CASTLEHAVEN’S first Cork County SFC title in 1989 proved to be the forerunner for a very successful period for West Cork clubs with O’Donovan Rossa, Bantry and Clonakilty lifting the Andy Scannell Cup in the years that followed.
The Haven, you could say, led the way and that victory in ’89 catapulted the club into the list of football strongholds in the county.
Jim Nolan was a key figure in the Haven’s triumph that year and one of the club’s greatest servants and he has vivid and happy memories of that time.
“I suppose you could say that it began in earnest for us in 1976 when we won the county junior championship.
“That was followed by us winning the county intermediate title in 1978 and a year later we found ourselves in the senior final.
“We lost to the Barrs that day and it took us 10 years to get back into the final again, we played the Barrs in that final too.”
The Barrs frustrated the West Cork outfit on numerous occasions in the ‘80s, and it was straight knockout back then, which meant it took the club 10 years from appearing in that first senior decider to securing the cup.
“A few of the lads from ’79 were still around in ’89, one of them, of course, being John Cleary who had come on as a sub in ’79 when he was just 16.”
“Another very important development of the team that won in 1989 was the fact that we won two county U21 titles earlier in the decade and those players formed the backbone of the team that brought the club its first senior county.”
The arrival of one Larry Tompkins was another significant happening in the club’s rise to prominence.
“Of course, the acquisition of a player of his stature was a huge development. He had been in the US with the Collins’ and when he came back, they persuaded him to join us and it was a master stroke.
“We knew that we had a very well- balanced team, a team that was knocking on the door for a while but Larry brought a fresh impetus to the club.
“He was a class player, somebody who set an example for everybody with his application to the game.
“You had Niall Cahalane, John Cleary, Francie Collins, Mick Burns, the rest of the lads, all very good footballers.’’ Four hurdles had to be surmounted on the way to that historic first senior county and none of them were easy, according to Nolan when he spoke to the Echo.
“We beat St Nick’s in the first round and were fortunate enough to do so. We beat Duhallow after a replay and we defeated Carbery.
“The final against the Barrs was low scoring, we won it by a couple of points, two, I think, in the end but you are never going to win a county easily, especially your first.
“The team that year was trained by Padraigh Burke who had done great work earlier with the U21 team.
“Speaking about him now makes me very sad because he died suddenly very recently and that was a huge shock for everybody in the club and in the wider community.
“He was a huge figure in the club, hugely respected and he’s a tremendous loss, firstly to his family and to us in the club.”
That first county title opened the door to greater glory in the years that followed and to date the ‘Haven have inscribed their name on the trophy five times.
“Yes, we have had a good innings, a couple of more county titles followed and we won three Munster club titles in that time too.
“I suppose one of the highlights was the 1994 county final victory over our close neighbours O’Donovan Rossa.
“That was a massive occasion down here, a small parish like ours playing a big town and coming out on top.
“The atmosphere that day in Páirc Uí Chaoimh was memorable, it seemed like the entire West Cork community was present.
“We drew the first day and we won the replay by two points as far as I can remember. Of course, the win in 1989 led to Larry Tompkins captaining Cork to All-Ireland glory in 1990 and that was a huge honour for the club.’’
And what about the celebrations that followed in 1989?
“You can imagine, the place went wild, a small club like ours had won a county senior football title in a county that had so many top clubs.
“Nobody could have imagined that kind of success in the earlier years but there is a fierce spirit down here which remains.
“You have great people involved at administrative level and you have, more importantly, people giving back to the club what they had got out of it as players.
“It’s very much family orientated too, the Clearys, Cahalanes, Collins’ and so on.
“Fellows might have moved to the city to live and other places but they are still giving, their sons are now the big players in our team, that camaraderie is vital.
“We have new trainers coming on board too all the time from underage up and I’d be very confident about the future.
“It was great to be there that year and being able to make a contribution on the field that day.”
Castlehaven team of 1989
J Maguire, M Maguire, N Cahalane, D Cleary, M O’Brien, M Burns, P Cahalane, D O’Regan, L Tompkins, Jim Nolan, MC O’Mahony, Francie Collins, Martin O’Mahony, John Cleary, TJ O’Regan.
Sub: J Cahalane.