Paudie Palmer on Newmarket's escape to victory and Iveleary's brilliance

Páirc Uí Chaoimh double bill delivered some brilliant Cork club football action
Paudie Palmer on Newmarket's escape to victory and Iveleary's brilliance

Iveleary's Barry O'Leary gets off his pass from Mitchelstown's Colin English during the Bon Secours IAFC final at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

I'M not sure if your interest in the 2020 Cork County championships is such, that you will remember the scenario that faced Courcey Rovers' Premier Intermediate hurlers in the final group game.

They lost their opening two matches and for game three, avoiding relegation had to be a consideration. They won and went all the way to the semi-final before losing to Castlelyons.

Ironically or otherwise, they meet Castlelyons again in this year’s final and overcame an eight-point second-half deficit to record a massive one-point victory. This Saturday, they embark on a Munster journey when they Limerick side Mungret St Paul’s in the provincial semi-final at the Gaelic Grounds with a 1.30pm throw-in.

I will get to the point of the Courcey Rovers in a minute.

In this year’s nine main county championships, there wasn’t any team that was on zero points after their two opening games, that won their final game, enabling them to qualify for the knockout stages.

However, Newmarket came close and in doing so picked up two Houdini Awards in 2021.

Newmarket captain TJ Brosnan raises the trophy after defeating Kanturk. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Newmarket captain TJ Brosnan raises the trophy after defeating Kanturk. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

In their opening group game, they drew 0-14 points apiece with Aghada. They lost 0-14 to 0-11 the next day, to Na Piarsaigh.

Believe me, when I tell you that recent football victories by the north city football side have been as scarce as positive NPHET news stories. In their final outing, against Castletownbere, anything other than a win and they were out.

On the day a draw would have sufficed for the Beara team. It was a miserable Saturday in mid-October and at the second water break, Newmarket trailed by five points having only scored five.

Conor O’Keeffe landed three, he then set up Kevin O’Sullivan for a vital goal. Miraculously, they led by one. A Ryan O’Keeffe pointed free made it two.

Castletownbere pulled one back but some all hands on the pump defending prevented the peninsula representatives.

Newmarket had qualified for the quarter-finals but surely, there was little evidence that a December victory speech accompanied by bonfires would become a reality for the northwestern small town.

They defeated Naomh Abán 1-16 to 0-9 in the quarter-finals but it has been a while since this Mid-Cork team have been viewed as pacesetters. The semi-final was a totally different metric.

Cill Na Martra, not only this season but for the past two as well, have been burdened with the pre-tournament favourites tag. At the final whistle, Newmarket won 2-7 to 1-7. It was a far cry from the second water break in Dunmanway just four weeks earlier. 

Most of you will know the Kanturk story, a dual outfit, crowned Senior A hurling champions a few weeks ago.

Yes, they lost the 2020 PIFC final back in August to Knocknagree.

Surely their time hand had come. They trailed 0-8 to 0-4 coming to halftime.

They outscored the underdogs 0-8 to 0-2 on either side of the break.

It was 0-12 to 0-10 when the fourth official indicated the amount of injury time in the second half. They looked in control in every sector.

However, Newmarket’s shooters were done. Conor O’Keeffe pointed a free, it kept them believing, then he landed another, the believing continued so did their urging to referee John Ryan to blow it up.

The kick-out looked set to spell full-time. And a replay.

However, the ball spilled to Ryan O’Keeffe (remember him from the round-robin heroics and the final score on the original Houdini night in Dunmanway).

He let fly, it was a score of class, exhilaration history and heartbreak.

There was time for no more. Houdini was ready to finally hand over the baton.

Now what of Uibh Laoire? New IAFC winners. 

Just a few snippets. They share a parish with Béal Átha’n Ghaorthaidh.

An indication of the size of their half may be best illustrated by the statistic, that there are approximately 100 students split more or less evenly between Kilbarry and Inchigeelagh Primary Schools.

Last Sunday, they defeated Mitchelstown by 13 points to be crowned IAF champions, 17 weeks after defeating Boherbue by 11 points in the Junior A football final.

Margaret Kenneally, owner of Reardens Bar presents the man of the match award from the Cork County JAFC final to Iveleary's Chris Óg Jones alongside John O'Callaghan.
Margaret Kenneally, owner of Reardens Bar presents the man of the match award from the Cork County JAFC final to Iveleary's Chris Óg Jones alongside John O'Callaghan.

In this year’s IAFC campaign their average winning margin across six games. has been in excess of 12 points. As you read this, their winning run has extended to 775 days and they have won 15 championship matches in row.

Who is the outsider involved? Well, they have none actually. The full staff extends to six locals.

John McNulty (Manager), Dan Kelleher, Don Murphy and John O’Callaghan do most of the heavy lifting.

Cliona O’Riordan is the physio while Ciara O’Callaghan is their valued nutritionist.

No egos here or indeed among their talented playing staff.

On the Monday after the 2020 Junior County final which was played on the August 7, a caller was put through to Ned’s Shed (developed during the pandemic at the rear of Creedon’s hotel) seeking to speak to the Man of the Match from the previous Saturday.

He was informed there was none. A few enquires were made and a day or two later, a social distanced presentation took place at Reardens on Washington Street.

The recipient was Chris Óg Jones scorer of 3-8 in that County final. In this year’s six-game campaign, he has scored 5-37, including eight points in the final, on this occasion, there was an official gong and he was again the recipient.

BROTHERS IN ARMS

Brothers are a recurring theme in many GAA teams. In the O’Learys, the Inchigeelagh based side have the gold standard version.

All three are committed and talented. Seanie holds down the pivotal center-back position, Barry is a seriously influential wing-forward and landed three points last Sunday. Conor, though picked at corner-forward has the skill set for a roving role.

On 61 mins, Uibh Laoire because of an injury had to bring on a sub, 47-year-old Mick Lucey took to the pasture.

The dream was complete.

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