Cork hurler Mark Keane can now take next step after big win at Croker

Ballygiblin centre-back laid down an early marker for the North Cork side in the All-Ireland final
Cork hurler Mark Keane can now take next step after big win at Croker

Mark Keane of Ballygiblin shows his joy at Croke Park. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

A year ago when the hurlers of Ballygiblin returned to their dressing room after the AIB All-Ireland Junior Club Championship final it was a quiet and subdued place.

To lose an All-Ireland final is never easy but to lose by just one point makes it that bit harder to take. That is something that can eat you up or can be used to motivate you for the following season.

It’s easy to see what it did to Ballygiblin and it was a slightly different scenario in their dressing room after the All-Ireland final on Saturday. Have no doubt they will celebrate this win and they deserve every bit of those celebrations.

Croke Park glory for Ballygiblin. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane
Croke Park glory for Ballygiblin. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane

They have more or less been on the go now for two years without a break and they deserve great credit for this and the manner of their win over Easkey.

For those that may be wondering how they competed in the same grade at this level for the two years well the fifth tier had previously been known as the lower intermediate championship but the renaming meant that the winners went forward from Cork for the provincial junior championship.

That allowed Ballygiblin to retrace their steps and, go one further this year to take the glory.

So this win has been built on two years of non-stop hard work by all involved, from the players, selectors, and coach Ronan Dwane.

In Dwane, they have a true hurling man and one that has played a major role in seeing Ballygiblin become kings of the country.

Ballygiblin’s Sean O'Sullivan celebrates. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane
Ballygiblin’s Sean O'Sullivan celebrates. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane

The goal was a huge score and while it came early that was one of two telling moments in their victory.

Straight from the start Mark Keane picked up the ball and burst forward before slipping the sliothar to Darragh Flynn to rattle the back of the net. A couple of minutes later and a ball in from a free for Easkey was caught by Keane and again he burst out to clear the danger.

This was as telling as the goal as he was laying down a marker and letting the Sligo side know they weren’t going to get anything easy.

And that they didn’t as Ballygiblin fought for every ball with James Mullins doing a good job on keeping Easkey dangerman Andrew Kilcullen quiet.

It would be easy to say this is only a side from Sligo and no Cork should lose to a team from there, and it’s hard to argue against that. But remember that 12 of the Easkey side regularly start at inter-county level and Kilcullen was a Christy Ring All-Start last year. Two weeks ago, Sligo took on Roscommon in a competitive game, and the entire Easkey team took to the pitch to represent them.

That’s the standard of Easkey and even though Ballygiblin controlled most of the first half there were still a few dangerous moments that could have led to goals.

Joe McHugh pointed for their second score when he could have easily slipped in Kilcullen for a green flag and Rory McHugh shot aimlessly when Finnian Cawley had made a great run, again that could have easily led to a green flag.

But by half-time Ballygiblin were five points to the good and had one hand on the cup.

And in the second half, they made sure that they got two hands on the cup as they maintained their momentum led up front by the outstanding Joseph O’Sullivan.

Their midfield duo of Ryan Donegan and Killian Roche worked tirelessly from start to finish, covering every blade of grass at headquarters and behind them, Keane ensured their defence did the same.

Like all good sides defence starts in attack and on the occasions that they were needed they didn’t let their defenders. A small example was 50 or so minutes in and Easkey were on the attack and who popped up to clear the danger – full-forward Sean O’Sullivan.

That typified their display, everyone doing their bit to ensure the journey hope this time was one of celebration and not a reflection on a loss.

When you look at their stats over this season they have now not lost in 10 championship games and that simply has to be applauded.


So two years of hard work paid off for the club and credit must also go to their coach Ronan Dwane who stuck with them and he also got his just reward on Saturday.

After their loss last year to Mooncoin the entire squad and management posed together for a picture to signify that they win and lose as a group.

In that picture, they indicated how proud they were of all involved and their efforts over the season. Well, that picture this year will have an All-Ireland cup in it and will be all the sweeter.

Mention must all be made of their supporters and there mustn’t have been a person left in Ballygiblin as they cheered on their side to victory.

That plays its part and no doubt all will be celebrating for a few days and those celebrations are well deserved.

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