Hurling means everything to the north Cork village of Ballyhea 

Hurling means everything to the north Cork village of Ballyhea 
Ballyhea's Neil Ronan wins the ball from Watergrasshills Willie O'Leary in an IHC clash at Ballygiblin in 2005. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

WITH sport in lockdown, nostalgia is reigning in print, on television, and especially online.

Sports fans are recalling the achievements of the past in the absence of new memories being made and while we all hope that this shutdown won’t last for too long more, some are enjoying the trip down memory lane.

Ballyhea GAA have embraced the good old days. They have taken to social media to remind, as well as test, those who love the club.

In the past number of weeks, club PRO, John Mortell, has been posting pictures from the last 50 years to entertain the club’s legion of faithful and his efforts have been received very well in the Avondhu area.

Ballyhea's John Mortell has served Cork as a selector at all levels. Picture: Jim Coughlan.
Ballyhea's John Mortell has served Cork as a selector at all levels. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

“With no club activity, at the moment, I was doing a bit of tidying up in my attic, going through the old scrapbooks and photos, and we decided that, maybe, it would be a good idea to put them on the Facebook page to see would people like them.

“The reaction, locally, has been brilliant, especially for the old pictures going back 30 to 40 years ago; those ones really did bring back some great memories for people of some really good times.

Ballyhea County Junior hurling champions 1976.
Ballyhea County Junior hurling champions 1976.

“We have been blessed, here in Ballyhea, to have had more than our fair share of wonderful days. We think of days like, in 1976, when we won the county junior. Then, in 1980, we won the county intermediate and then made it all the way to the senior final in ’84; there are obviously going to be some great memories from those times.

St Finbarr's John Meyler scores against Ballyhea in the 1984 county final.
St Finbarr's John Meyler scores against Ballyhea in the 1984 county final.

“Roll on to 1995 and we made it back to the senior final again, so reminiscing, and being reminded of those achievements, will always raise the spirits in these, or any other, dark times.”

While the achievements of the last century dominate for a club like Ballyhea, the current crop of club players are also doing their bit for the next set of history books.

“We had the senior boys back in the county quarter-final last year, after winning the county intermediate again, back in 2014. Last year also saw the county junior A camogie champions coming from Ballyhea, which goes to show that the club is still battling away on all fronts.

“On the pages (Facebook), at the moment, we are covering 2001, which was the year we won the U16 county premier, which was an unbelievable achievement for us, beating Glen Rovers, and that year we also won the county minor: They were all great times for us.”

Ballyhea County Junior A Camogie Champions 2019
Ballyhea County Junior A Camogie Champions 2019

It isn’t all about putting up pictures to remind the members of the days gone by. Mortell also tests people’s memories. 

“We are also putting up quiz questions to keep the members challenged and all these activities seem to be helping in their own little ways,” he said. 

Ballyhea have detailed archives, having opened up a museum, above the clubhouse, a number of years ago.

“The museum is there all the time and we are delighted with it. We have an awful lot of old photos and old jerseys from special days, and from special players, up there and we are very proud of that."

Well-known former Ballyhea hurler Diarmuid O'Flynn.
Well-known former Ballyhea hurler Diarmuid O'Flynn.

It isn’t surprising to hear Mortell talk about players and fans being desperate to get back to the club, as facilities have improved dramatically at Ballyhea in the last decade or so.

“There is no doubt that we have done a lot of work here in the last while. We got a new pitch 12 years ago and we recently put in a new hurling wall. Now, we have the indoor alley and, upstairs, there is a gym, so as well as all the good work that has been done on the field, there is plenty of work being done off it, too. All those things go a long way to becoming and, hopefully, staying, a successful club.”

Ballyhea's Eugene O'Leary on the attack against Cloyne. Picture: Des Barry
Ballyhea's Eugene O'Leary on the attack against Cloyne. Picture: Des Barry

Getting back to action may well be out of everyone’s hands at grassroots level. All at the Avondhu club are prepared to sit this one out, before donning the club colours again.

“We in Ballyhea are, like every other club in the country, mad to go back training and playing and getting that club feeling back around the place, but we just can’t do that now and we don’t know when we will be able to do that.

“People’s safety comes first and until that can be guaranteed, then it would be wrong to go back. Safety of players and fans around the club is a must.”

Ballyhea has been one of the standard-bearers for small hurling clubs in Cork over the years.

It is a club with a small, but dedicated, population and it strives to be the best it can be, game after game, year after year, and decade after decade, to judge by some of the photos that have been published recently. 

Ballyhea's' Owen O'Sullivan catches the ball ahead of Newtown's Diarmuid Lane in a 2003 minor clash. Picture:  Paddy Cummins
Ballyhea's' Owen O'Sullivan catches the ball ahead of Newtown's Diarmuid Lane in a 2003 minor clash. Picture:  Paddy Cummins

Ballyhea will again show the hurling world where it is going when the shutdown ends, but until that day comes, check out their Facebook page to see where they have been.

Ballyhea defender Barry Coleman catches the sliotar cleanly. Picture: Des Barry
Ballyhea defender Barry Coleman catches the sliotar cleanly. Picture: Des Barry

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