Historic Year For Hurlers 2003

Historic year for Drumree

31 December 2003

The year 2003 will long live in the memories of Drumree hurling club as they secured the rights to play in the senior hurling championship for next year. They annexed the intermediate hurling title at the expense of favourites Clann na nGael and manager Michael Wallace tells us of what the win meant to the people of the area.

The 13 point winning margin may have come as a surprise to many who attended the final at a rain swept Pairc Tailteann on Sunday, October 5, but the win was totally merited and was far from a surprise to the men from Drumree.

Drumree’s existence in Meath hurling circles is a relatively short one although there has been hurling in the area dating back to as far as 1887 when St Martin’s were first in action. Indeed the St Martin’s name is still carried on to this day as the underage sides in the area still operate under that banner and it is from these teams that the majority of the victorious intermediate side came.

Having spent all his coaching career at underage level Michael Wallace has worked with the all the intermediate panel at one stage or another and following three years as a selector, he was asked to manage the side for this year, a job he was not to keen to take at first. "I was approached by some of the committee members to take on the job but being involved with the Meath Under-16 hurling side meant that I had not much time to spare and after a lot of consideration I reluctantly took the job, admitted Michael. Also brought in an advisory and coaching role was former Meath supremo John Davis whose record as a coach in hurling speaks for itself as he has led teams to glory in both Meath and Westmeath. "John’s experience was invaluable to us. His record speaks for itself, having led teams to numerous county finals down through the years and when he suggested something you took notice."

Training for the year began earlier than usual as the squad got together for the first time on January 26th. This paid off as they clinched the league title on St Patrick’s Day but the main goal for Drumree was the intermediate championship. In their first outing in the championship, they were paired against neighbours Blackhall Gaels and as expected in local derbies a tight match ensued with late scores for the red and white hoops ensuring an eight point victory, 1-12 to 2-02. Having been there or thereabouts in the shake-up for glory in recent years, Michael explains that there was a growing believe among the mentors that 2003 could be their year, the only problem was making the players have the same belief. "From the beginning of the year I believed we could win the intermediate championship and the sooner we could get that through to the lads the better and thankfully it didn’t take too long," he admitted.

Fellow contenders for glory Kilskyre were the next opponents for Drumree in the group stages, with results going way the way of the North Meath side in recent years, but a remarkable comeback by Michael Wallace’s charges earned them a valuable two points. "The game against Kilskyre is one that we never really got motoring in until the final few minutes but we should have won by more. We won a lot of our earlier matches by not playing well. Fortunately as we got more games, we began to find our form at just the right time." Athboy side Clann na nGael who had been relegated from the senior ranks the previous year were installed as favourites for the title and when they met in the group stages, the green and gold lived up to their billing as they ran out winners 2-11 to 1-9. Clann na nGael led the match from start to finish and although Drumree had numerous chances in the second half to close the gap, they failed to do so. A fortunate draw against Na Fianna was followed by a walkover against Donaghmore/Ashbourne before Drumree encountered their toughest opponents of the championship, Gael Colmcille. The Kells side’s performance in the campaign before that match had been very mediocre but a win against Drumree would have brought them back into the championship and as Michael explains they were relieved to beat Kells by two points. "With Kells being out of the football championship, they could call on all their hurlers for the game with us and without doubt it was the best game of the year for us and we just got through by the skin of your teeth."

The 3-8 to 1-13 win over the town meant that Drumree would face Kilskyre in the semi-final and having already beaten them in an earlier round, confidence was high that the outcome of this match could be the same. Kilskyre looked the better side throughout the match and looked set to make the final for the second year running, but Drumree’s superior fitness and determination shone through to earn them a place in the decider for the first time since 2000.

