At a time of success in the present, St Finbarr’s are ensuring that the future is in good hands, too.
This Friday evening at the Barrs’ home of Neenan Park in Togher, Lord Mayor Cllr Deirdre Forde will launch the county hurling champions’ ambitious new plan to promote Gaelic games in the schools of the club’s catchment area.
Seeking to maximise involvement of young boys and girls in hurling, football, camogie and ladies’ football and help provide for the future of club teams, the development plan encompasses 14 schools, aiming to harness the community goodwill for the club and develop new pathways from its schools.
The initiative involves placing a ten-strong team of young coaches in the schools, to help support Gaelic games across all age groups with an initial focus on third and fourth classes as well as an expansion of Iomáint Cois Locha/Hurling by the Lough programme. A platform to train new referees is also planned.
Andrew Cromie, chairperson of the St Finbarr’s coaching and games development group, described more formalised links with 14 schools in the area as ‘a fantastic achievement’ while welcoming the input of Ryan’s SuperValu.
“Having the financial support of Ryan’s SuperValu has allowed us push ahead with putting the necessary infrastructure in place,” he said, “including young coaches and equipment and for that we are a very grateful.”
St Finbarr’s chairperson Denis Bohane – a former school principal and INTO president – feels that the development reflects the importance of the GAA in the community.
“Now, more than ever, young boys and girls need an outlet to enjoy physical activity,” he said.
“We are delighted that the 14 schools in our area have responded to the offer of support from our club and we look forward to working with each of these schools in the years ahead.”
The launch of the school development plan coincides with the return of Iomáint Cois Locha after a three-year absence due to Covid-19 restrictions. Cllr Mick Finn – Barrs senior hurling chairperson – was involved in resurrecting the leagues two decades ago with Donie Doolan and he is glad to see their return.
“It’s good to see the event back as it’s something the schools and particularly the young players missed,” he said.
“Now it will be opened up to several new schools in the Barrs catchment and this has to be good for the development of Gaelic games in Cork.
“People like Ivan O’Mahony, John Browne, Br Cusack, Denis Harrington, Donal Whooley, Plunkett Carter, Mick Sheehan, Tadhg Drinan, Noel Forde and others have also been involved throughout.
“The leagues had flourished in the 1950s and we restarted them when I worked as a schools coach with the county board, as a tournament to apex months of training and coaching in the local schools.
“It proved very successful, but faded in more recent years when it just became a once-off tournament for those competing. The likes of Cork hurler Damien Cahalane and last year’s winning captain Billy Hennessy played in the event and remember it fondly.
“I’m delighted that the Barrs coaching and games development committee will be taking it over from this year on, which will give it a new lease of life as it will sit as a key element of the overall coaching and development plan. A football equivalent, Peil Cois Locha, is due to start this autumn.”
For Hennessy, those formative years in Glasheen BNS remain a strong memory.
“Playing in these events were highlights of the school year,” he said.
“There was a strong sporting ethos in the school and Tim O’Neill, the new principal, managed the GAA teams. We were fortunate enough to win a number of Sciath na Scol medals and the Iomáint Cois Locha, where there was great rivalry and fun playing against our clubmates from other schools. Marching behind the band from the Lough Church to the pitch was a highlight and a number of those who played went to play at high levels with club and county.”
Mick Finn thanked all those who have volunteered and helped develop the event over the last two decades, including the Lough Credit Union which sponsored the tournament in recent years, McCarthy’s Butchers (The Lough), The Echo, Cork City Council, Ballyphehane Pipe Band, bagpiper Norman O’Rourke, the community gardaí and Canon Hegarty in the Lough Church.
Liam Ryan, CEO of Ryan’s SuperValu, said: “We have been involved with the Barrs for several years now through various methods and successes. We are delighted to see that relationship developing, with the launch of this new and exciting schools’ development programme.”