NAOMH FIONNBARRA ladies footballers ended a 12-year quest for glory in the adult grades when they captured the county title earlier this year.
Their campaign for glory began last year when a junior team was formed once again following a lengthy absence.
The season ended positively when they defeated Macroom to win a county title. Naomh Fionbarra and Macroom served up a compelling county final which required extra-time to separate two quality teams.
Naomh Fionnbarra PRO Sorcha Herlihy was thrilled with their great win.
“We were delighted to beat a very good Macroom side, especially after falling eight points behind in the second half.
"Our heads never dropped. The girls dug deep to hang in there and secure the win,” revealed the club official.
Former Cork senior football star Rhóna Ní Bhuachalla emerged the Naomh Fionnbarra hero.
The experienced player struck the winner in extra-time which secured county final glory for the Mid Cork-based team.
Sorcha was full of praise for both Rhona and the overall squad.
“Throughout normal time and extra time, the importance of having a good panel showed as each substitute made a big impact after coming in to replace girls that gave it their all.
"Rhóna Ní Bhuachalla would be our most well-known player having contributed to several Cork senior ladies All-Ireland wins in the last few years.
"Her experience was there for all to see, especially when facing into a few crucial frees towards the end.
"She is a great player and leader for the team.”
Ladies football has traditionally always been strong in the greater Ballingeary hinterland, with adult teams playing competitively in the region since the 1970s. The Naomh Fionbarra club came into existence since the start of the 2009 season.
“The club was originally formed in the late ’70s and they only fielded an adult team. This team was mainly made up of girls from Ballingeary area and school.
"Over the years especially after the club started to enter underage teams in the late ’90s, more girls from Inchigeela and the Toonsbridge area started playing.
"The club has had a few different names over the years, Ballingeary, Balingeary/Inchigeela before adopting Naomh Fionnbarra as our name in 2009/10.
"The team took its name after the Saint who has a well-known historic connection with the parish as a school and church were also named after him.
"Our club is extremely grateful to Cumann Peile Béal Átha’n Ghaorthaidh and Uibh Laoire GAA for the use of their pitches throughout the year."
The current Naomh Fionnbarra junior football team can still call upon a strong nucleus of players who were part of the all-conquering team who won county and Munster glory back in 2008.
Sorcha hailed the dedicated players for their longevity.
“We still have Rhóna Ní Bhuachalla, Rachel Moynihan, Carmel McCarthy, Lisa McSweeney, Áine Galvin, Ciara O’Riordan and Caroline who all were on that All-Ireland panel in 2008 still playing with us.
"They bring such experience to a relatively young team. They help strengthen our team and they encourage our younger girls to stick with the football. 2008 was an outstanding year for the club.
"A lot of that panel enjoyed great underage success. We won the Junior B county in 2006.
"We then went on to win a Junior A county in 2007. This was followed by Intermediate glory and a Munster title in 2008.
"The excitement created on that famous run brought a lot of young girls into the club.
"Huge credit to Justin McCarthy, who is a former selector with the Cork senior ladies.
"He was heavily involved in establishing the underage club, which led to the success of this panel.”
Adult numbers within the club had dwindled somewhat in recent years, but the minors' success in 2018 has helped usher in a new era and helped with the resurgence.
"The win encouraged the club to once again enter an adult team, as there were a few girls who were on temporary transfers to different clubs and they wanted to continue to play football.
"We have also entered a second adult team because we felt it would allow everyone to get game time. Huge credit to John O’Riordan, Billy Twomey and Irwin Cummins who put so much time and effort in.
"Our success this year is down to them. Billy has put years of hard work into the club. This year he was involved with every team in the club. The club would be lost without him.”
Naomh Fionnbarra have always provided players for the various Cork inter-county teams down through the years.
“Gillian Ní Choinceannáin was a member of the Cork minor squad this year. She represents our club proudly and we wish her every success going forward.
"She was involved along with Molly Ní Rinn, Shauna Ní Iarfhlaithe and Ellie Ní Laoire in the U17 Cork Development squad last year.”
The county winners will now compete in the Junior D grade next season.
“We know the standard of football will improve. We are confident that the girls will rise to the challenge.”