Effin hurling history rewritten in 385 glory filled days

Effin 2011 Limerick and Munster Intermediate Hurling Champions. Back row Hugh O’Neill, Robert Cagney, Shane O’Neill, Pierce Kelly, Johnny Bluett, James O’Donnell, Nickie Quaid, Thomas Quaid, Danny O’Donoghue, Michael O’Donnell, John P. O’Donnell, John Dillon, Damien Moloney and Ciaran Barrett.
Front row James O’Leary, Enda Kelly, John Mike Manning, Aidan Barrett, Kieran Dillon, Gearoid Barrett, Darren Sheehy, Patrick Carroll, Michael Rea, Timmt Rea, Andrew Dillon, Conor Kearney and Thomas Power.

On the morning of 31st October 2010, Effin had never won a county adult title. 385 days later by 20th November 2011, it had all dramatically changed as Effin had been crowned 2010 county junior hurling champions, 2011 intermediate hurling champions and to cap it all, 2011 Munster intermediate clubs champions.
It was a seismic change for a club that had toiled manfully since its formation in 1887. The history of Effin was one of little or no flirtations with success until the final quarter of the 20th century. Just one South Junior Championship in 1937 was all the club had to show for the first 75 years of the 20th century.
The Effin club has participated in competition since its formation in 1887 when they won the then prestigious Bruff Tournament defeating Hospital in the final.
Effin reached the south junior final for the first time in 1928 but on the day, Kilmallock proved too strong.
Nine years later came a first south title when Hospital were defeated 2-8 to 1-6. Hopes of adding a county title floundered when Templeglantine prevailed in the semi-final.
In terms of silverware, there followed a fallow period stretching to four decades. Effin suffered defeats in the south finals of 1938 to Kilmallock and 1966 to Bruree. After defeating Kilmallock in the 1972 south minor final, the Baalbec boys reversed the result in the county final.

Bridging 40 year gap
In 1977, Effin bridged a forty year gap and won a second south junior title. They defeated Stakers in the Divisional final, a Bulgaden-Martinstown combination who had been beaten by Granagh in the county final of 1976.
In a high octane final in Kilmallock, the Effin men prevailed after an enthralling contest, 3-5 to 1-8. Effin Scorers: Jim Gilbert 2-3; Denis McCarthy 1-0; Joe Ryan 0-2.
The men who did duty for Effin that day were; Con Daly: Paddy Sheehy, Jim Moloney, Mike Carroll; Dave Barrett, Tom Bluett, Mike Carroll (Jnr); Jim Gilbert, Mike Ryan; Joe Ryan, Liam Ryan, Matt Rea; Neilus Barry, Denis McCarthy, Peter McCarthy.
Sub; Francis Lynch for Mike Ryan.
Effin reached the south final in 1980 only to lose to Kilfinane but the wait for a third title was coming to an end.
In 1982, after victories over Knockainey and Hospital-Herbertstown, the men of Effin overcame Ardpatrick 4-9 to 4-7 in a memorable decider.
A bid for county honours saw the new county champions receive a walk over from Feenagh-Kilmeedy in the county quarter final before a last gasp goal for Murroe denied the south Limerick men a first ever appearance in a county final.
The following year Effin lost to Hospital-Herbertstown in the south final, defeated Pallasgreen in the county quarter final and lost for a second time to Hospital-Herbertstown in the county semi-final after a replay.
A barren spell ensued, with just a south final appearance in 1988 only to lose to Glenroe in the final and subsequently to bow out of the county series to Dromcollogher-Broadford in the quarter final.

First adult county final

1992 was a year when Effin claimed no championship silverware but broke new ground. After beating Croom in the south semi-final, Effin lost heavily to Glenroe in the south final. They quickly regrouped to defeat Caherline in the county quarter final and then overcame Dromcollogher-Broadford in the semi-final to reach a first ever adult county final. Waiting in the decider were Glenroe and after an enthralling contest, Glenroe were unable to recapture their form of the south final and were lucky to squeeze past gallant Effin 2-9 to 2-6.
The men who scored and represented Effin on that memorable occasion were: Scorers: Seán Kennedy 1-1; T.J. Bluett 1-0; Denis O’Donovan 0-3; Patrick Kennedy. Larry Bluett 0-1 each.
Effin: Robert Fenton; Pat O’Donnell, Pat O’Donovan, Dave Barrett; Pat McMahon, Mike Dillon, Tony Dillon; Robert Fenton, Jimmy Fitzgerald; Patrick Kennedy, Denis O’Donovan, Liam Egan; T.J. Bluett, Liam McCarthy, Seán Kennedy.
Subs: Gerry Burke for Liam Egan, Larry Bluett for T.J. Bluett.
Effin lost to Drom-Athlacca in the 1993 south final and after a few unsuccessful years, hit the jackpot in the second half of the nineties winning three south titles in a row beating Croom in the final of 1996, Galbally 1997 and Croom again in 1998. The south Limerick club failed over those three years to replicate success in the division with success in the county.
Hopes of four in a row in 1999 were ended in the south final by Blackrock and suffered te same fate at the hands of the Kilfinane-Ardpatrick combination in 2001.

