Sleeping giants may begin to rouse in thebig county towns

Sleeping giants may begin to rouse in thebig county towns

Ballygiblin manager Ronan Dwane after defeating Horeswood in the AIB All Ireland junior club semi final at Fraher Field, Dungarvan yesterday. Picture; Eddie O'Hare

THERE can be nothing better than the feelgood story of a small town or village putting it up to the big boys. 

The stories of clubs like Newtownshandrum, Kiskeam, Knocknagree, Kilshannig, Fr O’Neill’s and Lisgoold all prospering warms the heart, as places like that are simply the lifeblood of the GAA, but if Cork GAA is to become more successful on the national stage you sense that it is the bigger towns and communities that need to front up and drive such accomplishments.

There are a few sleeping giants slumbering throughout the county, but to be fair, there are signs of some of them emerging from their deep sleeps.

Mitchelstown has never really been a hot bed for GAA, but the exploits of their hurlers, OK Ballygiblin to be precise, has garnered a lot of headlines in the past two years. 

Two successive county titles and two consecutive Munster Junior Club Hurling Championship crowns have been huge success stories for the club, and has them dreaming of All-Ireland glory at that level, after having lost the 2021 decider to Kilkenny’s Mooncoin club. 

That’s not bad going for a club that had only ever won a single North Cork Junior title before 2018.

Of course, it helps when recognisable names like Mark Keane, Darragh Flynn and Cathail O’Mahony all emerge at once. 

Whatever they are doing up there, long may it continue.

Just down the road Fermoy GAA club will be keeping an eye on their emerging neighbours. The club were once a powerhouse of Cork football strangely enough, with seven county titles to their name – two more than Castlehaven for instance – but the last of those was achieved back in 1945. 

They have very much underachieved since, but have been showing serious signs of improvement of late.

Ballygiblin's Cathal O'Mahony takes a shot on goal despite Grangemockler Ballyneale's Leon Kennedy during the AIB Munster GAA Hurling Junior Club Championship - Grangemockler Ballyneale (Tipperary) 0-11(11) vs Ballygiblin (Cork) 2-10(16) at Semple Stadium, Thurles, Co Tipperary. Credit Diarmuid Brennan / Sportsfocus
Ballygiblin's Cathal O'Mahony takes a shot on goal despite Grangemockler Ballyneale's Leon Kennedy during the AIB Munster GAA Hurling Junior Club Championship - Grangemockler Ballyneale (Tipperary) 0-11(11) vs Ballygiblin (Cork) 2-10(16) at Semple Stadium, Thurles, Co Tipperary. Credit Diarmuid Brennan / Sportsfocus

They topped their Senior A hurling group in a tricky pot that included Cloyne, Mallow and Newcestown. 

They did come unstuck against an unplayable Sean Twomey in the semi-final, as he grabbed four goals for Courcey Rovers in their big win, but strides are certainly being made there.

They are also in the Senior A grade in football, so are a solid dual club right now. 

It would be great to see them contesting even higher grades in the coming years.

Shoot west and you soon hit Mallow, arguably the sleepiest giant in the whole county, and to their credit they appear to be awakening and making strides in both codes.

Their hurlers are a solid Senior A side at the minute, but still look a way off making the leap to the Premier Senior grade, although the recent victory by their minors in emphatically winning the minor hurling Challenge Cup might point to bright days ahead. In the other code the 2021 Senior A football win was a huge moment for the club, and a clear sign of the hard work being done in the town. With the 2021 minors also winning a county title the future would appear bright with the big ball too. The football championship in Cork is crying out for a club to come along and break the Barr’s, Nemo, Castlehaven stranglehold. Perhaps Mallow could be that club?

Youghal have fallen off a cliff in hurling in recent years, with them being relegated from the Premier Intermediate grade this year, but thankfully there are signs of green shoots in the proud east Cork hurling town. Their U15 and U17 hurlers enjoyed success in 2022 to show that there is a new generation coming through. It might be the end of this decade by the time the fruits of the hard work done to produce such successful underage teams bares fruit, but at least the future is looking bright again, after some very difficult years for the club.

It seems you are more likely to find an Olympic rowing medalist or a Munster rugby player than a Cork footballer if you walk down the main street of Skibbereen these days. O’Donovan Rossa and neighbours Dohenys are both now Senior A football clubs, and haven’t really been threatening to jump back up to the Premier Senior grade anytime soon. Given the reputation that west Cork football has it would certainly be a boost for Cork football to see them back at the top table in the near future, as quite simply if the tide rises for clubs like this then the Cork inter county sides are raised with them.

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