Ballygiblin can improve Cork's recent All-Ireland Club Junior Hurling record

Four of first eight winners were Leeside clubs but only one since 2011
Ballygiblin can improve Cork's recent All-Ireland Club Junior Hurling record

Mayfield players and backroom staff celebrate with the cup after their AIB All-Ireland Club JHC win over Mooncoin in 2017. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Ballygiblin will be aiming to become the sixth Cork club to etch their name on to the AIB All-Ireland Club JHC trophy as they take part in this evening’s final in Croke Park.

However, while the early history of the competition had a strong Leeside slant to it, in recent times Rebel victories have been rarer. It’s likely that is something which was a factor in the decision of Cork County Board to rename the Co-op SuperStores Cork Lower IHC as the Premier JHC a year ago – it meant that the winners of the fifth tier, i.e. the 49th-ranked club in the county, would be advancing to the Munster and All-Ireland series rather than junior A champions (ranked 61st since the restructuring of the championships in late 2019).

Ballygiblin players, from left, Mark Keane, Joseph O'Sullivan and Dean Barry try to show a replay on the big screen to referee Brian Keon during the AIB All-Ireland Club JHC final against Mooncoin last year. Pictutre: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Ballygiblin players, from left, Mark Keane, Joseph O'Sullivan and Dean Barry try to show a replay on the big screen to referee Brian Keon during the AIB All-Ireland Club JHC final against Mooncoin last year. Pictutre: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

It is the third straight season that there is Cork involvement in the final – Russell Rovers were beaten by Kilkenny’s Conahy Shamrocks in January 2020, just before Covid-19 took hold, and then, with no provincial club championships in 2020-21, Ballygiblin made it to the decider last year, losing out to another Noreside club, Mooncoin. It was Kilkenny’s third straight win, with Dunnamaggin having come out on top in 2019.

Now, the North Cork side are back on Jones’s Road, with Sligo’s Easkey the opposition, and they are aiming to become the first Cork club since Mayfield in 2017 to lift the silverware.

Coincidentally, it was Mooncoin that the northsiders got the better of six years ago.

First-half goals from Patrick Duggan and David Malone, sandwiching a green flag for Mooncoin’s John Fitzgerald, helped Mayfield to lead by 2-9 to 1-6 at half-time, but the Kilkenny side came back strongly in the second half. With two minutes left, the game was tied but Nicky Kelly, who had scored ten points up to that stage, produced the goods when Mayfield needed them most, landing a free in injury time to secure victory by 2-16 to 1-18.

Mayfield’s win, and that of Waterford’s Ardmore the following year, were the only punctuation to Kilkenny dominance across the seven finals from 2015-22 inclusive and the city club’s title was Cork’s first since Meelin in 2011.

Meelin's DJ O'Sullivan celebrates the club's 2011 All-Ireland win. Picture: Inpho/Ryan Byrne
Meelin's DJ O'Sullivan celebrates the club's 2011 All-Ireland win. Picture: Inpho/Ryan Byrne

Such was the pilgrimage from the Duhallow parish to Dublin that Mass was cancelled in the parish that weekend and the local priest gave his Sunday service at the team hotel instead. With God on their side, they got the better of Kilkenny opponents John Lockes on a scoreline of 0-12 to 1-5. Eamonn Brosnan contributed five of those points while Jeremy Curtin and DJ O’Sullivan were on the scoresheet too in the first half but Lockes had a boost with a goal from Ger Shelley just before half-time.

Meelin never looked like loosening their grip on the game though, especially with Brosnan in such fine free-taking form, and a long-range Brendan O’Sullivan point ensured that they came out on top.

At the time, it was a fourth Cork win in the eight seasons that the All-Ireland junior grade had existed and few would have expected that the next ten finals would have just one more win for the county.

Ballinhassig were the winners of the first running of the competition, beating Kilkenny’s Black And Whites in Walsh Park in May 2003. Diarmuid Duggan scored 3-2 in a 4-15 to 1-6 triumph, with Tadhg Coleman having netted with the Carrigdhoun club’s first score of the match.

There was no 2003-04 competition and Kilkenny’s Galmoy beat Oran (Roscommon) in Thurles in 2005 but since then, every final but one (Kickhams Creggan of Armagh beating Ballysaggart from Waterford in 2014) has been in Croke Park.

Fr O'Neills goalkeeper David Dorgan is congratulated by his six-year-old son Eoin at the end of the 2006 final. Picture: David Maher/Sportsfile
Fr O'Neills goalkeeper David Dorgan is congratulated by his six-year-old son Eoin at the end of the 2006 final. Picture: David Maher/Sportsfile

Fr O’Neills became the first Cork junior club to taste victory in Croker when they saw off Erin’s Own of Carlow by 2-16 to 2-10 in 2006 – coincidentally, they had beaten the Cork version of Erin’s Own in the Imokilly JAHC final the previous autumn.

Eoin Conway landed a first-half goal for O’Neills and John Flavin netted in the second half while Ger O’Leary produced a man-of-the-match performance.

The year that O’Neills won the county junior title, 2005, was Dripsey’s first in existence but, amazingly, they were the next Cork junior club to ascend the Hogan Stand, beating Tullogher-Rosbercon of Kilkenny in 2009.

Dripsey captain Diarmuid O'Riordan and David Foley celebrate after defeating Tullogher/Rosebercon in the 2009 All-Ireland Club JHC final. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Dripsey captain Diarmuid O'Riordan and David Foley celebrate after defeating Tullogher/Rosebercon in the 2009 All-Ireland Club JHC final. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Captain Diarmuid O’Riordan gave a tour de force in the final, scoring 1-9 in a 2-15 to 0-18 victory. David O’Sullivan got the other goal for the Mid-Cork side.

They are part of a select band of clubs – Ballygiblin will hope to become members this evening.

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