The magic of championship means local heroes are hard to beat

The magic of championship means local heroes are hard to beat

Kilmacabea's Daniel O'Donovan shoots past Tadgh MacCarthaigh's Gavin O'Neill during the Carbery JAFC final. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

MANKY weather and county final drama.

We don’t need the White Walker from Game of Thrones to signal that winter is coming on Leeside.

Last Sunday the senior and intermediate hurling finals were the main events at Páirc Uí Chaoimh, with plenty of excitement to come in both codes before the Jazz Weekend is over. There will be elation and disappointment, heroes made and dreams shattered.

The stakes are so high and given the serious physicality and intensity in the latter stages of the club competitions there could yet be some unsavoury scenes but hopefully nothing that makes a ‘GAA brawls’ YouTube clip. Like every sporting organisation, Cork GAA has had problems with violence on the field spilling out onto the sidelines and among supporters.

The West Cork Junior A final replay between Kilmacabea and Tadhg Mac Cárthaigh was marred by the antics of some at the final whistle, with smartphone footage doing the rounds on WhatsApp, which resulted in sanctions. It wasn’t comparable to some of the wilder incidents that have made national headlines in recent weeks but it was a huge pity it cast a shadow across a golden era for Kilmac.

Their neighbours Castlehaven and Skibbereen in the road have been the top dogs in the area but Kilmac are now back-to-back West Cork champions having waited 129 years to make a breakthrough. Their key forward Damien Gore was a promising Cork minor in 2016 while Daniel O’Donovan, who nervelessly boomed over the leveller in the drawn match with Caheragh, has made a triumphant return after a stint with Bishopstown.

Indeed O’Donovan really emphasises the value of marquee players at smaller clubs. Understandably some leave because of work commitments or through the lure of competing at the highest level but it’s hard to beat soldiering with those you first togged out with underage.

Russell Rovers lifted the East Cork crown against St Ita’s back in September and Brian ‘Bud’ Harnett was Man of the Match. Hartnett previously switched to Midleton where he was part of the county-winning line-up in 2013 but now dovetails with another ex-Cork minor Josh Beausang in the Rovers attack.

Russell Rovers' Brian Hartnett has his jersey pulled as he tries to get away from St Catherine's Philip Keane, during the East Cork JAHC final in Midleton. Picture: David Keane.
Russell Rovers' Brian Hartnett has his jersey pulled as he tries to get away from St Catherine's Philip Keane, during the East Cork JAHC final in Midleton. Picture: David Keane.

That’s not to detract from Harnett’s excellence for the Magpies, while O’Donovan’s power and free-taking helped Bishopstown into the latter stages of the county series. Yet one of the most appealing elements of the GAA outside of the inter-county sphere is the way all competitions are tiered to spread out the chance of silverware.

Clearly the appetite isn’t there for splitting the All-Ireland football championship but having divisional finals feeding into the junior county and trophies up for grabs at intermediate, premier intermediate and senior, is terrific at club level. The divisional model is no longer in place underage, it’s now regional, but there are still grades ranging from B through to Premier 1 and ‘Challenge Cups’ for teams defeated in the opening rounds at U14, U15 and U16.

And the more games that players get the better for their development.

The Ballincollig faithful certainly savoured last Sunday in the Páirc. While it wasn’t the team’s best performance all season they got the job done to return to the Premier tier of intermediate hurling for the first time since relegation in 2013. There’s still a serious amount of work to do before they reach can realistically reach the promised land of senior, but given the youth and experience in their panel, there’s potential to make steady progress over the coming years. 

Having as many of their underage teams as possible contesting at Rebel Óg Premier 1 level will help to no end. Within the club itself they don’t have to look far to find two hurlers who always put a huge effort into self-improvement. Along with experienced Rory O’Doherty, the other subs manager Danny Dwyer deployed against Blackrock were Fenton Denny and Seán Walsh.

Ballincollig's Seán Walsh goes past Blackrock's Richie Laide. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Ballincollig's Seán Walsh goes past Blackrock's Richie Laide. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Denny is still minor and Walsh only turned 19 this year, which means neither were born when O’Doherty made his senior bow back in 1998. Both are dedicated to hurling and it’s a rare day you don’t find one of the pair in the hurling alley in Ballincollig working on their touch or on the pitch refining their distance striking or free-taking.

They have a pure passion for the game that you need to excel and it’s the same for many of the new wave of hurlers in the Village. Watch this space for the likes of Paul Cooney, Stephen Wills, David O’Sullivan, Brian Keating, Tadhg O’Connell, intermediate boss Danny Dwyer’s son James – and more – over the coming years.

More in this section

Sponsored Content