Dripsey defied the odds as Cork's newest club, winning their way to Croke Park

Dripsey defied the odds as Cork's newest club, winning their way to Croke Park
Dripsey players celebrate after defeating Tullogher/Rosebercon in the AIB All-Ireland junior club final at Croke Park. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

AT the time it made national headlines, the small Mid Cork club that had been formed just three years earlier ending up in Croke Park and bringing back an All-Ireland title.

That club, of course, was Dripsey and what transpired was truly remarkable, a fairytale that Hans Christian Andersen would have struggled to come up with.

Dripsey came into existence in 2005, the core of the players having been involved with Inniscarra previously, and they were the best junior club team in the country in 2008.

Diarmuid O'Riordan with the cup.
Diarmuid O'Riordan with the cup.

John Feeney was one of the founding fathers, a true GAA man, a great clubman and he takes up the story.

“Yes, it was a fantastic achievement by the players involved, they were the people out on the field and they deserve so much credit.

“We had only begun as a club in 2005 and to be in Croke Park representing Cork and Munster just a short few years later was something we could not have envisaged.

“We had a couple of very good players back-boning the side and any junior club that has them has a chance at that level. Age-wise, there was a good balance to the team and it all came together for us that year.’’

The initial ambition of any club in its infancy years is trying to make an impression at local level and winning the Mid Cork championship set the ball rolling as Feeney stated when he spoke to The Echo, ‘it just snowballed from there’.

“It did, we lost to Grenagh in 2007 in the final but we were back in the final again a year later and we got the better of Donoughmore that day after beating Cloughduv and Grenagh on the way.

“We lost the football final in Mid Cork that year too to Éire Óg and they went on to win the county with Daniel Goulding and Ciarán Sheehan, a very good team.

“It was great to win Mid Cork and I suppose we were in bonus territory now in the county. We played the Glen, who were back down from intermediate in the quarter-final, I remember they had 42 players on their programme that day.

“The game was played in Ballincollig and we came out on top. Beating a club of their stature gave us greater belief and we went on to beat Carraig na bhFéar in the semi-final by five or six points.”

Dripsey's Gary Murphy celebrates. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Dripsey's Gary Murphy celebrates. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Suddenly, they were in a county final, everybody was taking notice now because of their short existence.

“Yes, I suppose we could hardly believe it ourselves. Obviously, there was added interest and huge excitement in the club and we defeated Diarmuid Ó Mathúna’s in that final.

“We were on a right roll now.’’ Coaching the team was Johnny Keane, a very successful operator at all levels and Feeney gives him huge credit.

“Johnny was top-class. He made a huge difference, he was excellent with the players. He was a very calm person but at the same time a great motivator.

Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Picture: Eddie O'Hare

“If things were not going well at half time, he was a huge influence in that dressing room.”

The Munster club title was captured after they had seen off Kilgarvan in the final who had earlier beaten the Tipperary champions.

“It was just beyond our wildest imagination where we found ourselves now, just an hour away from going to Croke Park for an All-Ireland final.

“We decided to go all out now, I remember putting an add on the Irish Examiner trying to get support for a training fund and the and the local community really rowed in behind us while Seán Quish from Ballincollig was a great sponsor and he still is.

“We played a team from Fermanagh in the semi-final in Portmarnock and we got the better of them and now we were going to Croke Park, incredible really when you think about t.

“We were up against a Kilkenny team, Tullogher-Rosbercon so this was going to be a huge test. We realised this was a once-in-a-lifetime chance so we had to really go for it.

“We had seen videos of them, a very good team but on the day, we were very economical, shooting just three wides whilst they had 13.

Dripsey's John Hogan in action. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Dripsey's John Hogan in action. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

“Our backs were brilliant, they harried their forwards throughout and we got goals from Diarmuid O’Riordan and Gary Murphy to win by three points, 2-15 to 0-18.

“What had unfolded before our eyes that day was simply unbelievable, we were All-Ireland champions just three years after being formed.”

And there was a few bob in it for the club too.

“Yes, we got expenses from Croke Park, mileage, that kind of thing, meals and that amounted to a fair bit which really helped too.

“People all over Cork had got behind us on the way to Croke Park and you had Blarney playing there the same day in the intermediate final which made it a huge day for the division.

“We were in an intermediate final in Cork a few years back but a very good Charleville team beat us.

Dripsey's John Carey clears. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Dripsey's John Carey clears. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

“Some of the lads from 2008 are still playing for us, Diarmuid O’Riordan is now in goal and other lads like John Carey, Pat Riordan and Mark O’Sullivan have been brilliant servants too.

“It would be near impossible to match that year of 2008. These lads put us on the map, achieved something that was just sensational.”

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