'I played for years and we just weren't bringing young hurlers through in Ballincollig'

'I played for years and we just weren't bringing young hurlers through in Ballincollig'
Ciarán O'Sullivan breaks from Midleton's Ian Kennnefick. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

THOUGH he’s very much a veteran of the team at 29, Ballincollig captain Ciarán O’Sullivan appreciates the injection of youth that has helped his club into their first intermediate hurling final since 1999.

The Collig take on Blackrock at Páirc Uí Chaoimh this Sunday at 2pm on the back of an impressive display against Mayfield. The Rockies, whose second team is young and wristy and drawn from their three county-winning U21 crops, looked the part themselves blitzing Éire Óg.

It has the makings of a cracking warm-up to Imokilly-Midleton in the second decider this weekend.

Ballincollig struggled to make any inroads after relegation from the premier tier in 2013 until reaching last season’s semi-final, where they were edged out by Éirg Óg.

“A big difference is we’ve so many young fellas coming through. I played for a few years where we just weren’t bringing lads in. If anything we were losing players, the likes of Ronan Driscoll, Rob Ryan and Eoin Hegarty, to emigration.

Ballincollig's Robbie Bourke. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Ballincollig's Robbie Bourke. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

“Karl Walsh, Fenton Denny, Sean Walsh, Robbie Bourke, Ross O’Donovan, and there are a lot more, have added so much. We’d an A versus B game before we played Mayfield and because of that, there were two changes to the starting 15 from Kilbrittain. That’s the way it’s been all year long, I don’t think we’ve had the same team in any championship match; that level of competition is what any successful team needs.”

Driving this is Ballincollig manager Danny Dwyer. He is joined in the management by Donie Hegarty and Tom Weste, who hurled when the club were county junior finalists back in 1987, along with Paul O’Connor, originally from Na Piarsaigh, and Tipp native Don Walshe, whose kids play in the underage ranks.

“We’ve a great set-up. Danny has been outstanding for Ballincollig hurling really. We’ve fierce experience though in Donie (Hegarty) and Tom (Weste), pure Ballincollig through and through, and then a couple of outside voices, in a way, in Don and Paul. They brought a freshness to it. There’s an excellent backroom too. We couldn’t ask for any more.”

They entered the season in confident mode after concluding 2017 with the Division 3 League crown yet lost to Meelin, albeit without their marquee forward Cian Dorgan.

“The Meelin game was a bit a mind-boggler because I really thought we should have won. We were trying to work out what went wrong but then that’s the way hurling is.

“You look at the games in the Munster championship and in Croke Park last summer and a nine-point lead wasn’t even enough. You can score a batch of points so quickly that momentum can swing very quickly.

“We didn’t get too down about the result because we believed we were on the right track. Our league results were good and we were playing at a higher level after coming up from Division 3.”

James O’Leary, Ciarán O’Sullivan, Conor Sexton and Ronan Cambridge prepare to face a free. Picture: Andy Jay
James O’Leary, Ciarán O’Sullivan, Conor Sexton and Ronan Cambridge prepare to face a free. Picture: Andy Jay

Ballincollig are backboned by the older crew like O’Sullivan, JP Murphy, Dave Bowen, Liam Jennings and Rory O’Doherty, who was a minor ace when Ballincollig beat Blarney back in ‘99, but the trip through the backdoor helped get the blend right.

“We played Milford and Midleton twice so we ended up with four hurling championship games if you include the Milford one, from the first round of the football to the Carbery Rangers game. The hurling went well but the football was a disappointment. It’s very difficult to fine the balance for dual clubs. That’s just the way it is.”

Whatever happens this weekend, the teacher in Ballincollig Community School is confident about the future.

“I can see all the hurlers we have coming up behind the lads we’ve brought in. The likes of Paul Cooney and Stephen Wills. They’d be hoping to be around the scene next year and they’re well able to hurl at a high level.”

Ballincollig corner-back Ross O'Donovan. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Ballincollig corner-back Ross O'Donovan. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

He’s been captain before, without getting a chance to make an acceptance speech.

“A few times, against Ross when we lost the final and a couple of years for the hurlers at the other side of my twenties. The most important thing is you’re playing well yourself.”

Hurling was always a real passion at home, even though his parents are from Adrigole and Kilmichael. He cut his teeth hurling with his siblings Conor, Eoin, Niall and Sinead.

“The first games we were brought to were football but as we came up through the club he became more hurling inclined.

“I’d a good underage team and we were well looked after by the likes of Brian Coughlan, Ian’s dad, Liam Barry, Gareth Irish and Brendan Driscoll.”

Cian Kiely, Cormac Quish, Patrick Kelly, Ciarán O’Sullivan, Ciarán Quish, and Cian Dorgan at the official announcement of Quish’s sponsorship of the club. Picture: Brian Lougheed
Cian Kiely, Cormac Quish, Patrick Kelly, Ciarán O’Sullivan, Ciarán Quish, and Cian Dorgan at the official announcement of Quish’s sponsorship of the club. Picture: Brian Lougheed

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