The John Horgan column: An East Cork derby to truly mark the start of summer

The John Horgan column: An East Cork derby to truly mark the start of summer
Cloyne's Colm O'Sullivan is held back by Aghada's David Rice. Picture: Howard Crowdy

THE first Sunday of summer, May Sunday as we always knew it in East Cork.

In a time long past the village of Killeagh used to be the centre of attention, thousands converging on the main street for the ceoil and the craic and the customary walk up Glenbower Wood.

The sun always used to shine but if it didn’t it hardly mattered, the crowds came anyway, it was a huge tradition in East Cork when we were young.

Last Sunday the sun shone too and thousands of cars would have passed through Killeagh en-route to other destinations by the sea.

But it was just another ordinary day in the village.

This time, a few miles up the road, the village of Castlemartyr hosted a huge East Cork hurling derby between Aghada and Cloyne in the opening round of the Premier Intermediate Championship.

The Paddy Walsh Memorial Park looked resplendent and a huge crowd turned up, without fear of being contradicted the biggest attendance at a GAA match in the county outside of the charity game in Youghal between some of the greats of the past from Cork and Waterford in aid of the Youghal Cancer SupportCentre.

A relaxed Cork subs bench enjoying the recent GAA Legends fundraising match. Picture: Howard Crowdy
A relaxed Cork subs bench enjoying the recent GAA Legends fundraising match. Picture: Howard Crowdy

It was a very worthy cause and it was only right and fitting that it received huge support.

But back to the game in Castlemartyr. This was a throwback to the days when these club games between near neighbours meant everything.

They still do to a large extent and that was very evident again this time.

This was a summer Sunday when rural Ireland came out to play.

From all over the barony they came to watch the battle, just like they did long ago when these East Cork derby games were as good as you got.

The local club did a wonderful job in hosting the game and out on the pitch, particularly in the second-half no quarter was asked or given as they say.

Aghada went in at a considerable disadvantage, without two key forwards which led most people to believe that Cloyne would secure the bragging rights.

Cloyne's Paudie O'Sullivan reaches for the sliotar. Picture: Howard Crowdy
Cloyne's Paudie O'Sullivan reaches for the sliotar. Picture: Howard Crowdy

But they reckoned without the everlasting spirit of a Aghada, the club that these days prioritises the health of one of their true greats, Kieran O’Connor who is fighting his own battle off the field.

Cloyne lined up with some of their true greats too, the likes of Diarmuid and Colm O’Sullivan and Dónal Óg, still plying their trade in the great jersey, Pearse O’Neill too in the Aghada shirt.

What service they have given and are still giving to their clubs.

The opening half was scrappy enough, scores were hard to come by, frees were missed and there were far too many stoppages.

They went in level at the break and that kept the interest very much alive.

When they came back out the tempo rose considerably, both sides went at it hammer and tongs and you’d never have known that whatever the outcome both of them would get another chance later on in the Summer.

Outside the wire on the thronged bank the passion rose too, both sets of supporters, and neutrals too, raising their voices in support.

The fare on offer was frenetic now, the hits went in and when it was all over the two goals that Aghada had secured from one of their best servants, Cian Fleming had made all the difference.

Mick Russell, Tim Hartnett and Mark McCarthy had posted some crucial points and Trigger O’Keeffe had made some sublime saves as had Dónal Óg at the other end.

When the final whistle finally blew the Aghada supporters came on to the pitch which was in pristine condition to salute their players.

If we didn’t know, it could have been a day in deep autumn when the trophy was being handed out.

In the aftermath, Aghada team boss Alan Morrissey, son of another Aghada stalwart Donie, himself a selector, spoke glowingly of what the players had achieved. He spoke too of how they were fighting for another man outside, the aforementioned Kieran O’Connor.

“He’s keeping on the fight inside the hospital and we’ll battle like mad for him out here."

Kieran O'Connor, his wife Sinead and children leading the large crowd at the Friends of Kieran fundraising 5km walk. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Kieran O'Connor, his wife Sinead and children leading the large crowd at the Friends of Kieran fundraising 5km walk. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Strong and emotional words which just added to the sense of occasion.

This was simply a majestic day in East Cork, it was what the GAA should be about, two rural clubs giving it all for the glory of the little village.

Both of them did just that, this was the association in all its finery, far from the corporate boxes and the premium level seats.

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