Fullen Gaels v Ballygiblin: Killeagh connection aim to shoot down Cork champions

Captain Kevin Fennelly and keeper Darren Cusack will feature for the Manchester side in the All-Ireland semi-final
Fullen Gaels v Ballygiblin: Killeagh connection aim to shoot down Cork champions

Killeagh man Darren Cusack, who has been guarding the Fullen Gaels goal with great distinction.

THIS weekend Ballygiblin will continue their hurling journey hoping to book a dream ticket to Croke Park and the AIB All-Ireland junior final.

Across the Irish Sea, in the colours of Fullen Gaels, three Corkmen are central to the plan to halt the North Cork team’s progress. Captain Kevin Fennelly and Darren Cusack hail from Killeagh while west Corkman Pio McCarthy from Kealkill is also on the panel.

Goalkeeper Cusack was firmly thrust into the limelight in the quarter-final against Croabh Rua from Armagh. The contest went the full distance, level at full time, level at the end of extra-time at 2-17 each, meaning the dreaded penalty shootout.

Cusack comes from good hurling stock. His aunt Mary O’Connor is a multiple All-Ireland winner and his mother Helen has also won All-Ireland gold on the double at U16 level. So, this was Darren’s day to grab the family headlines and he duly obliged with the decisive penalty save which saw his club advance to Sunday’s semi.

“It was a game that ebbed and flowed all through and could have gone either away. We had to get a late point at the end of extra time to level the match. At that stage, very few of us knew what the next step was going to be. There was a lot of pressure on the penalty takers. Amazingly a number of players failed to hit the target with their efforts. So when their goalkeeper faced me with their fifth penalty, the score was only 2-1 in our favour.”

Killeagh's Darren Cusack will face Ballygiblin next weekend in Fullen Gaels' All-Ireland hurling semi-final.
Killeagh's Darren Cusack will face Ballygiblin next weekend in Fullen Gaels' All-Ireland hurling semi-final.

Cusack, who had saved the first effort from the Armagh outfit, stood firm when the need was greatest to set off wild scenes.

“Being honest, initially I thought the ball had crept in, as there was a spare sliotar behind me in the goal. It was a great relief when I realised I had kept the other one out.

For us it’s going to be very special against Ballygiblin. We have had to train in either the public park or at a local rugby pitch under floodlights at this time of the year.”

He moved to Edinburgh in September 2020 for his final year in college and ended up working in Manchester, where he first became acquainted with the local hurling team.

“Our players are drawn from the greater Manchester region including areas such as Salford and Crewe, but it is great to have a very familiar face in my close friend and captain Kevin Fennelly who is a club mate of mine from Killeagh.

Both are familiar with fellow East Cork man Ronan Dwane from Agahda, who coaches Ballygiblin.

“We have heard that he is leaving his hair grow long and won’t cut it until the season is over. We know about Mark Keane’s involvement and his decision to stay at home but other than that, it’s up to our joint player managers to do their homework,” commented the netminder who last lined out for Killeagh against St Ita’s in 2020.

Now the championship games with Fullen Gaels are coming thick and fast.

“We have had a serious journey so far and at this point are really just worrying about ourselves. We all know the good standard of Munster junior hurling and are well aware of being undisputed underdogs but it’s a great challenge.”

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