PEOPLE speak in glowing terms of the ‘Spirit of Castlehaven’ and one only had to be present at the victory dinner of the GAA club in the West Cork Hotel on Saturday night last to realise what it really means.
There to celebrate the capture of the county senior football title for the fourth time in the relatively short history of the club were the present players, the past stars who built the legend, the mentors and the administrators who made it all possible and the people of the community, the supporters who give their all to the club.
Young and old, male and female, they rubbed shoulders and celebrated another marvellous achievement for such a small, rural parish.
Special guests on the night were award-winning journalist Eamonn Sweeney, who has made his home in the parish and is now an honorary Castlehaven man; Marc Sheehan, chairman Rebel Óg Cork; John Corcoran, chairman, SW Junior Board; and Ned Cleary, president of the club.
John Corcoran, in a free-flowing address in both Gaeilge and English, recalled the great achievements of the club in such a short space of time.
They had risen from winning junior B in West Cork in 1969 to beating the reigning All-Ireland club champions, Nemo Rangers, ten years later, 1979, and contesting their first senior final.
They had never looked back since, winning the county junior in 1976, the intermediate in 1978 and their first senior in 1989.
In that year they became the first club team from West Cork to capture the senior title since Clonakilty in distant 1952. It was an amazing achievement by such a small parish on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean.
They had retained their prime position in senior ranks, going on to win the county title in 1994, 2003 and 2012.
Special guest, Eamonn Sweeney, himself a Sligo man but living now in Castletownsend for some years, in a passionate address showed his great knowledge of the area, the club and the players.
He recalled the gloom at the end of 2011 when the final was lost to UCC and what a huge effort it took to get back again in 2012 to win the title.
It was edge-of-the-seat stuff all the way through the championship against Aghada, Newcestown, the Barrs and Duhallow.
Castlehaven as a club has always punched above its weight and continues to do so, he stated.
Sweeney paid a glowing tribute to manager, James McCarthy, one of the most underestimated GAA men in the county and didn’t forget the small army of volunteers behind the team.
The march to the title was like a crusade from the parish, led by clans such as the Collinses, Cahalanes, Hurleys etc, all one big, happy family.
The strength of the Haven was the manner in which past players stayed involved in the club and passed on their experience and knowledge to a new generation of players. Eamonn Sweeney also paid due tribute to Castlehaven’s Nollaig Cleary, who has captured seven All-Ireland senior football medals with the Cork ladies, as well as three All-Star awards.
Chairman, Christy Collins suitably replied to Mr Sweeney’s address. He pointed out that as well as winning the senior title, the club’s junior football team had its best season in many years and the U21 side had reached the SW final.
The first award of the night, the Castlehaven Hall of Fame Award was then presented and, the popular winner was club president, Ned Cleary.
Ned is rightly recognised as the man mostly responsible for bringing the footballers from junior B to senior in the 70s and as the founder of a dynasty of footballers, both on the club scene and his own family.
Ned has fulfilled every position in the club, including chairman, and played a huge part in provided top-class facilities at Moneyvolihane and Union Hall.
A Mayo man, who first came to Castlehaven as a Garda in 1962, Ned is now looked on as the father figure of the parish.
Marc Sheehan and Eamonn Sweeney then presented the county senior football medals to the players, who had been applauded into the dining room early on with a fanfare of trumpets.
Players who received medals included Paudie Hurley, David Limrick, Liam Collins, Tomas O’Leary, Roland Whelton, Damien Cahalane, Chris Hayes, Sean Dineen, Dermot Hurley, Stephen Hurley, Mark Collins, Alan Cahalane, Seánie Cahalane (captain), Brian Hurley, David Burns, Anthony Seymour, Mark Cahalane, Shane Nolan, Mike Dineen, Shane Hurley, Stephen Collins, Timmy O’Donovan, Dinny Cahalane, Daniel Hegarty, Darren Cahalane, Ian Cahalane, James Davis, Eoin Dennehy, Richie Collins, Kieran Hegarty, Patrick O’Brien, Liam O’Donovan, Niall O’Leary, Bobby Nolan.
Chairman Christy Collins then made presentations to the mentors, who led the senior team to the county title, and to their wives.
Included were James and Sinéad McCarthy, John and Helga Cleary, Brian and Eileen Collins, Niall and Ailish Cahalane, Mark and Marie Limrick.
Presentations of team photographs were made to the large group who formed the team behind the team, the catering staff, maoir uisce, logistics, statisticians, video, physio and sponsors.
Receiving presentations were Fidelma Hurley, John O’Brien, Jimmy Sheehy, Chris Collins, Anthony Hegarty, Seán Nolan, Barry O’Neill, Anthony Walsh, Junior Williamson, Martin O’Mahony, Dan Sullivan, Brendan Deasy, Finbarr Santry, John O’Donoghue, Liam O’Driscoll, Stephen Kearney.
The family award went to Paddy and Angela Hurley of Annie May’s Restaurant, chief sponsors of the club.
Not forgotten either were the executive members of the club, who put so much effort into the season and, also, into organising the banquet. Included were Christy Collins, Bernard Hurley, Dinny Harnedy and Batt Maguire.
Both team manager, James McCarthy, and team captain, Seánie Cahalane, addressed the gathering, thanking all those in the club for an unforgettable year.<
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