This St Patrick’s Day, Ballyea, a small village outside Ennis in Co Clare, take on Dublin’s Cuala in the 2017 All-Ireland club hurling final in Croke Park.
James Murphy, dairy farmer and Ballyea wing-back, says the team are not getting overly worried about their opposition.
I have 95% of cows calved now, so I won’t have to be worrying about them on Friday
“Our lads have been hurling with each other since the very start, so it’s not about who we face. It’s 15 players against 15 at the end of the day.”
James, who is currently milking around 200 cows in an equity partnership in Co Cork, says keeping up with the farm work while being part of the All-Ireland journey was difficult, but he had plenty of help around him.
“I have a very good manager on the farm and my parents are a super help too. I have 95% of cows calved now, so I won’t have to be worrying about them on Friday.”
Ballyea’s victory over Glen Rovers in the Munster final was the club’s first ever provincial win, but their semi-final win after extra-time is something that will always stand out in James’s mind.
“I will always remember playing the Thurles Sarsfields match – the comeback was unreal and it was a great feeling to get the win.”
This year’s final marks somewhat of a novel pairing for spectators as this is the first time either club has reached this stage of the competition.
“The place is absolutely buzzing,” says James.
“All of the local parishes are even getting behind us. For the players, it’s the pinnacle of our club hurling careers and we are all just looking forward to getting out and playing in Croke Park.”
Last November, Kepak took control of John Kelly Meats in Co Clare.
Kelly had been sponsoring the club but since Kepak’s acquisition of the company, the name is now on the front of the jersey.
Also, two employees from the Kepak Clare operation are on the panel. They are Gearoid “Gudgie” O’Connell and Joe Neylon, who will both be in Croke Park alongside James Murphy.
Kepak was one of the first companies to sponsor a GAA team when it was on the Meath jersey in the early- to mid-1990s