Paudie Palmer on Ballygiblin's hurling fairytale: Long hair and short odds 

Powered by Mark Keane, Darragh Flynn, Sean O'Sullivan, Colin English and more, the North Cork club are now one win away from Croke Park
Paudie Palmer on Ballygiblin's hurling fairytale: Long hair and short odds 

Joy for Ballygiblin at the final whistle after their win against Skeheenarinky. Picture: Larry Cummins.

BACK in the early part of 1992, or so the story goes, a few shrewd O'Donovan Rossa footballers and possibly a few others became aware that a certain Mid-Cork bookie was offering odds of 33/1 on the West Cork club winning the Cork senior football championship.

The generous odds were in place for a reason.

Yes, O’Donovan Rossa won the Intermediate title in 1985, but in the intervening seven years, they weren’t considered business end contenders. However, 1992 became their year and they defeated Nemo Rangers in the Senior County final.

On the Tuesday after the historic Sunday, the enterprising group of somewhere between 15 and 20 hired a bus with the destination being the bookmakers in Macroom. They collected €16,500 which today, would be about the equivalent of €28,500.

Mick McCarthy celebrates during one of O'Donovan Rossa's great victories in 1992. Picture: Denis Minihane.
Mick McCarthy celebrates during one of O'Donovan Rossa's great victories in 1992. Picture: Denis Minihane.

The reason that piece of folklore comes to mind has its genesis in Ballygiblin’s wonderful victory over neighbours Skeheenarinky in last Sunday’s Munster Junior hurling final.

Twelve months ago, what would the odds have been on such an eventuality? 133/1?

Ballygibblin’s journey to the last four in Ireland began on September 12 when they defeated Kilavullen, in their opening Avondhu championship group game. A week later, they came from 10 points down to draw with Fermoy’s second team.

A comprehensive victory over Araglen ensured they had reached the knockout stage.

Victories over Kilshannig in the quarter-final and Charleville second team in the semi-final landed them in the final against Clyda Rovers.

Unlike the Cork senior footballers, where a 23-strong backroom staff have answered the call, the sideline fortunes here, are guided be two. Local man Dave Moher is the manager with Ronan Dwayne from Aghada the coach.

Seemingly and possibly during lockdown, their East Cork coach was unable to avail of the services of his barber and this lead to a suggestion that if his adopted team planted a North Cork flag, the shears would be applied.

They won with farmer and relief milker Sean O’Sullivan raising two green flags.

Celebrations after Sean O'Sullivan hit the net. Picture: Larry Cummins. 
Celebrations after Sean O'Sullivan hit the net. Picture: Larry Cummins. 

Six days later, they faced Passage, the hair shearers were informed that their wasn’t time to avail of their service.

They had two points to spare over the Teddy McCarthy-coached team and qualified for their first-ever County Junior hurling final.

Plant this flag and the hairstylist would definitely be employed. After all, walking around East Cork, you wouldn’t want to be mistaken for Our Lord.

A brief visit to the historical section would inform you that this most rural of clubs had won two North Cork titles in 2004 and in 2018. They also won the County Junior B hurling championship in 1993 defeating Belgooly in the final.

Kieran Duggan, Ballygiblin, looks for a pass. Picture: Larry Cummins.
Kieran Duggan, Ballygiblin, looks for a pass. Picture: Larry Cummins.

In the county final, they faced favourites, Dromtarriff. They won with green flag contributions from Mark Keane and Sean O’Sullivan.

Not sure of the exact baptismal alteration but O’Sullivan acquired the name of Seanie Goals.

You are wondering about the long-haired coach. Now, there was another hill on the horizon. The shears was put away again.

A semi-final victory over Limerick team Caherline on December 12 meant that the people of Ballygiblin and their Mitchelstown disciples had another conversation piece other than Covid to entertain them.

The match!

Their opponents were based five miles up the road in Ballyporeen. Here they have their own version of a dual club. There is one complex, based in Ballyporeen and that is the title under which they fly the football flag. Their hurling team is known as Skeheenarinky.

In preparation for last Sunday’s final the well-versed and long-haired coach organised an number of training sessions including one on Stephen’s Day. They also played three challenge games against MTU, Courcey Rovers and Kilmoyley.

You can train all you like but you must have players. There are some talented individuals on this team.

KEANE EDGE

Firstly, you have Mark Keane, not yet 22, he is some athlete possessed with a serious grá for both hurling and football. The week before last, he had a session with the Cork hurlers as well as playing a challenge match for them against Killmallock.

From the word go last weekend, he was hugely influential in the number six jersey. Maybe I should mention that he is also meant to an AFL player.

Please don’t ask me how! 

Their centre-forward Colin English is former Tipperary U20 dual player who transferred from Fr Sheehy’s GAA club a year or so ago.

Then you have Cork senior panellist, Darragh Flynn who didn’t start last Sunday but came on.

The rumours from the neighbours in lead up to the final was that they had plans for the aforementioned three but by all accounts there wasn’t much talk of Seanie Goals.

Six minutes into the second half, Ryan Donegan a Leaving Cert student won a massive free out around the middle, when it arrived in, Dean Barry pulled on it but it was saved and broke out a little, the goal man was on hand and finished it. It was a major sign post.

With five minutes remaining and four points between, O’Sullivan took possession well out on the right, an opponents ash appendage made contact with his hand, the referee waved play on and did the farmer move.

He may have added a step or two to regulation four, he let rip, the net was all out to hold it.

Ballygiblin were in the last four of the All-Ireland series.

 Winning team captain Fionn Herlihy, Ballygiblin signs hurleys for young supporters. Picture: Larry Cummins. 
Winning team captain Fionn Herlihy, Ballygiblin signs hurleys for young supporters. Picture: Larry Cummins. 

On the weekend after next, they will play Fullen Gaels in the All-Ireland semi-final. Yes you have guessed it, the shears have been put away again.

Can Ballygiblin make Croke Park?

The hair may be getting long but the odds are shortening.

Sport and fairytales and all that!

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