CITY GAA fans have always had a great affection for Ballinlough and some of the county’s best players down the years began their fledgling careers there, lining out in what used to be a very highly competitive minor championship.
In times gone by we had the then very popular City SHC. Ballinlough was a venue we all enjoyed going to.
Last Sunday morning we took a trip there for the city division JHC semi-final between Passage and Whitechurch, two sides maybe not as fancied as others.
Passage is a club with a great tradition that produced some fine hurlers.
In more recent times their name has not shone as brightly as it once did so this was a very important game for a club doing a lot of good work at ground level.
Whitechurch have not won this city championship although they made headlines a few years ago in the B championship. So this was a novel pairing, a game that would decide Brian Dillon’s opponents in the final at the end of the month.
And what a fine game it was. The consensus was that it was one of the best games played there for quite some time.
There is something about junior championship hurling that marks it out from the higher grades.
There is a great honesty about it when it comes down to games where everything is on the line and there was quite a lot here.
The winners were guaranteed a place in the final for starters and subsequently a place in the county championship. For the losers, it was season over.
Passage got off to the best possible start, two very well taken goals in the opening sequences that suggested they were going to be Brian Dillon’s opponents in the final.
Former Cork star Cian McCarthy belted home one of them, his brother Niall the other one, Whitechurch were on the back foot immediately. However, they took those blows and got themselves back into the game and by the interval they had drawn level.
It was 2-6 to 1-9 at that juncture and what followed was a great battle for supremacy. It was nip as tuck as they say right to the final whistle and the issue could have gone either way in the closing, frenetic minutes.
Padraig Dennehy was hugely conspicuous for Whitechurch, ending the game with a handsome tally of nine points. Sean Keane clung a fine goal for them and a few points into the bargain Whitechurch had seized the initiative going into stoppage time, ahead by the bare minimum before Passage got one last chance to extend their stay in the championship.
A long-range and difficult free, however, trailed wide of the posts and that was it, Whitechurch, after that desperate start, had booked their place in the final against a seasoned Dillons side who still have their greatest servant John Horgan delivering the scores.
Whitechurch’s appearance in the final will add considerably to the occasion at city headquarters and it should be a great day out.
Down the years the city division has had some great people at the helm, people like Donal O’Connor, Sean McCarthy, Derry Collins, the late Mick Morrissey and Paddy Quinn and a host of others.
Johnny Sweeney is in the chair in Ballinlough and carrying on that fine tradition and doing a fine job Last Sunday morning it was an early start at the fine city venue and there was a fine attendance.
The viewing area is top class and the venue continues to thrive on days like last Sunday.
Now, can the newcomers Whitechurch take the process a stage further and lift the trophy for the first time against a side that is very well versed on the requirements of a final day?.
Staying on the junior front, last season’s beaten county finalists Russell Rovers won the big game in East Cork against Lisgoold.
They scored 1-16 with the highly talented Josh Beausang securing 1-14 of that tally. That’s some going and they must now be favourites to retain the title down there.
People might suggest that the junior grade is not what it used to be and maybe it isn’t. But there’s still a great cut and thrust about it as Whitechurch and Passage exhibited last Sunday morning at the fine venue of Ballinlough.