I have to give credit where it is due.
Early last week, a call from the radio sports department requested that I present at the South East 2020 junior A football final in Kinsale, between Ballymartle and Valley Rovers, to interview a representative of the winning team.
Visitors to this column will be aware that, on a number of occasions, I have been constructively critical of the operations of the eight divisional boards. Just to clarify, I stand over the comments.
A few friends, who like to portray concern for the columnist’s safety, suggested that I may need to upgrade my personal security arrangements prior to attending.
Now, I wish to state that their concerns were ill-founded and a most hospitable and professional greeting was extended. The arrangements put in place by the divisional board and the host club were top class.
A match programme, the national flag, pre-match and half-time musical entertainment, a pitch-side announcer, a presentation area for the trophy, and the man-of-the-match award were all organised. So, yes, credit where it is due.
For the record, the Valley Rovers team won. The club make a serious effort to adhere to their dual obligations.
I have no doubt that Ballymartle players would be every bit as proficient at football with a similar set-up and approach.
Last Saturday, the four quarter-finals of the 2020 county junior A football championship were played and, as mentioned previously, this competition is the biggest GAA one in the country, in terms of the number of teams that line up at the divisional starters’ tape.
The consequences for losing at the business end could be well described as drastic, insofar as teams have to go back to the divisions and must win that championship to be allowed to compete in the county event.
Anyway, that may be a discussion for another day.
A bit of background to the teams in the quarter-finals. Three of them — Boherbue, Kilmacbea, and Uibh Laoire — have been down this road over the past few years and, to be blunt, failure to win the 2020 or the 2021 championship could have progression issues.
Thankfully for all three, they won. Boherbue were pushed all the way by Valley Rovers.
The Iveleary side were too good for Midleton and a scoring return of 11 points from Kilmacbea’s full-forward line of Colin McCarthy, Damien Gore, and Richie O’Sullivan ensured that they saw off the challenge of Charleville.
I had the privilege of attending the fourth quarter-final, between the two outsiders, Passage and Urhan. There was no match programme, but I could have located the two club runaí and taken a photo of their team lists.
As regards who was going to be presented with the favourites’ tag, I couldn’t locate the form book, let alone follow it.
A few years ago, I did notice that the Beara club appeared to be doing well at underage level, but, unfortunately, that success hasn’t manifested itself at adult level.
Being the only junior A team in the division doesn’t help and not having played a championship match since 2019 had to be a hindrance, as well.
Passage, as city champions, can’t have travelled with the confidence overflowing!
Eventually armed with the team sheets, one had to be careful to differentiate between the Sheas and the O’Sheas on the Urhan starting 15.
As I hadn’t seen either of these two teams in action for longer than I care to remember, I had to be focused to know who was playing well and who was dominant. It took eight minutes for the first score, but don’t take that as a metric of entertainment.
Sean Harrington, the Passage midfielder, landed the first point. He added his second 25 minutes into the second half and his partnership with James Kind was a vital factor in their success.
Jamie O’Neill did display scoring potential for the Beara team and had an involvement in four of their five points.
However, in the strength-and-conditioning stakes, Urhan were second best; whether that was an age issue or otherwise, it should be a major concern.
At one stage, I overheard a comment that the city champions didn’t have shooters. I take that to mean that they have a dearth of scoring forwards.
As we approached the tea break, the sides were level, four points each, with two of Passage’s scores coming from pointed 45s by their goalie, Anthony Kidney.
Two minutes into injury time, they won another free out around the 45-metre line. Kidney was summoned and his resulting strike went all the way to the net. In the second half, he posted another 45.
Yes, Urhan, despite being reduced to 14, five minutes into the second half, did stage a mini-comeback, but there was no denying the harbour team.
As well as the aforementioned players, others who came to our attention were Shane Howard, the Carrolls (Grahame and Ryan), and Ronan Cooney.
This Saturday, at 7pm in Mallow, they will play Boherbue. They may not have shooters, but they have Anthony Kidney.