Historic first SW hurling title for St Oliver Plunketts
AMIDST all the euphoria and delight following the game, the sheer magnitude of what was an outstanding achievement for a relatively small club took a while to register with the overjoyed St Oliver Plunkett's fans, mentors and team personnel.
Such are the vagaries of sport the disappointment and desolation of losing, while the exuberance and ecstasy of winning was easily evidenced in the mood within the two respective camps.
Dohenys had given their all to no avail in pursuit of that eagerly long sought title to bridge that forty-eight year gap, while debutants St Oliver Plunkett's had found their pot of gold at the end of the hurling rainbow in the shape of the famed Flyer Nyhan Cup at the very first occasion in a decider and the elegant speech of team captain Conor O'Driscoll portrayed what it meant to all and sundry.
Staunch clubmen like Con McCarthy, JJ McCarthy, Finbarr Walsh, Tom O'Dwyer, Henry Donegan, Ciarán McCarthy, Micheál Dullea, Jim O'Sullivan, Barry Ryan, the late Fin Collins RIP, Fr Eddie Collins, one of the great motivators of underage hurling in the club, and many others too numerous to mention had down the years witnessed the trials and tribulations of many a galling narrow defeat. Now was the time to let this day of days for the Magpies be forever etched in the memory of those privileged to witness it as young and old gave vent to joyous and understandable emotions of sheer delight.
When the bedlam died down a bit we corned a beaming JJ McCarthy who had given years of loyal service as a player and now as selector to the victorious team.
'This means everything to a small club like ours. I always think way back to 2002 when the late Micheál Holland RIP, that great Kilbrittain stalwart took us all the way to a county junior B hurling final. The following years when junior A hurling took over, it took us a while to get going at the higher level. We often had to play lads as young as 15 or 16 years to fill the gap, with limited personnel available. We frustratingly lost three semi-finals and today after nine years our great day has finally dawned.
'For me personally it is a lifetime dream come true. Our aim against the wind was to stay in touch up to the interval break and then drive on and fashion the winning scores. It would be remiss of me if I failed to mention our fantastic coach John Hurley, Ballymartle, who for the past two years has done an outstanding job, while the managerial ability of Donal Walsh has been paramount to today's success', concluded the affable JJ as he was swallowed up in the delighted throng.
The aforementioned and unassuming John Hurley was reluctant to hog the limelight but was obviously overjoyed that his charges had finally made it to the Promised Land. 'Personally this victory gives me great satisfaction.
Last year we experienced the heartbreak of losing to St James with a goal scored with practically the last puck of the game. We reformed and refocused at a meeting in January this year. They are a great bunch of lads to work with and showed passion and intense pride in the jersey and this is the culmination of all the hard work they put in.
'We are proud to represent Carbery in the county series and will pull out all the stops to ensure further success,' concluded a man that had that sense of achievement and satisfaction etched all over his countenance.
'There is nothing to beat hard work and dedication and during the past years these lads have been exemplary. We have been training since last January and now they get their deserved reward today by winning that elusive first title. For me personally the turning point was that first half goal. After a somewhat slow start we got right back on focus and once we got the necessary scores and built up a good lead I felt confident we would come good.
'I want to take this opportunity in joining in the tributes being paid to coach John Hurley from Ballymartle whose contribution to this marvellous win cannot be underestimated', declared experienced Finbarr Walsh, another of the Plunkett's backroom team of mentors, which is completed by former star Ciarán McCarthy.
The real star of the show, the multitalented Kevin Coffey was doing his best to extract himself from a legion of delirious adoring fans young and old, but finally had an opportunity to give us his thoughts on what had been a most memorable day for the Magpies who had come through the campaign in unbeaten mode, defeating Kilbree, Newcestown, O'Donovan Rossa, neighbours Clonakilty and now Dohenys to prove to all and sundry that they were justifiably monarchs of Carbery junior A hurling and were now appropriately enough being crowned beneath the shadows of picturesque Ballinacarriga Castle.
Over the moon
'I'm delighted, thrilled and over the moon that the greatest day and achievement in our history has at last dawned. I remember Kevin Fitzgibbon making a great save to deny Dohenys a goal at a vital stage in the first half. Soon afterwards Brian Walsh made a great drive down the right wing, passed to Conor (McCarthy) who buried a smashing opening goal for us. These were two vital turning points for me.
'Then in the second half our goalie again did the business and we seemed to go out of the game a little bit. But when Brian (Walsh) got that last goal I knew we had responded well and I felt reasonably happy we would win. Winning the West Cork was our goal and anything else will be a major bonus. Having said that, we will not take the county series lightly and hope to put Carbery hurling back on the map.
'We needed this win as our youngest player is about 22 years of age and I felt we achieved it thanks to a great hunger and commitment.' concluded the genial young Plunkett's star who has the world of hurling and football as his oyster and possesses a precocious talent to be successful at both.
A word too for the arrangements at this first class and picturesque venue which were superb with match programme, scoreboard, amplification, etc, all orchestrated by a small army of diligent stewards in perfect tandem.
So the carnival may be over, but for the history makers from Ahiohill the celebrations are just beginning. As we made our way back to Boot Camp we passed a virtual plethora of black and white flags en route signifying to all that the GAA is indeed unrivalled when it comes to great sporting occasions and days like last Sunday easily bring to mind that the grassroots are indeed its kernel and survival ethic for future years as they always have been.
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