Premier JHC: Ballygiblin ready for step up from old junior hurling ranks

Last year's junior champions are technically still junior after competition was renamed, but manager Ronan Dwane anticipates tough challenge
Premier JHC: Ballygiblin ready for step up from old junior hurling ranks

At the launch of the 2022 Co-Op Superstores Cork Club Hurling Championships were Liam O'Flaherty (third from left), Dairygold agri business general manager, with (from left) Tadhg O'Sullivan, Courcey Rovers; John Cronin, Lisgoold; Tommy O'Connell, Midleton; Darren Browne, Kanturk; and Fionn Herlihy, Ballygiblin. Picture: Jim Coughlan

AFTER county and Munster titles last year and narrow defeat in the All-Ireland club final, Ballygiblin are in the curious position of having earned Schrödinger's promotion.

Going all the way in the Co-op SuperStores JAHC – the sixth tier after the restructuring at the end of 2019 – they are now in the fifth grade but that has been renamed from lower intermediate to premier junior.

It means that, theoretically, the North Cork side could retain the provincial championship if they followed the example of Lisgoold, who won the 2020 JAHC last August and then followed that with the 2021 LIHC in November.

Despite the semantics, manager Ronan Dwane knows that it will be a step up, beginning with a Group B meeting against Dripsey in Rathcormac at 4pm on Saturday.

“If every year could be half as good as last year, you’d be delighted,” he says.

From our point of view going up, it’s a whole new challenge, a whole new experience, going out into the county playing teams from all over.

“It’s a really exciting challenge and we’d be really looking forward to the year. Even the league matches this year have been a huge step up – it’s faster hurling and harder hurling.

“Junior hurling is unique in that you start off in your divisions, the rivalries are there and the teams know each other so well. It’s probably a more open game at this level, with the standard being higher, and in a way it’s easier to play because it’s less pressurised playing teams that you haven’t played before to any great level.”

The Ballygiblin team pictured before the AIB Munster Club JHC final against Tipperary's Skeheenarinky in January of this year. Picture: Larry Cummins.
The Ballygiblin team pictured before the AIB Munster Club JHC final against Tipperary's Skeheenarinky in January of this year. Picture: Larry Cummins.

Like so many others, Ballygiblin have suffered with the increase in emigration while injuries have also taken their toll.

“We’re down a good few,” Dwane says.

“Michael Walsh is gone to Australia and we have four or five out injured from the All-Ireland team.

“We’ve just been unlucky the last few weeks with injuries. We had a good run all through the league but it’s just the way it’s happened now that we’ll be short a few for the weekend.

“That’s the joys of it, most clubs are like that. Then you’ve the football and hurling between Ballygiblin and Mitchelstown, you’ve a lot of fellas playing both so it’s a tough slog.

“We’re delighted to be there. Most teams are going to be down a few.”

PROGRESS

Even so, the league went well for them, which bodes well for what’s to come.

“We were,” Dwane says, “we did quite well.

“We finished in the top two in our section, which we were delighted with, and we’ll be in Division 5 now next year, so we’re maintaining progress.

“We’re delighted with the league and how it turned out. We got great matches.”

The other Group B teams, Argideen Rangers and Ballygarvan, play at 2pm in Bandon on Sunday. In Group A, Barryroe take on St Finbarr’s with Kilbrittain doing battle with Milford while there is an East Cork derby between St Catherine’s and Russell Rovers in Group C with Glen Rovers facing Tracton.

Last year’s lower intermediate champions Lisgoold make their intermediate A bow against Blackrock in Group A, where Aghada face Midleton. In Group B, Cloughduv play neighbours Aghabullogue with Douglas doing battle against Dungourney, while Kildorrery meet Meelin and Sarsfields clash with Mayfield in Group C.

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