THE Béal Átha’n Ghaorthaidh footballers will be hoping to use their success in the recent Comórtas Peile na Gaeltachta as a springboard for a successful championship campaign this season.
The Gaeltacht club defeated Bearna (Galway), the defending champions An Ghaeltacht (Kerry), and Naomh Conaill (Donegal) to capture the national senior title for Gaeltacht clubs for the first time in their history during the June Bank Holiday weekend.
Their team coach and manager for the Comórtas weekend, Shane Ó Duinnín hailed his charges for their fantastic achievement.
“It was a fantastic win. It was the stuff of dreams. We are very proud of our Irish culture and language. It was very special. We didn’t expect it heading up really considering the quality of teams that compete in the competition. It was a fantastic achievement to win it out,” he said.
The Muskerry side defeated Donegal side Naomh Conaill in the final by four points on a final scoreline of 2-9 to 0-11 following a very impressive performance. Shane said playing senior football in Cork in recent seasons has filled them with more confidence.
“Our main goal was to get over our match on the Saturday against the Galway champions Bearna who are a quality side. We beat them and we got on a roll after that. We beat Naomh Conaill in the final.
"They won the 2020 Donegal senior county title. They had a few members of the Donegal senior football team. They were a serious outfit.
“It was our first time ever winning the senior title. We had won the junior title five times, but the step up to senior is a big step. The Comórtas only has a junior and senior championship. There is no intermediate grade.
"We were an intermediate club playing in the senior grade for a long time but being a senior club now has given us a bit more confidence,” he added.
The jubilant Béal Átha’n Ghaorthaidh footballers and coaches were afforded a huge ovation upon their return home following their All-Ireland final success. They were greeted with bonfires and a parade was organised to commemorate their national success said the team coach.
“We had massive celebrations after the win. We have not won anything major since we won the IFC in 2006. This is a bigger competition again for us. We received a huge ovation on our return home.
"Former Kerry senior player Dara Ó Cinnéide also attended on the night. The crowd was unbelievable.”
This year’s Gaeltacht club competition returned after a two-year hiatus due to Covid and was held in Leitir Móir in Galway. The annual tournament is held in a different venue each year. Cill na Martra is scheduled to host it in 2024.
To reach the Comórtas Peile na Gaeltachta as the Cork representative Béal Átha’n Ghaorthaidh had to overcome the challenge of Naomh Abán and Cill na Martra.
“It is a great occasion, and it is always a weekend we look forward to. Even qualifying is tough as you must win the Cork version first before you get to compete in the All-Ireland stages.
"Naomh Abán and Cill na Martra are quality teams, so we don’t qualify every year either. Naomh Abán beat Cill na Martra in the first round. We then beat them to qualify.”
Ó Duinnín, who successfully managed the team over the course of the Gaeltacht club final weekend as their team trainer Denis Reen was away, said the influence of the late great Eamonn Ryan was firmly enshrined on their players following their success.
A native of Watergrasshill, Ryan resided in the Gaeltacht parish of Ballingeary, the homeplace of his wife Pat.
He was on the sideline as a selector when Béal Átha’n Ghaorthaidh secured IFC silverware in 2006 after defeating Castletownbere. Eamonn left a lasting legacy on all the players.
“We were all thinking of the late Eamonn Ryan on the weekend of our victory. He gave so much to our club, and he is always in our thoughts. He would have coached several of the players who helped us win the Comórtas Peile na Gaeltachta. He was big into the Gaeilge and the culture. He is never far from our thoughts.”
Attention now for the team coach turns to this year’s Senior A football championship. Béal Átha’n Ghaorthaidh has been drawn in a group alongside Bandon, Dohenys, and Kiskeam. They will play the Dohenys first in a repeat of last year’s championship clash and he said there are very ‘small margins’ between all the teams.
“The recent success in the Comórtas Peile na Gaeltachta sets us up well for this year’s Senior A championship. It will give us a great boost again for the campaign. Winning breeds confidence.
"We are playing Dohenys in our first game. They only lost their semi-final after a replay last year. They have one or two players back from Australia. They are a very strong team.
“Kiskeam are a quality team. They have Sean Meehan back which is great to see. They will be a tough team. We are looking forward to the start of the season."