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 Ballinascarthy's Brian O'Donovan tackling Michael McCarthy, St James, in the Carbery decider last month. The small club delivered in their first every appearance in a West Cork A final. Picture: Denis Boyle
Ballinascarthy's Brian O'Donovan tackling Michael McCarthy, St James, in the Carbery decider last month. The small club delivered in their first every appearance in a West Cork A final. Picture: Denis Boyle
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The Paudie Palmer column: Rugby can't compete with unsung heroes of club GAA

THE UNDERDOGS couldn’t get the job done at Páirc Uí Rinn last Sunday.

In the first semi-final, Newcestown were endeavouring to put the cherry on top of the 2019 cake. Prior to arriving at Christy Ring’s field, the West Cork team had ticked all the expected boxes, plus a few more.

Just 12 months ago, they were engaged in Cork’s old archaic version of relegation and just about survived it. At this stage of the season, Duhallow were worthy favourites.

From the divisional team’s point of view, they got the result, but their display ensured that most of those who visit the turf accountants will not back them against Nemo.

I’m not sure what to say about Douglas — maybe it would be just as well to concentrate on the virtues of Nemo Rangers. In this regard, I think one of their greatest strengths is convincing many that they are not as good as they are.

If you had a euro for every time you hear that “Nemo aren’t great”, you might well be able to fly first class to Japan to see Ireland sort out those self-righteous All Blacks once and for all.

Back to Douglas. Is it the dual activity that prevents them from being the master of one? Or is it that they supply Cork’s team with more players than any other club most seasons?

It must be a source of immense disappointment for their supporters to watch them fail at the business end in both codes on so many occasions.

If the football semi-finals were a disappointment, the one-sided nature of the Premier Intermediate hurling final could have given us the impression that it wasn’t one of the best championship weekends on Leeside. Such an observation may be a tad misleading, as there was other entertainment on offer.

None more so than the Premier Intermediate football, with its two massively entertaining semi-finals, both featuring comebacks.

On Friday night, Kanturk were six down approaching the half-time whistle against St Michael’s and had succeeded in drawing level by the end. The replay will be the curtain-raiser to Sunday’s hurling final.

The other semi-final had Éire Óg four down on the home straight against Bantry, but a Kevin Hallissey goal sparked a comeback, which eventually left them two ahead at the final whistle. This is a competition that will not be won easily.

Away from the bright lights, Cork’s first real relegation roadshow in quite a while has been taking place. Two teams are dropping from both the Intermediate hurling and football championships.

To ensure fairness, it was agreed that the three teams would play a round-robin relegation series. In hurling, the first day saw Na Piarsaigh finish with five points to spare over Ballinhassig, but on Saturday last they suffered a 4-16 to 2-8 defeat to Kilbrittain, with Philip Wall scoring 3-2.

The win should send both Na Piarsaigh and Ballinhassig to the junior pasture. The only way it wouldn’t is if Ballinhassig inflict a heavy defeat on Kilbrittain this Saturday.

In the football equivalent, Adrigole’s two recent victories over Grenagh and Youghal means that the third match in the series between the latter two does not have to be played. The Beara men’s two victories were principally founded on the outstanding performances of their star player, David Harrington, who scored 1-7 against Youghal.

It may take a year or two before clubs become accustomed to this new relegation set-up and it was interesting to follow the social media posts of the participating clubs. In the case of one club, their PR department issued a rallying call to the supporters, informing them that it was the biggest game for the club in a generation.

Contrast that to another club, who made no mention of the game on Twitter.

A championship that we haven’t mentioned for a while is the Cork Junior A football. Is it the biggest county GAA club competition in operation? Back in the spring of 2019, some 82 teams set out in eight divisional competitions and in a few weeks, one of them will be crowned the best in the land. In all probability, that will be either Kilshannig or Uibh Laoire, but when the history of this one is written, a separate chapter should be afforded to the exploits of St James in West Cork.

Since its foundation, this dual outfit, based in the Ardfield-Rathbarry area has rarely appeared on the horizon of the West Cork Junior A championships. To participate in the A grade was seen as the outer limits of expectation.

Prior to this year, the furthest that they had journeyed was in a west Cork A semi-final.

The year began with a 0-8 to 0-7 victory over Oliver Plunkett’s. The two met again in late July, a comprehensive 3-14 to 0-8 victory.

Then a quarter-final meeting against the fancied Tadhg MacCarthaighs. A goal in injury time gave them a one-point win. Argideen Rangers provided the semi-final opposition, and a two-point victory made history and sent them against double-chasing Ballinascarthy.

They duly delivered in their first Carbery decider.

There was an interesting sidebar. For years Alan O’Shea lined out with his native Waterville in south Kerry, but a St James lady won his heart and he settled in the scenic spot.

This year, the corner-forward is the player-manager and top scorer. So far, they have defeated Cobh and a fancied Boherbue team, now they are in a semi-final.

Ireland hammering the All Blacks just doesn’t come close.

CONTACT: email [email protected] or tweet @paudiep.