run.