BY GER McCARTHY
THE West Cork Schoolboys and West Cork Leagues should be proud of their efforts following a successfully-run double-header at Turnerís Cross last weekend.
Refreshingly, a large attendance made the trip to Turner’s Cross, from Ardfield, Skibbereen, Drinagh, Kealkil and beyond, on the day the West Cork League’s showpiece event took place at a League of Ireland stadium for the very first time. The power of social media meant Diaspora from all four rural clubs were able to keep up to date on each of the cup final’s progress through Twitter and Facebook.
On the pitch, a mixture of raw emotions was evident on the faces of both senior cup final squads and management teams as they strode on to the Turner’s Cross playing surface ahead of kick-off.
For Bay Rovers manager Danny Peters, the pride at guiding his recently-relegated club to a Beamish Cup final was tempered by the loss of both of his parents in recent months whilst his captain, Brian Donovan, became a father only a few short weeks ago.
Keith Jagoe had already lifted numerous trophies in a sports career exclusively devoted to Drinagh Rangers. His co-managers, Don Hurley and Declan Deasy, had seen it all before during a lifetime dedicated to progressing the Canon Crowley Park club, both on and off the pitch, yet nothing quite like this.
Even though the final score suggests otherwise, Bantry Bay were more than a match for their opponents up until half-time in Sunday’s cup decider. Then, one of the smallest players on the pitch popped up to plant a header into the back of the net and kick-start Drinagh’s second half surge.
Thirty-eight year-old JJ Hurley got his name on the score-sheet, won the Beamish Cup final ‘Man of the Match’ award and walked off the Turner’s Cross pitch with a giant grin on his face when replaced late in the game. JJ has represented Drinagh since 1998, won numerous titles but his latest cup final performance showed there is life in the proverbial old dog yet.
At the opposite end of the age spectrum, Bay Rovers’ Jamie McSweeney (a full 18 years younger than JJ Hurley), Donal Casey, Eoghan McElhinney, Shane McSweeney and Jamie McSweeney showed why they will form the backbone of their club’s return to the top flight of West Cork League football.
Sunday’s curtain-raiser also deserves special mention as Ardfield and Skibbereen served up a cracking SuperValu West Cork Schoolboys’ U14 Cup opener, won by the Baltimore Road club. This year’s WCSL Kennedy Cup squad was well represented with thirteen squad members on the pitch, but it is the high quality of both teams’ football that will be remembered most.
Ardfield goalkeeper Jack Enright and Skibbereen net-minder Micháel Sheehy stole the show with terrific displays at opposite ends of the pitch. Yet, Sean Lawless, Peadar O’Rourke, Ciarán Santry (all Ardfield) plus Robbie Minihane, Jamie O’Driscoll, James O’Neill and Jack Kevane (all Skibbereen) underlined the growing strength of youths football in the West Cork region.
A day to remember at Turner’s Cross for all four clubs involved as well as the West Cork League and West Cork Schoolboys’ League.