BALLINORA is a small townland just a 10-minute or so drive to the south west of Cork city and at the very heart of the community is its GAA club.
It isn’t exactly a GAA club steeped in major senior honours but it is a club with an extremely rich history as it closes in on its 100th anniversary.
It is also a welcoming and community-driven GAA club which is perhaps best summed up by its chairman Mick O’Regan.
“I got involved because of my kids and people that are getting involved today typically is because of their kids, it’s the same with any club really,” begins O’Regan, who hails from Kilkenny.
“You get involved because you are interested in the area, because your kids are in the area and you develop in the community that you are living in.
“We came to Cork in 1992 when I was 33. We were living over in Ballinora cross at the time and I wasn’t there a wet week now when I got a knock on the door from John Sullivan to get involved so I got involved.
“I started playing, I started training the young lads and sure I’ve been here ever since. I played football and hurling, I should have got medals but I don’t think I ever received a medal. We won a Junior B league when I was playing in goal.”
Also in attendance during this interview is the club’s President Michael O’Connor, who wrote extensively about its history in his brilliant book;.
But while O’Connor, O’Regan, and the rest of the committee take enormous pride in what has been achieved since the club was established in 1924, there is also a determination to keep building on their traditions.
“When you listen to what Michael is describing there from the past and you are looking at what we have now, it’s chalk and cheese,” adds O’Regan.
“But what is the common thread all the way through it is the volunteerism. I know people are talking about the professionalism in the GAA - you have the Croke Park and all the employed people there and you have full-time people down in Pairc Ui Chaoimh, every county team is trained professionally now - but the root of it all is in the club and the clubs are 100% volunteerism.
“100% volunteerism from the people that sit around the committee table here to the people out on the pitch there and over at Ballymah on a Saturday morning training boys and girls at seven years of age. It’s huge.
“We would have over 100 volunteers involved in various aspects of the club. We look at it every now and again and ask ‘what does success mean?’
“Success for us isn’t about winning county titles. Success is having people involved and keeping the community spirit alive.
“You look at any of our facilities on any day of the week and you will see plenty of people out there enjoying themselves, getting physically fit, and being a part of a community, a group, a team, and that’s success for us.
“Last year or the year before - during Covid we couldn’t acknowledge some of our successful players - but we had a presentation when we could to acknowledge all the players that represented Cork at minor level.
“Over two or three years we had seven lads who represented Cork at minor level. That was incredible for us. I had never seen anything like that in the club before, seven lads togged out fully in their Cork gear and every one of them is an absolute gent to deal with. That’s success as well.
“They were involved with Ballinora in a formative part of their life and it’s going to define who they are and who they turn out to be. It’s hugely important, hugely important.”
The task now for O’Regan and co is to ensure that progress and success continues. Shortly after this interview concluded a meeting began to organise their upcoming Golf Classic taking place at the Lee Valley Golf Club on Friday, August 26.
The club’s pitch in Ballymah has experienced significant upgrades in the recent past which have made it one of the most popular surfaces around. Now the plan is to do something similar at their base in Ballinora.
“We would never survive with just one pitch, we would never survive,” admits O’Regan.
“The pitch wasn’t great at the time we got it so we decided we needed to develop it. We did a whole development plan, a proper business plan, and set up the whole cost.
“We told people then, this is what it’s going to cost us to do it - we got grants from the Munster Council, through the tourism transport and sport, from the Cork County Council, we got grants from everybody - but the biggest area of funding, the biggest single source of funding was the community we live in.
“We want to keep growing. Our adult numbers are going up but the numbers at juvenile level are phenomenal.
“We have 200 kids playing across various age groups and for a community of this size that is fantastic.
“But we need to cater for them, give them proper facilities. Our first pitch is becoming somewhat dated so we are working on a plan to upgrade it which will be communicated to the community and we will be kicking that off shortly.”