Ballygiblin look to benefit from Croke Park factor with huge crowd behind them

Unique circumstances see North Cork club in All-Ireland final for second straight year
Ballygiblin look to benefit from Croke Park factor with huge crowd behind them

Ballygiblin's goalscorer Darragh Flynn shoots against Horeswood at Fraher Field, Dungarvan. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Ballygiblin will be hoping that familiarity will breed contentment at Croke Park this evening.

More often than not, a club reaching an All-Ireland junior or intermediate final will have to deal with the novelty of playing in Croke Park for the first time and all of the positives and negatives that come with that. However, Ballygiblin are an exception.

A change in approach from Cork County Board meant that the North Cork club progressed to the AIB Munster Club JHC after winning the 2022 Co-op SuperStores Cork Premier JHC – having represented Cork in 2021 in the wake of their JAHC triumph.

It means that, after seeing off Grangemockler-Ballyneale (Tipperary), Waterford’s Colligan, St Kieran’s of Limerick and Horeswood from Wexford, they are in the All-Ireland final again, up against Easkey of Sligo at 5pm.

Cathail O''Mahony of Ballygiblin at Croke Park ahead of today's AIB All-Ireland Club JHC final against Easkey of Sligo. Picture: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Cathail O''Mahony of Ballygiblin at Croke Park ahead of today's AIB All-Ireland Club JHC final against Easkey of Sligo. Picture: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Forty-nine weeks ago, they lost out by just a point against Kilkenny side Mooncoin in the decider and, though that was disappointing at the time, nine championship wins since then have been the perfect response.

Now, manager Ronan Dwane hopes that they can make the most of their second appearance at GAA headquarters.

“The fact that we were there last year, it means that that giddiness and excitement and expectation of going to Croke Park isn’t there,” he says.

“It’s more business-like this year, it’s more concentrating on the game – not that we didn’t concentrate on the game last year but, when you drive up on the bus, you won’t be as excited as you were last year.

“We’re in the same dressing room, same side of the field, everything is going to be the same so we have that familiarity from last year.

“We’ll try to take the experience of turning up and performing in an All-Ireland final, which we did.

“While we were beaten, we performed very well and lost out to a very good team. We’ll focus on trying to perform again and getting a very good start.”

REFRESHED

Apart from Colin English, who is a long-term injury, Ballygiblin report a clean bill of health. After the All-Ireland semi-final win over Horeswood in Fraher Field on December 18, they took a break for Christmas but have been back training for more than a fortnight.

“We took 10 days off and came back on December 28 and trained away since,” Dwane says.

“We played MTU on January 3, we had a good game with them. We’ve just knuckled down and trained away.

“It’s going to be a big challenge, they’re an excellent team. I know people might think they’re underdogs because they’re from Sligo but they have ten of the Sligo starting team that’s playing in the Christy Ring Cup and that’s a fair standard.

“We’re under no illusions, that if we don’t give our best performance of the year, we won’t be winning it. They’re going to be better than any team we’ve played all year.

They’ve some serious forwards, who’d be on most teams.”

All through the season, Ballygiblin have shown themselves to be conscientious in ensuring that every opponent is given a full level of respect.

“We focused on that, about not taking anything for granted or not overlooking anyone,” Dwane says.

Ballygiblin manager Ronan Dwane on the sideline. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Ballygiblin manager Ronan Dwane on the sideline. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

“The game where we were most lacking in intensity was probably the Grangemockler game after the county final.

“You know when you win a county, it’s a big high and that was a bit of a warning shot to us. We really knuckled down then for the Colligan game and the St Kieran’s game and the All-Ireland semi-final after.

“We really had a good focus the last six or seven weeks – since the Grangemockler game, really.”

They will look to take that one final step further and Dwane is once again heartened by the fact that, as ever, there will be a large number of supporters making the trip up to M8 to Drumcondra.

“There’ll be a huge crowd there,” he says, “it really is like a 16th man.

“We’ve a huge support and it’ll be no different on Saturday.

“This will be the best team we’ve played all year and we’ll need that support behind us and to be at our best.”

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