Munster Club JHC: Ballygiblin looking to make history

Having won the provincial title in January, North Cork club have unprecedented chance to retain it
Munster Club JHC: Ballygiblin looking to make history

Ballygiblin captain Fionn Herlihy lifts the AIB Munster Club JHC trophy after they defeated Skeheenarinky in January of this year. They will hope to retain the title on Sunday. Picture: Larry Cummins

Ballygiblin will be chasing history on Sunday, hoping to finish 2022 as they began it when they clash with Limerick’s St Kieran’s in the AIB Munster Club JHC final in Mallow (1pm).

Twenty previous years of the competition have seen 20 different winners – 14 of them from Cork – and last year’s champions will look to put themselves clear at the top of the roll of honour.

While it’s not completely unknown for a club to appear twice in the competition, none have managed to win it more than once. Cork County Board’s decision to re-classify the fifth-tier county championship from lower intermediate to premier junior meant that Ballygiblin – the 2021 junior A winners – progressed to the province for the second straight year after winning more silverware.

After beating Tracton in the county final, they have since overcome Tipperary’s Grangemockler-Ballyneale and Waterford’s Colligan to leave themselves an hour away from another appearance in the All-Ireland series. Coach Ronan Dwane is hopeful they can build on the good showing in the semi-final.

“We didn’t play that well against Grangemockler and we were kind of worried about Colligan the last day,” he says.

“We really knuckled down, we trained very well going into that game, so it was pleasing enough that we played really well on the day.

“We got a good start and played well, got the goal early and it was a good win. We’re happy now with the way we’re going coming into this game again.

“The more you win, the more you want to keep going. Being back in the final now again, it’s a great opportunity to win another Munster championship.

“Obviously, these days won’t come too often, so we’d be really keen to keep things going as far as we can.”

Ballygiblin’s year began on January 9 with a Munster final win over neighbours Skeheenarinky from Tipperary. After beating Fullen Gaels of Manchester in the All-Ireland semi-final and narrowly losing the final to Kilkenny’s Mooncoin, it was into the county league and then the championship, with many dual players involved with Mitchelstown’s football team too.

Dwane acknowledges that there is a physical toll, but the opportunity at stake means there will be one final push to round off 2022.

“I suppose there is a toll,” he says, “you’d be conscious of that as well.

“You want to try to keep things as fresh as possible – one day that you’re flat can trip you up and you never know when that day will come, it could be any day.

“You’re always trying to guard against that as much as possible. The games are coming every few weeks now and we kind of have a routine from last year.

“Everybody’s fully aware that it’s bonus territory and we won’t be here again. We’re all keen that way, to max it out as much as possible.

“Different fellas have performed on different days, which is what you want.

“You can’t be relying on the same fellas all the time. In different games, different fellas have performed.”

St Kieran’s will certainly present a formidable test.

“Yeah, I saw them in the semi-final against the Banner of Clare,” Dwane says.

“They’re a very good team, well organised, physical and strong as they’re a senior football team as well.

“Limerick hurling is going well and Limerick football, too – they have four of the six teams in the Munster club finals.

“Limerick GAA is on a high and they’re confident. They’re a formidable opponent and it’ll be a tough game, as you’d expect at this juncture of any championship.”

During last year’s Munster and All-Ireland run, the Ballygiblin faithful were conspicuous by their red and white woolly hats and the headwear has been given plenty more outings this winter. That the game is at Mallow’s fine facility should ensure another strong Ballygiblin presence.

“The support has been fantastic,” Dwane says.

“We’ve had huge crowds at all of our games and Mallow is as close to home as you could have it, really.

“They’ve been a huge help to us in terms of getting the wins. The backing that we’ve had has been massive. There’ll be another day out for the red and white bobble hats!”

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