IT’S hard to believe that it’s been 50 years since the young lads of Dunmanway Vocational School won the county vocational schools’ senior football final after years of near misses.
There was great celebration in the school and the town of Dunmanway following their marvellous win in 1972 and plans are now afoot to bring the heroes and survivors of that historic win together for a reunion on Saturday next, October 1st at 5.30pm in the Parkway Hotel, Dunmanway.
The occasion is all the more nostalgic as the old vocational school no longer exists, having been replaced by the present state-of-the-art Maria Immaculata Community College.
Gaelic games flourished in the vocational school in the 1960s and 1970s under the careful eye of headmaster Sean Shorten, who got great assistance from the vice-principal Sean Lomasney, who served as chairman of the Carbery Junior Board from 1947 to 1957. Also running teams and helping out were David Mawe, an Innishannon GAA man, whose son Diarmuid attained legendary status as a goalkeeper with Dohenys and Carbery footballers, and teachers Sean Coughlan, John Crowley, Seamus Coakley, Jim O’Donovan and Maura (O’Regan) Cahalane.
The late John Crowley, outstanding Comhaltas man who owned a petrol station in Clonakilty, and Seamus Coakley of Castletownkenneigh, who was only in his first year of teaching and who went on to become chairperson of the Diarmuid Ó Mathúna club and the Carbery GAA Board, trained the team while David Mawe was outstanding at giving the pep-talks. Sean Coughlan, a woodwork teacher, had a nephew, Steve, in goal for the team.
The team wore maroon-coloured jerseys, and trained in the local Sam Maguire Park every Wednesday afternoon, which was PE half-day in those times. They travelled to games in Galvin’s bus and, of course, the craic was always mighty. Players from seven clubs made up the team, Dohenys, Randal Óg, Kilmeen, Drinagh, St Mary’s, Diarmuid Ó Mathúna’s and Kilmichael, but numbers of players were limited as the local secondary school, St Ronan’s, took many of the best players in the area.
It was over 20 years since the school had last won the title and when they lost three finals in six years in the late 1960s and early 70s, the feeling was growing that the elusive title would never be won again. In 1971, they came very close in the final against Kanturk. There was compensation that year when the senior B hurling team beat Macroom in Bandon to win the county title.
With only three of the 1971 team missing, Gerard Dullea and Sean O’Donovan of Kilmeen, and Colman O’Rourke of Dohenys, the teachers and players faced the 1972 season in high hopes. They were not disappointed when the school again qualified for the final. Opponents this time were Midleton Vocational School and the game in Bandon looked to be heading away from the Dunmanway lads when a top-class Midleton outfit led by 0-4 to 0-1. A vital change then saw midfielder Pat Buttimer switching to his favourite position at corner forward and, within minutes, he had the ball in the net twice as Dohenys led by 2-2 to 0-5 at the break.
When Midleton cut the lead to a single point in the third quarter, Dunmanway again looked in trouble, but a third goal from Noel Woods, one of two brothers on the team, did the trick in the 43rd minute. From then to the end the Dunmanway lads were safely in control. On a score of 3-6 to 0-8 Dunmanway were champions at last and a triumphant parade through the town was the highlight of their return home with the cup.
The victorious team included Steve Coughlan (Dohenys), Joe Crowley (Dohenys), Kevin McCarthy (Kilmeen), Liam Woods (Randal Óg), John Carroll (Dohenys), Jerome Crowley (Dohenys), Francis Crowley (Kilmichael), Denis Crowley (Dohenys), Pat Buttimer (Kilmichael), Ml. Fehily (Dohenys), Noel Woods (Randal Óg), Charlie McCarthy (Post Office)(Dohenys), Donie McCarthy (Dohenys), Charlie McCarthy (Castle St)(Dohenys) and Pat White (Randal Óg). Subs, Ger O’Leary (Randal Óg) and John Joe Murray (Dohenys).
The story goes that one of the players, John Carroll of Castle Street, later to acquire fame as an outstanding bowler, arrived in school that morning with no football boots, as his old pair were too small for him. There was consternation until the headmaster Sean Shorten hopped in his car, drove to his house in Sackville Street and arrived back with a shiny, almost-new pair of boots. They belonged to his son, Ben, an outstanding young footballer with Dohenys, who was to die tragically young from leukemia in his early 20s.
Early this year a group of people involved with the 1972 team got together and formed a committee which got the task of organising a reunion of the team. On the committee are Séamus Coakley (Diarmuid Ó Mathúna, Kevin McCarthy (Randal Óg), Seán O’Donovan (Kilmeen) and Donie McCarthy (Dohenys). Unfortunately, no copy of the 1972 winning team has been unearthed but the team photo of the 1971 that contested the county final contains most of the players from 1972.