Hurling

Borris-Ileigh's 1987 winners ready for a new crop of heroes

Jake O'Donnell
Jake O'Donnell

05:16 15 Jan 2020

Chasing a first All-Ireland club title for 33 years, the squad of Borris-Ileigh will have the weight of a small village on their shoulders next Sunday. 

The Tipperary club are hoping to create a new red-letter day in the club's history when they face Ballyhale Shamrocks in the final at Croke Park.

Ahead of Sunday's AIB GAA All-Ireland final, members of Borris-Ileigh's last winning panel reassembled to recall their memories of the achievement.

In conversation with his 1987 teammates Noel O'Dwyer and Timmy Delaney, former Tipperary captain, Bobby Ryan, recalled the overwhelming nerves he felt in the final against Rathnure.

"I think there is huge pressure on a county player when he is playing with his club and it was the first time we had ever played in an All-Ireland final as a club.

Overcoming Rathnure 2-9 to 0-9, Ryan described the aftermath as "disbelief that this small little club had just reached the pinnacle of club hurling."

"It was the most magical feeling to come back to the little village. I don't know what our village would be like if we didn't have a GAA club."

For Delaney, the day brings back memories of pride that he was able to play a part in the club's greatest day.

"It's lovely to look back and think, of course, 1987 was one of the key building blocks in establishing that [Boris-Ileigh] tradition."

The club has produced four All-Ireland-winning captains and over forty All-Ireland winners at inter-county level but to-date has just one title at club level. That's something, O'Dwyer explains, everyone involved in the club is hoping can change this weekend.

"If they can win on Sunday it means they don't have to look up to us. They are their own team and – the next generation, they are the crowd who they will look up to – we will be only thrilled if they can achieve what we did and drive on from there."

The day will carry an extra element for Delaney too, who will be watching his grandson Jerry Kelly vie to replicate his own success.

"I'm absolutely thrilled that I've lived to see the day that I have somebody belonging to me go out at Croke Park and represent Borris and wear a Borris jersey in an All-Ireland club final," he says.

"It's great. It's unbelievable. I'm so proud of Jerry, I'm so proud of Borris and I'm so glad that I'm alive to see it and be a part of it."

However, the extra element of pride brings with it an equal helping of nerves when it's your own blood involved: "It is cruel. It's awful. I wouldn't wish it on anybody; I'd rather play 40 matches myself!"

Despite Borris-Ileigh facing the reigning champions and seven-time winners, the club won't be intimidated, according to Ryan.

"Borris-Ileigh will fear nobody and we shouldn't fear anybody. I think it's a perfect final; it was Tipp and Kilkenny at county level and now it's Tipp and Kilkenny at club level.

"What our team has: they have great heart, they have hunger, they have loads of skill. So I don't see any reason why we can't go up to Croke Park all guns blazing and have a right go at these guys."

There's been a change to the AIB GAA Club Championship fixture schedule this year and the finals take place next Sunday the 19th of January.

Tickets available from gaa.tickets.ie and usual outlets including local clubs and Supervalu and Centra stores.

When It’s Club It Lives Forever

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All-Ireland Club Hurling Championship Ballyhale Shamrocks Borris-Ileigh

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