Golden age for Aghada GAA saw them beat Ballincollig for 1991 intermediate title

East Cork club enjoyed huge success in hurling and football championships
Golden age for Aghada GAA saw them beat Ballincollig for 1991 intermediate title

Conor Counihan in action for Aghada against Clyda Rovers after they made the step up to senior. Picture: Maurice O'Mahony

THIS year sees the 30th anniversary of arguably one of the greatest feats in the history of Aghada. 

It was in late summer 1991 when the club were crowned county intermediate football champions, a win that was the centrepiece of a remarkable few years that saw the club excel in both codes with a group of talented dual players that were very much in their prime.

A single point win over Ballincollig in the county decider propelled the club to senior football ranks for the first time, just a few summers on from being a junior team in the Imokilly striving to win the domestic championship. 

Winning the county junior football final in 1989 and back to back domestic junior hurling crowns in 1991 and 1992, reaching the '91 hurling county final and getting to the last four of the county senior football competition in their first year at the grade, were huge highs of a glorious era for the Rostellan based club. 

The win over Ballincollig in 1991 was however the crowning glory.

Members of the 1991 Aghada county winning team when they met up in 2017. Picture: Jim Coughlan.
Members of the 1991 Aghada county winning team when they met up in 2017. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

Two years before that intermediate win, Aghada had shown their football metal by beating Knocknagree in a replayed county junior final. Conor Counihan was a colossus on which many great performances were built.

 Cork captain in 1987, Conor went on to be the linchpin in defence as the Rebels strung together those memorable back to back wins in 1989 and 1990. In that '89 junior final, the sides shared 18 points the first day out before the East Cork side sealed victory by 0-8 to 0-4 in a tightly contested replay.

The win was the culmination of a wonderful decade for Aghada football. They began by winning their first junior A grade title in 1980 and followed up with success in '81 and '83. A final reversal to Castlemartyr in 1987 proved only a blip on the stairway to heaven in 1989.

Remarkably, the club had also won their first A grade hurling title in 40 years back in 1980. completing a very rare double in the Imokilly barony. When the team reached the hurling final again in 1989, it was very much a juggling act with the big ball. 

Midleton though stalled their ambitions in the hurling finals of 1989 and 1990, but there was to be no denying Aghada as they overcame Fr O'Neill's in 1991 in what was turning to be a nonstop year of activity. 

GLORY YEARS

The hurling success featured a number of the successful players from the 1989 minor and 1990 U21 teams who both won titles and both reached the county finals (winning in 1989). Aghabollogue and Aghada squared up in the 1991 county junior hurling final, just like the football final two years earlier, it was a stalemate conclusion on the first day out. 

In the rematch, Aghada just could not repeat the football heroics as the Muskerry side triumphed by 1-13 to 1-9.

So to that football storyline.

Losing to Millstreet first time out in their inaugural intermediate campaign in 1990 had left Aghada with a long winter to contemplate. Twelve months on, the side was a different outfit. A trip to Caherlag in early 1991 yielded a first-ever win in the championship grade when Delanys were defeated. 

Then a low-scoring quarter-final against Bandon at Church Road produced a positive Aghada result, meaning that the penultimate round beckoned and a rematch with Millstreet. 

A blistering scoring spell in the first half accelerated Aghada into a handsome lead which they never relinquished. It left just one more challenge awaited as Ballincollig were set to produce stout final opponents.

Aghada played some great football in the first half of the decider but only led by 0-5 to 0-4 at the short whistle, with their tally of seven wides causing reason for concern. Conor Counihan had bossed the defensive sector in that 30 minutes with Declan Devoy producing a big show at midfield and Dave Creedon looking very sharp at centre-forward. 

Dashing Cork minor Podsie O'Mahony, the current Ballincollig manager, looked the main threat for the Aghada rearguard, which had not conceded a goal on the way to the decider. 

Then upon the resumption, all changed. Jerry Ring and Fergal Keohane made a big impression for the Mid Cork team as they proceeded to go two points ahead by the 40th minute.

However, the move of Martin Hennessy from full forward to midfield helped swing back the balance of power Aghada's way. 

A brace of white flags from the outstanding Mickey Lewis and one piece from Kenneth O'Keeffe and Aidan Berry set Agahda sailing for home as they put up the defensive shutters to maintain their superb record and win the day on a 0-9 to 0-8 scoreline. 

Celebrations knew no bounds on that dull September Sunday evening at Páirc Uí Chaoimh as Aghada were on the way to senior ranks.

Incredibly they marched all the way to the county semi-final 12 months later. beating Carbery and Macroom before the bandwagon was finally stopped by that outstanding O'Donovan Rossa team in the semi-final at Cloughduv.

It ended quite an incredible few years that forever will have a cherished place in the Aghada GAA hall of fame.

For the record here's Aghada's 1991 county winning starting 15:

Ger Looney; Pa Sisk, Alan Devoy, Jim Motherway; Leslie Berry, Conor Counihan, Aidan Berry (0-1); Declan Devoy, Peter Cashman; John Fleming, Dave Creedon (0-3), Kenneth O'Keeffe (0-1); Mickey Lewis (0-4), Martin Hennessy and Richie Lewis.

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