When the draw was made for the first round of the Laois Senior Hurling Championship, most observers would have been expecting last year’s beaten finalists and 2011 County Champions Clough-Ballacolla to come through in their game with Camross.
As it turned out however, Camross had not read the script and a 0-16 to 1-11 win later, they were off to a great start in the championship and the momentum has built all the way to this Sunday’s County Final. Club Chairman Peader Burke believes the strong start has built the confidence and belief in the squad.
“As Brian Coady would say, ‘every year is a new year in sport’ and each year you try to do the best you can. Once we got going this year, things started to come together. The lads put in a great effort and the management team put in a lot of work in training. The couple of early performances were good, they were where you’d want them to be if you want to play in the Senior Championship. The standard was good and we got the results in the early games that was needed to move forward. The last day against Portlaoise was always going to be a tough battle and we happened to be lucky enough to come out on the right side of that and now we’re in a final.”
He added that the addition of younger players to the squad had made a difference.
“I think we have a few of the younger players who have developed over the last few years. A couple of the minors have come in and done well and the few players we’ve had with county have gotten stronger. All the experience has benefited them. Plus the commitment all the players have given to the club in training. The young players have added some fresh air to it.
While both team will name their starting 15s for the final sometime this week, a number of the men who don’t get the starting spots will also have key roles to play. Peader Burke is confident that Camross have the strength in depth to call on when needed.
“If you want to play club hurling at senior level, it has to be a one to twenty game, a panel game, the same as inter-county teams. We have the option of the few players up front to score, we’ve improved there with the few young players. In the backs we have a few young players with a few older campaigners with their experience. We very much look like a unit this year and are playing as a team and have the players in the subs who are working hard looking for their spot on the team. When you’re in that position, you’re in a good position to compete and you just take each day as it comes.”
A major factor in deciding the outcome of the game could be how the young players on both teams perform and how they react to the different pressures associated with a County Final. The Camross Chairman however is not too concerned as he believes the management team will keep the players focussed on the task at hand.
“I think it’s all down to the focus. Some of the younger lads on the team, particularly the ones with the county, have played on reasonable stages. County final day with your club is a huge day but I think the management structure and everything is there so it will be kept nice and level and they will prepare for the next game as they have prepared for each game in the Championship. If they keep it like that hopefully everybody will be okay on the day. On the day the game takes a life of it’s own and if you get the break of a few balls and you get going, the young players confidence will be fine. It is a huge day for them but it is a huge day for both teams. Each set of players have the same things to face up to on the day. It’s down to an hour’s hurling.”
The entire community of Camross will be behind their team as they take to the field this Sunday and Peader Burke is in no doubt how important it is for the area to have the team back fighting for the Bob O’Keefe Cup.
“It’s brilliant to be back in the final. Any team who gets to a County Final any given year, it’s great for the club. We’re delighted to be back there again. It’s 2010 since we were there the last time. There’s always been a great tradition of hurling in Camross. It is a small community and we’ve had a huge exodus with emigration over the last few years. There’s another half a team of players that are in foreign countries that possibly would be playing in the final. We’ve been lucky enough with the numbers we’ve had over the years and the development of the young players and the people that have developed the juvenile structures. The couple of players that come through each year keep the club alive. In any community, having a team in a County Final, you can be sure there will be great support. It lifts everybody and we’re looking forward to County Final day.”