Paudie Palmer: Cobh footballers delivered in a style Sonia O'Sullivan was proud of

East Cork disappointment didn't deter Cobh this season, who bounced back better than ever to collect the cup
Paudie Palmer: Cobh footballers delivered in a style Sonia O'Sullivan was proud of

Cobh junior football win, via Cobh's social media and Natalia Wilk.

ON SUNDAY, I was sent to Wolfe Tone Park, Bantry for what a West Cork derby between Dohenys and O’Donovan Rossa.

The prize at stake was a place against St Michael’s in the semi-final of the county SAFC.

I must acknowledge the massive work of the host club over the past number of years in developing their playing infrastructure to include two massively well-presented playing pitches together with a fenced-in all-weather surface.

Somebody did mention the cost of over a six-year period was around €900,000. Some bucks.

The neutrals in the large attendance were probably a tad disappointed that the Dunmanway side weren’t able to make their expected impression against the favourites. Or was it a case that they weren’t allowed?

We probably have to wait another few weeks before we really know.

Kevin Davis made a significant impression in the first 20 minutes when he landed two from play and one from a mark. Thereafter, Dohenys' security systems became a little tighter in relation to Davis but it came at a cost as other forwards began to enjoy a greater degree of freedom.

At the sós beag, the Skibbereen team were two ahead but little did we know that another forward would steal the second-half headlines. By the 39th minute, young Dylan Hourihane had landed three beauties; he finished with four, increasing the margin to six points.

O' Donovan Rossa's Brian Minihane hand-passing the ball clear of Dohenys' Mark Buckley in the Bon Secours Cork SAFC at Bantry. Picture: Denis Minihane.
O' Donovan Rossa's Brian Minihane hand-passing the ball clear of Dohenys' Mark Buckley in the Bon Secours Cork SAFC at Bantry. Picture: Denis Minihane.

Game over, well nearly, Mark Buckley then announced his presence by scoring two superb efforts and the gap stood at four.

Mid-way through the half, Fionn Herlihy embarked on another run through the Skibbereen defence, he was dispossessed and then we were treated to alternative viewpoints of the incident. The Skibbereen management team felt it was a perfectly executed tackle, meanwhile referee David Murnane adopted the outstretched arm stance.

Jerry McCarthy arrived from defence to strike the penalty, unfortunately for him, Ryan Price executed a double save and O’Donovan Rossa could begin planning for the big one against St Michael’s, pencilled in for Saturday week, at 5pm in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

It should be some encounter.

EASTERN PROMISE

Heading back to base, other match reports courtesy of the local radio station proved to be an interesting travelling companion. The coverage included reports and post-match interviews from a number of games including three divisional Junior A football finals.

One such final, was the East Cork decider, between Cobh and Castlemartyr.

Now let’s be honest, I think that it is fair to assume that the TG4 crew won’t be turning up any time soon. There was a time when Castlemartyr would have been a football stronghold but in recent times, along with many other clubs in the barony, have tilted the scales in favour of the ash.

Anyway, despite a late Castlemartyr comeback, Cobh emerged victorious, their first such title since 1998. The manager of the outfit is Declan O’Connell a former player and was team captain when they were competing in B grade about six years ago.

So as yours truly was travelling east, Declan was informing the radio’s listeners about his club's special day.

Whatever, I expected him to mention, it certainly wasn’t a reference to the coaching staff. This was an East Cork junior football team, not the Mayo, Limerick or Man Utd.

Hold on, back in 2019, having lost the decider to Erin’s Own, the then club secretary John O’Keefe, he is still in the role felt that a little extra was needed.

So he approached a fellow Cobh native, John O’Sullivan whose sporting background would be mostly in the oval ball sphere, enquiring if he would come on board. He did and is still very much involved. 

The ultimate dream still proved elusive. In 2020, they lost to Midleton in the semi-final and in 2021 were again left heartbroken when suffering a two-point reversal to Bride Rovers in the decider.

Being involved in the business end is mighty but equally, losses at this level can ultimately prove fatal.

Cobh suffered a heartbreaking loss to Bride Rovers in last year's East Cork JAFC but bounced back this season to lift the title. Picture: Jim Coughlan.
Cobh suffered a heartbreaking loss to Bride Rovers in last year's East Cork JAFC but bounced back this season to lift the title. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

This year was vital and of course, sporting heartbreaks are not the guaranteed precursor of success.

Cian Shealy is a first cousin of Sonia O’Sullivan and a former player who also played and coached at Clontarf GAA club in Dublin; he came on board as a backs coach. Eric Brannigan another native and former player came in as forwards coach.

Then as the championship began John O’Sullivan and maybe a few others decide that another island resident, Eddie Kirwan should join the ticket and he did. Some of you will be aware of Eddie’s credentials as hockey coach and for a period, he coached Nemo Rangers senior team and was involved with the Cork seniors.

On Sunday, in front of a huge audience including Sonia O’Sullivan, all the pieces came together and an Everest was climbed.

Obviously, for the present set-up this was just reward for their efforts but equally so for those who a few years ago put relevant underage structure in place.

Sean Hilliard, a student in America, scored 3-1 and in doing so was presented with the Eamon Ryan memorial medal for his Man of the Match performance.

By the way, Sean is not the only foreign-based student, as full-back John Gardiner is based in London. Back to the radio interview, team captain Adam McCarthy spoke as passionately as any Hogan Stand recipient about what the day meant to him and his team and why not.

Now, they will contest the quarter-final of the county championship again Cullen on October 15-16 and as significantly, they will compete in the 2023 inaugural Cork PJFC.

For those of you who might be aware of the happenings in the Kingdom, you will be aware of the financial support from the Garvey family. Well, Jim Garvey, who operates a Garvey SuperValu in Cobh, hasn’t been found wanting when the local GAA club comes a calling.

He too will be pleased with their elevation to the next level.

A word also to the officers of the East Cork Board particularly chairman Donal O’Keeffe (Lisgoold) and secretary Daniel Lane from Bride Rovers. Their efforts over the past few years have been instrumental in moving Gaelic football up the agenda in that neck of the woods.

Just in case you were wondering about the cost factor of the coaching staff, nothing.

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