Bantry v Castlehaven should be a real cracker
By Philip O'Regan
THE South West U21 A Football Championship final between Bantry Blues and Castlehaven is on this Sunday afternoon, April 15th, at Aughaville, with throw-in at 3 o'clock.
A SW U21 A football title would be a huge boost to the Bantry club as they celebrate their 125th anniversary this year, and their form in the championship would suggest that they have the wherewithal to pull it off. However, one mighty obstacle stands between them and their first title in fifteen years and that is Castlehaven. The Haven are always formidable opponents and this team has quite a bit of experience.
This final has all the ingredients to be a great game, in a competition that has served up some outstanding football in recent years
In this year's championship, both sides had byes in the first round and so went straight through to the quarter-final stages. They have been impressive in their respective paths to the final and both have particularly potent forward lines.
In their quarter-final victory over a young Newcestown side, Bantry clocked up 3-11 with David Power, 1-5, and Ruairí Deane, 1-4, doing most of the damage. What was evident in this game though was the physical strength of the Blues they are a big, strong side with a spread of very fine footballers.
In the semi-final, Bantry saw off last year's SW and county champions, O'Donovan Rossa. This was very tight, with Blues winning by just a point, 1-10 to 0-12, and they showed that when the pressure was really on, they were up to the challenge.
Blues are in the final on merit and if their big men, particularly team captain Mark Delaney and Ruairí Deane around the midfield area, can win enough possession and cut off the supply to the Castlehaven inside forward line, they could be in business.
Richard Harrington is manager of this team, with selectors Richard Lynch, Danny Murray and Patrick Collins.
In their quarter-final clash against Dohenys, Castlehaven had to dig deep for their 1-8 to 1-5 win. A point down nearing the end, Brian Hurley shot over three quick points to swing the game Haven's way. Hurley accounted for 1-6 of his side's tally, and he has been in outstanding form this season.
In their semi-final tie against Clonakilty, Castlehaven again left it late and needed a late surge to see off a strong Clon challenge by 1-14 to 1-9. Brian Hurley was again the main man, scoring 1-9, but many of the Haven's best moves emanated from a strong, attacking half back line of James Davis, Damien Cahalane and Bobby Nolan.
There's no doubt that a big part of Bantry's game plan on Sunday will be to cut off the supply of ball to Brian Hurley in the Haven full forward line. And there's no doubt that if they are to win, they will have to do this successfully, but this Haven side is far from a one-man show. They have quite a few very experienced players who were involved with the club's senior panel in last year's campaign that brought them to a county final.
Jack Nolan captains this Haven side and the selectors are Niall Cahalane, Michael Maguire, Francis Collins, Tom Leonard and Dan O'Sullivan.
Mike Dineen's battle with Mark Delaney at midfield will be crucial. Brian Hurley is in inspired form and can be a match-winner any day, but Bantry have their own ace in the pack with David Power and he will equally be a handful for the Haven defence.
This final has all the ingredients to be a great game, in a competition that has served up some outstanding football in recent years. It should pull the crowds to Aughaville.
Castlehaven, SW and county champions in 2010, may have just enough experience to give them a slight edge.
It's fifteen years since Bantry last lifted the Liam Farr Cup in 1997, and that was the last time they appeared in a final. Andy O'Shea captained that star-studded Bantry team. They beat Dohenys in the final by a point, 0-11 to 0-10, after a replay. Three of that side, goalie Des McAuley, Andy O'Shea and a sparkling Philip Clifford played with the Cork U21s that year. Also, at corner back was a young Cork minor who was to go on to become a household name. That was Graham Canty. Richard Harrington, manager of this year's team, and selector Richard Lynch were also on that side.
We also remember that in 1997 Blues were a senior club and in the championship that year pulled off a superb victory over Nemo in the first round in a memorable game at Moneyvoulihane by 2-9 to 1-11, only to be beaten by Na Piarsaigh by a point the following week in round 2.
It's almost inconceivable that Blues, once regarded as the aristocrats of this grade in the SW, have gone so long without appearing in a final, not to mind winning the title. It coincides with a particularly lean period, based on their own previous high standards at underage. However, a concerted effort to improve their stock at underage level by the Blues over the past few years and to restore some of the glory of former years is beginning to bring results. In 2011 Bantry won the Rebel Óg, West Region, Minor A League, beating Ilen Rovers in a terrific final. Also, last August, Blues U14s bridged a 23-year gap when they won the SW U14 Championship with a fine display against Ahán Gaels in the final, so the work is bearing fruit.
Interestingly, two great Blues GAA men who have since passed to their eternal rewards, Paddy Minihane and Henry Deane, were very involved in coaching many of this U21 team up through the underage ranks.
Bantry have eight SW U21 A football titles to their name, winning in 1972, 1978, 1979, 1989, 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1997, and won the county twice, in 1993 and 1994.
Since Blues last appeared in a final in 1997, the Haven have been SW champions three times, 1998, 2007 and 2010 and, interestingly, they went on to win the county title on each of those occasions.
The Haven have seven SW U21 A titles to their credit, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1998, 2007 and 2010, and have won the county on five occasions, 1981, 83, 1998, 2007 and 2010.
On that team that won their first title in 1980, captained by Seamus Deasy, were players like Michael Maguire, Niall Cahalane, Michael Burns and John Cleary who were to go on and contribute so much to their club and county over many years subsequently.
Indeed, two of those, Michael Maguire and Niall Cahalane are selectors for this year's team.
- Heartbreak as Deane sidelined by cruciate injury
- West Cork roads at crisis level
- Dive search for missing Dutchman this weekend
- In this week's Southern Star
- Public shut out of popular Gougane Barra amenity
- Salmon farm 'wipe-out' in Bantry Bay?
- Bantry's Brian Casey a runner-up in Le Crunch competition
- Ukraine crisis:Guardian cartoon has Skibbereen Eagle still keeping an eye on'Czar'
- Severe storm causes deaths of thousands of farmed salmon
- Irish Water facing litigation, warns 'Girl Against Fluoride'