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‘The players didn’t want to go up junior A until they had won a county B title’

June 3rd, 2024 9:00 AM

By Tom Lyons

‘The players didn’t want to go up junior A until they had won a county B title’ Image
Goleen's Paidi O'Regan and Muintir Bhaire's Joe Egan in a race for possession during the McCarthy Insurance Confined JBFC tie at Ballydehob. (Photo: Paddy Feen)

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THE litany of county final defeats over the past five years is enough to sink a battleship but for gallant Goleen, each defeat only made them more determined than ever to land that elusive title.

As a junior B football team Goleen are entitled to play in two county championships: the confined championship for junior B clubs only and the open championship for the winners of the various divisional junior B championships.

Founded as a club in the 1950s, the men from the Mizen Peninsula have only a single county title to their credit, regrading to junior C in 2016 and winning that county title. That was to be the beginning of a real adventure for the side in black and amber as they reached the two county B finals in 2019, unfortunately losing both. In 2021, they lost the confined final to fellow-West Cork side, Randal Óg, but they were back for more in 2023 when, having lost the confined semi-final to St Oliver Plunkett’s by a single point, they went on to win the South West title and qualified for the open county final. Amazingly, misfortune again as they lost to city club Douglas.

Club chairman Dermot Sheehan has been through it all and can still smile about it.

‘When we won the South West title last season, that entitled us to upgrade to junior A. However, the players themselves weren’t happy. They felt they had unfinished business in junior B, that they didn’t want to go up junior A – although it would be a huge honour for us to play junior A – until they had won a county B title,’ Sheehan said.

‘We let the players make the decision themselves and the Carbery Board allowed us to stay down this season. There is a fierce determination in this team to go all the way this season and a win today means we will top our group and qualify for the knock-out stages. This team has been building for the past five years, some were part of all four lost finals and have something to prove.’

Manager Shane O’Neill takes the story further. O’Neill, a Bantry man, has football blood in his veins; he is son of the late, great Bantry and Cork mentor Terry, and brother of Bantry football legend Damien. O’Neill, and fellow-Bantry man, Donal McGrath, got involved last July.

‘Goleen lost the county semi-final to Plunkett’s by a single point last season and before the South West championship began, they approached Donal and myself to get involved, to try to get them that step further. We said yes and we won the South West final,’ O’Neill said.

‘Unfortunately, the county title eluded us when losing to Douglas in the final. The players themselves decided unanimously to stay junior B for 2024, to get the monkey off their backs, we didn’t influence them in any way. This is a special bunch of players, hugely committed and we got a great welcome from everybody in Goleen when we took over. Anything we want for the team, we get. It’s a great club and a great community.’

Keeping a club alive and thriving is no easy task when you’re situated on the most southerly peninsula in Ireland. There are many problems involved, one of the foremost being the distance the team has to travel to most matches, while numbers are always a problem in a club like Goleen and the trend isn’t getting any better.

‘We’re surviving at present, just about,’ explained Sheehan. ‘We’d have 25 players on the panel for the junior team and when you factor in injuries and players going abroad, it gets fairly tight. We have only one primary school in the parish, with about 30 pupils, so we don’t have an underage structure in the club. We have to combine with neighbouring clubs. ‘The population is probably on a downward trend right now, which will create major problems in the future and young lads going off to college are not too anxious to come back here to build and settle here.’

Holding onto players once they leave the peninsula for college or work is another major problem.

‘The answer to that problem is winning,’ said Sheehan. ‘If you’re winning, players want to be involved and will make the effort to come back to play. If you’re not winning, it is a big issue. It’s the chance of winning something substantial that keeps the club jersey alive. This panel is committed to winning that elusive county title, it’s a great goal, so there’s no problem in holding onto them.’

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