Ballygiblin one step from Croke Park as they face Fullen Gaels

Cork and Munster junior hurling champions just 60 minutes away from All-Ireland final
Ballygiblin one step from Croke Park as they face Fullen Gaels

Seán O'Sullivan fires in a second half goal for Ballygiblin against Skeheenarinky in the AIB Munster Club JHC final at Mallow. Picture: Larry Cummins

SUNDAY
All-Ireland Club JHC semi-final

Ballygiblin v Fullen Gaels (Lancashire)

O’Moore Park, 12.30pm

A place at Croke Park in the All-Ireland final is up for grabs as Ballygiblin look to build on the impressive Munster final win over Skeheenarinky a fortnight ago.

While Sunday’s clash with Manchester side Fullen Gaels was originally set for a later throw-in time at the National Sports Campus in Abbotstown, Co. Dublin, the fact that the GAA ground there has a capacity well below the level of Ballygiblin’s support resulted in a switch on Tuesday.

Now, they will make the shorter trip to Portlaoise for a 12.30pm start and the faithful will do so buoyed by the 2-14 to 1-9 win against the Tipperary champions in Mallow last Sunday week. That game, which featured two goals from Seán O’Sullivan and nine points from Joseph O’Sullivan, was against a neighbouring parish and so manager Ronan Dwane was delighted that the team were able to deal with the task so well.

“It was a big game and the atmosphere was fantastic,” he says.

“Obviously, it was a special occasion, playing a Munster final against a neighbouring club. The lads showed great focus and determination and there wasn’t a lot in it – it was 1-9 to 1-7 at the second water break and it was still in the melting pot with four or five minutes to go until we got the second goal.

“It was a really tight game for much of it and we were delighted to come out on the right side of it. It was a day that you wouldn’t forget from an atmosphere point of view, given that it was unique.”

As special as it was to claim provincial honours in a unique local derby setting, the Ballygiblin appetite has yet to be sated and they would dearly love to add an All-Ireland title to the Avondhu, Cork and Munster championships claimed since the beginning of the 2021 campaign. So far, they have come through ten games without defeat and an 11th would bring them to headquarters.

Killeagh pair Kevin Fennelly and Darren Cusack are part of the panel for Fullen Gaels, who overcame Armagh’s Craobh Rua on penalties in the All-Ireland quarter-final, and Dwane certainly isn’t taking the challenge lightly.

“For the few days after, you’re still celebrating the Munster final but then you have to knuckle down again,” he says.

“We didn’t know a lot about Fullen Gaels so we had to look at them. They have players from all over the country that are of good quality. They have two lads from Killeagh that I’d know myself, two very good players, and they’ve fellas from Waterford and Antrim.

“That focuses you fairly quickly again. We’re under no illusions about how big a challenge it’s going to be. They were in the All-Ireland final in 2013 and 2015, so they’re well used to this stage.”

A boost for Ballygiblin is the fact that Mark Keane remains available, after deciding to cut short his time with Australian rules side Collingwood. He has been added to the Cork senior panel on the back of a number of instrumental displays during the Ballygiblin run and his continued presence is a huge boon for all involved.

“Whatever he decided to go, we were going to support him 100 percent,” Dwane says.

“We’re delighted to have him and he seems to be happy himself. If he’s happier here at the moment, involved with us, then that’s great.

“He picked up great experience with Collingwood over the last three years and that’s great for him to have.”

One slight area of concern is the fact that Darragh Flynn, winner of two All-Ireland U20 medals with Cork last year, was unable to start against Skeheenarinky due to a leg injury but did appear as a sub at half-time.

Dwane hopes that he can be passed fit to help the cause.

“Darragh is still a doubt,” he says.

“He couldn’t come on the last day so we’re not sure about him, but hopefully he can play a part.”

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