Contesting finals has become second nature to Randal Óg GAA Club in recent years and 2022 was no exception.
In 2021, the Ballinacarriga outfit achieved a double as they won both the county-wide and inter-divisional Bons Secours Hospital Cork Junior B Football Championships (the county-wide is limited to clubs who do not operate at a higher level) and also made it to the Co-op SuperStores JBHC final, losing out to Belgooly.
The football wins qualified them for the Munster championship in the spring of this year. Wins over Clare champions Parteen and a heart-stopping penalty shoot-out against Kerry side Moyvane, brought Randals to the provincial final against Limerick representatives Granagh-Ballingarry on March 26 in Knockaderry. Despite falling six points behind in the second half, Randals' belief never wavered and they clawed their way back into contention. They trailed by 1-7 to 0-9 as the game moved into injury time but Seán Daly was on hand to secure a draw.
Another bus was hired and the date of the replay, May 14, will be written in the annals of the club’s history as a 3-13 to 3-8 win gave them the trophy. Three first-half goals - two Peter Collins penalties and one from Donncha Collins - put them firmly in control. It was 3-8 to 1-2 at half-time and, while Granagh-Ballingarry came back in the second half, they couldn't come closer than five points. Randals were the first Cork club to win the title since Clann na nGael won the inaugural competition in 2006. Joint captains Séamus Crowley and Conor O’Neill lifted the cup to scenes of joy and the team were serenaded by piper Donal Kelleher into Ballinacarriga as Munster champions, having won by 3-13 to 3-8.
The county wins of 2021 meant the club were promoted to junior A this year but it was a challenge that the players and management team of David Aherne, Aidan O'Sullivan, Ger Collins, Joe Crowley, John Coakley and Gavin Daly, took in their stride. Grouped with Carbery Rangers, Newcestown and Muintir Bháire, they won three games from three to top the section and advance to the quarter-finals. Meeting Argideen Rangers in the last eight proved a real test for Randals - the sides were level at the final whistle but a stronger and more experienced Argideen pushed on in extra time and would go on to reach the final.
There was hardly time to draw breath as the club began their county junior B hurling championship campaignagainst O’Donovan Rossa, just a week later. The path to yet another county final saw Randals overcome Skibb, Laochra Óg, Lough Rovers and Ballyclough and they were back in Páirc Uí Rinn for the final against Freemount on July 16. Drawing level and taking the lead in injury time, it looked like Randals’ day, but heartbreak struck when Freemount scored two late points, leaving a final score of 1-18 to 1-17 in favour of the Duhallow club.
Despite that setback, Randals stayed resolute as they faced into the Carbery JBHC. Victories against Barryroe, Ballinascarthy and Gabriel Rangers brough them to yet another final, where they saw off neighbours Kilbree at Ahiohill on October 15. On to the county stage and a powerful performance against Ballinhassig brought to the semi-finals. Weather conditions deteriorating, Randal Óg faced a very strong and talented Ballyhea team at Páirc Uí Chaoimh 4G pitch on November 6 where the dream of a county hurling title ended for another season as Ballyhea won – they would go on to claim the county title. Nevertheless, the team and management of Jerry Ryan, Ger Collins, Frank O'Donnell and Colm McSweeney deserve much thanks and praise.
When Cork County Board introduced the U19 competition this year, Randal Óg thought long and hard about the possibility of fielding a team. Huge credit must go to the U19 mentors, Ger Collins, Charles McCarthy and John Collins, who dared to dream that the club could compete and the U19 hurlers’ performance in the County U19 West 2 divisional final against Ahán Gaels was testament to the belief and determination of both players and management.
Not to be outdone, Laura Burchill, the club’s IT officer, decided early in 2022 that the women of Ballinacarriga needed an identity of their own and so the Randal Óg Gaelic 4 Mothers & Others was formed in June 2022. Training consistently every Thursday evening, this initiative has gone from strength to strength and to date over 50 women from the wider community are involved in this fun and sporting get together.
The club are genuinely indebted to the courtesy and consideration of Kevin and Aoife at Cork County Board who always endeavour to assist them with the fixture list. The work of coaches, selectors, the commitment of largely dual players and the enthusiasm and encouragement from supporters has been hugely appreciated and the club will look to continue the success in 2023.