Reaching the final was just reward for the efforts that the players and mentors had put in and Michael points out that a number of men that had worked with the players at underage level down through the years deserved as much credit as himself or John Davis. "The work of the underage coaches with St Martin’s was beginning to bear fruit as men like Willie Shanley, Sean White, Paul Barry RIP and Joe Rattigan RIP had done so much for the club in recent years. For these men it was as big an honour to win the championship as anyone," pointed out Michael. Michael also had a special word of praise for Paul Barry who was only in his mid-forties when he died suddenly in 2002. "Myself and Paul were involved in the underage coaching together for a number of years and his untimely death came as a shock to us all, he would have been a proud man in Pairc Tailteann the day of the final.

Preparations for the final itself ran smoothly as a number of challenges were played to keep the players sharp for the decider and once they were physically prepared for the final it was just a matter having their mental state in order. Drumree received a double blow in the build up to the final as two of the panel members Seamus and Padraic Smith buried their mother the day before the match and on the morning of the final it was revealed that star player David Troy was unable to start due to illness.

Conditions for hurling on the day were far from favourable but Drumree adapted the better and an early goal settled any nerves in the Drumree camp and at the same time seemed to unhinge Clann na nGael’s game plan. Leading by 2-4 to 0-4 at the interval, there seemed to be no way back for the Athboy side and so it was as a third goal just after the half-time break put the match beyond Clann na nGael’s reach. When David Troy was introduced as a substitute late on, it was fitting that he should score his side’s fourth goal. It was very much a team performance by Drumree but special praise must go to fullback Gerard Troy, midfielders Caomhin King and John Crimmins and forwards David and Seamus Wallace, while substitute and county football star David Crimmins also made a telling contribution when introduced after only seven minutes of the match.

Obviously, Michael was a very proud man when the final whistle was sounded and the fact that he had two sons Seamus and David on the team made the occasion that bit more special, although he stresses that winning the final with that bunch of lads out shone everything else. Along with selectors Peter Mooney and former player Paddy Doyle who did excellent work with the side throughout the year, the backroom staff were also helped by physio Teresa McKenna who nursed a number of players back to full fitness during the campaign.

Drumree’s magnificent year was reflected in the number of players who wore the Meath jersey in hurling at various different levels right up from Under-16 level where David Wallace was captain with Brian Coughlan and James Gaughan also on the panel. At minor, Caomhin King and David Wallace represented the club while; the Under 21 side had Brendan Walsh, Sean White and Seamus Wallace among the panel.

The victorious Meath Junior side that won a Leinster title saw David Troy among the medal winners while Seamus Wallace played under Michael Duignan for the senior side. "Having so many players representing the county at various different grades was a huge honour for the club and it showed that our hard work on the training field over the years had paid off," added Michael. 
A week after claiming the intermediate title, the club added another honour to their collection as their Minor B side who were looked after by Gabriel King, Sean Delaney and Michael Wallace scored a narrow one point victory over Blackhall Gaels in the decider. While the intermediates followed up their championship win with a victory over Louth side Wolfe Tones in the Leinster Junior hurling tournament, all in all a fruitful year for the club.

Already the club are planning for next year and an assault on the senior hurling championship and Michael believes that with plenty of hard work, they can reach their goal of maintaining their senior status. "Our aim is not to go down and with one or two wins under our belt who knows what could happen. But the effort has to be made and if we knuckle down and gain a bit more experience at that level we’ll be there or there abouts. Training is where it all begins though and we’ll get nothing if the work is not done on the pitch," he concluded.

The victorious Drumree side that defeated Athboy was: David Farrell (capt), Kevin Burke, Gerard Troy, John Gilsenan, Brian Kenny, Ronan Curley, Christopher Doyle, Caomhin King, John Crimmins, David Wallace, Seamus Wallace, Dermot Doyle, Brendan Walsh, Sean White, Paul Gaughan. Subs: Garry Donoghue, Gerard Clarke, Seamus Smith, Brian Walsh, Brian Coughlan, Ronan Gilsenan, Ciaran Kenny, David Crimmins, David Troy.