WHILE Cork junior A hurling champions Ballygiblin are going into the Munster championship on the back of their county final win, there is also a sense of bouncing back as they face Caherline in Kildorrery tomorrow (1.30pm).
A 2-18 to 0-18 over Dromtarriffe on November 20 earned Ballygiblin the provincial semi-final spot, but last Sunday, sister club Mitchelstown – featuring a number of dual players – lost to Iveleary in the IAFC decider in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
It’s a quick turnaround after such a defeat, especially as they were beaten in the 2020 football final by Rockchapel in August of this year. Obviously, Ballygiblin manager Ronan Dwane hopes that it can be seen as an opportunity for a strong response.
“It is,” he says, “but, having said that, they’ve put an awful lot of effort into the football over the last two years.
“That’ll take a few days to get over but then it is nice to have something else to focus on.”
Throughout the year, co-operation between the two codes helped the clubs to enjoy long championship runs, eased by the clearer structure provided by the changed format introduced at the start of 2020.
“It went well,” Dwane says, “I’ve a good relationship with Martin O’Brien, the football manager.
“All along, they were preparing for the final from last year and then, when you got into this year’s championship, it was kind of week-on, week-off, more or less.
“It’s easier in ways with the new system because you were never too long away from a championship match – you’d have them one week and then they’d go with the other code.
“From that point of view, it was easy enough to manage, compared to what it was.”
Every championship win looks inevitable in hindsight, but we often forget that, to reach the pinnacle, a team will have to answer hard questions. In the 2021 junior A hurling championship, Ballygiblin certainly proved that.
Since starting their Avondhu championship campaign against Killavullen in Doneraile on September 12, they have played eight games – six in the division and two in the county – and almost all of them were battles.
However, the team’s character and composure were repeatedly illustrated, not least when bouncing back from a 0-15 to 0-10 deficit in the final quarter of the county final.
“Initially, you’re trying to look at maybe winning a divisional championship as it’s so hard to come out of any division, especially Avondhu, which has 16 teams in it,” Dwane says.
“In the quarter-finals, three of the games were decided by a point and our game with Kilshannig went to extra time. The semi-finals went down to the wire and so did the final, there was a puck of a ball between six, seven, eight teams.
“We got a bye in the county quarter-finals to go through to a semi-final against Passage, which was a big plus when we were footballing as well.
On Sunday, they will face a test that is likely to be tougher than any they have had so far and Dwane is under no illusions about the challenge that Caherline will present.
“You know you’re playing county champions, so they all feel confident and that they’re going well,” he says.
“Caherline after playing eight games as well in Limerick. When you’ve come through a campaign like that, the form is good and you’ve a settled team. At this level, every team is going well.
“At this time of year, there’s never going to be much between the teams. You’re just hoping to keep in it and battle through it and hopefully be on the right side at the end of it.
“We know it’s going to be fierce close. Where we are in Ballygiblin, it’s very close to the Limerick border so there’s a strong rivalry there. There’ll be nothing between the teams, I’d imagine.”