Effin target Munster title

JUST months after playing in the Gaelic Grounds for the first time, Effin are now just two games away lining out in Croke Park.

JUST months after playing in the Gaelic Grounds for the first time, Effin are now just two games away lining out in Croke Park.

The Effin story can really be an inspiration to all.

It is only the early years of the last decade that the small south Limerick village was well down the pecking order of contenders for the south junior championship.

They looked on as neighbours like Bruree, Kilmallock, Blackrock tasted success.

But now Effin are ready to take their place among the elite of Limerick club hurling.

But before they turn their hand to senior hurling, they have their minds set on another piece of history.

Already they have claimed back-to-back championships in Limerick and now they bid to follow South Liberties, who won the Munster intermediate crown two years ago in Mallow.

Indeed victory on Sunday, would leave just Ulster champions Middletown Na Fianna (Armagh) standing between Effin and a place in the All-Ireland final in Croke Park next February.

To put their achievement into perspective, just three boys enrolled in Effin National School this September and the total school population is in or around 100.

Indeed the population of the entire parish is no more than 750 people.

“If we can win it, it would be a tremendous achievement,” said club chairman Ger Power this Wednesday.

“In general we would be very limited for numbers but we have very few drop-offs and that is a big thing nowadays,” he said.

“It won’t be easy but we will gamble on for another while and give it our best shot,” said Power who is also a member of the team management.

“The atmosphere is really building the last couple of days - it’s starting to get intense,” said Power.

While the parish may be small in numbers, their support will be vastly greater on Sunday in Newcastle West.

“One match is only over and people are asking when the next one will be on. People come from all over - Ned Rea is always down from Dublin, Gerry Rea makes it from London and I’ve seen Conor O’Donovan at our games as well,” said Power.

“All the matches are great for the people of the parish. The GAA is great for people and I have people who have said to me that they only started to get to know people around the area when they joined up with the GAA - the GAA is great for that.”

The chairman was loud in praise of those that have given their free time to make the last two years possible.

“We have ex-players involved with underage with the likes of the Bluett’s, Joe O’Connor, Denis Donovan and Sean Manning. This year we started up an underage camogie club as well.”

Looking ahead to Sunday, Power warns not to under estimate Ballyduff.

“We have travelled back to play a lot of Kerry senior teams but never Ballyduff. They can hurl - make no mistake about that. They have five or six Kerry seniors and we will have to be at our best to win,” said Power, who is team manager with Jim Byrnes and Denis O’Donovan as selectors and Peter Finn the coach.

While Power cautions, Effin have the ingredients to secure a famous win as they return to the grounds where they finally broke their county JAHC hoodoo in 2009 against St Kierans.

No doubt, Ballyduff will have learned of the strength of the Effin spine where John Dillon, Nickie Quaid, Damien Moloney and Thomas Quaid are key.

But around them is a side brimming with confidence and talent with captain John P O’Donnell, Patrick Caroll, James O’Donnell and Conor Kearney all in fine form.

Effin weren’t expected to make an immediate impact in the intermediate ranks but since shocking Ballybrown, wins over Dunhill and Aherlow have seen them capture the imagination of hurling followers across Limerick and in the process display just what can be achieved by one of the smaller branches of Limerick GAA.