Second county final

The next flirtation with county success was in 2007 when Effin reached the south final only to lose to Castletown-Ballyagran. Wins over Doon and Kilmallock in the county series led the club to a second county final appearance. It was not to yield a first county success as Caherline scooped the honours, 3-12 to 1-9.
The fortunes of Effin hurling were inexorably on an upward trajectory. Reaching the county final of 2007 provided invaluable experience and exciting group of young players coming through from county winning under 21 B sides in 2005 and 2005 under the umbrella of Cois Laoi Gaels, a combination of Effin and Staker Wallace.
Effin hit the ground running in the group stages in 2008 winning all five games only to be shocked, 2-8 to 1-10 by Kilmallock in the south semi-final.
It whetted the appetite for more
In 2009, Effin again topped the group with four wins and a draw and this time made no mistake in the semi-final with a comprehensive win over Kilmallock in the semi-final. In the south final, Effin and Blackrock played out a second draw of the campaign having previously ended in stalemate in the group stages.
Blackrock won the replay but the great rivals and neighbours were to meet again before the end of 2009 in the county final. Effin had defeated Feenagh-Kilmeedy and Patrickswell to reach the final and the hope of third time lucky at county level. It was not to be as Blackrock prevailed 2-18 to 1-16.

Milestone breakthrough

2010 dawned with hopes very high for the long awaited and coveted breakthrough. Backroom team Michael Kelly, Peter Finn, Jim Byrnes, Denis O’Donovan and Ger Power had their charges well primed and focused.
Four wins from four saw Effin reach the south semi-final where they got the better of Castletown-Ballyagran before dismissing the challenge of Kilmallock in the final.
Victories over Cappamore and Askeaton set up a final meeting with St. Kieran’s and at the fourth attempt, Effin finally got over the line 1-16 to 1-10 to secure a historic first adult county title. It meant Effin stepped up a level in 2011 but before that there was the matter of a Munster Junior Clubs Championship.
Effin’s debut on the provincial stage was a trip to Kilgarvan where the secured a solid victory over the Kerry intermediate champions on their home patch. It set up a Munster semi-final meeting with Cork champions, Meelin and in their debut season at this level, it proved a bridge too far for the Limerick champions.
Meelin later went on to be crowned Munster and All-Ireland champions.

Effin step up

2011 brought a new challenge to survive in their new environment at intermediate level. There were no fears that Effin wouldn’t consolidate but nobody could have predicted how Effin’s first season above junior ranks would unfold.
Wins over Pallasgreen, Claughaun and Kildimo meant Effin emerged from the group with a 100% record. The 2010 junior champions dismissed Newcastlewest in the quarter final and local rivals Dromin-Athlacca went the same way in the semi-final.
Runners up in 2009 and beaten semi-finalists in 2010, Ballybrown now stood between Effin and completing a unique back to back county successes in junior and intermediate. In the final, the fairytale became a reality when Effin squeezed through after a tense final, 1-9 to 1-8.
In an incredible 385 days, Effin had the made the transition from being minnows to being giants, from junior hurling to senior hurling. There was however a bit of unfinished business from 2010 to be attended to, a second shot at the Munster Clubs Championship.
Effin under manager Ger Power, coach Peter Finn and selectors Denis O’Donovan and Jim Byrnes had learned from the experience of the year before. The new Limerick champions had a daunting opening round tie in Walsh Park, Waterford against the Déise standard bearers Dunhill where they dug out a famous victory after a game that at times was feisty.
Next on the radar were Tipperary champions Aherlow and with the help of a late goal from Darren Sheehy, they were sent packing out of the competition in Páirc Seán Mhic Ghearáilt, Kilmallock.
New ground gained for the Effin hurling bandwagon, a Munster final showdown with Kerry senior champions, Ballyduff in Newcastlewest and on a milestone day for Effin and Limerick hurling, the once minnows from the south captured what was only Limerick’s second ever success in the competition.
It was a memorable day in the county town probably best summed up after the game by Effin and Limerick hurling legend, the late Tom Bluett. “I am 71 years old in January and I thought that I would never see this day. There is great credit due to every one of them but I knew that they would hurl to the very end and that is exactly what they did.”
“They could have had a few more scores although the Kerry team missed a few scores too. In fairness to the Ballyduff lads, they were good hurlers and the final was as sporting a match as ever I have seen. Effin gave them very little room, they hurled very well and great credit to Nickie Quaid, he had an outstanding game. But one player does not make a team, he could not do it all on his own, he had plenty help from every one of the team”.
“I can see an All-Ireland coming to Effin, we are playing the Ulster champions next in the semi-final and we know nothing about them. Coming back here today I knew nothing about Ballyduff other than that they were the Kerry senior champions and had to be good.”
2012 was to bring new challenges, contesting the All-Ireland Intermediate Clubs semi-final and more importantly a debut year in the Limerick Senior Hurling Championship.
This week the Vale Star looks back on three momentous days that rewrote the history of Effin hurling.