Sport

A gathering of GAA greats

February 23rd, 2016 8:30 AM

By Southern Star Team

Legends: The Courcey Rovers team that won the South West junior A hurling championship in 1968.

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BY TOM LYONS

DID you play hurling or football in West Cork in the 1950s and 1960s? 

If you did then a welcome awaits you at a get-together of players next Wednesday, February 24th, in the GAA Pavilion in Ahamilla, Clonakilty at 3pm.

The get-together is the brain-child of Liam Hurley of Courcey Rovers, who, before Christmas, began to think of all the fine players he had met on the playing pitches over 50 years ago, many of whom he had never met since. 

The idea of a get-together was born and he has been working on contacting as many former players as possible since then. The response has been excellent from the veterans of the 1950s and 1960s and it should be a great afternoon of nostalgia in Ahamilla on Wednesday next.

Gaelic games in Carbery were going through a rough patch in the early fifties, recovering from the ‘Emergency’ and the World War of the 1940s, only to be hit with a wave of emigration that stripped many clubs of their best players.

Bandon and Clonakilty were the dominant clubs in the division entering the 1950s, with Clon coming to the end of a golden era in both football and hurling that lasted all through the 1940s. 

It is hoped to have some of those Clonakilty players, like Connie ‘Doc’ O’Brien, at the get-together. Bandon won four South West junior football titles in a row in the early fifties, as well as a county title, and also won the county intermediate hurling title, fielding senior teams in both grades in the late 1950s.

One great success story of the 1950s was the emergence of newly-formed Courcey Rovers from Ballinspittle/Ballinadee in junior hurling. From the formation of the South West Division in 1925 to 1950, the dominant hurling clubs were Kilbrittain, Bandon, Clonakilty and Skibbereen but the arrival of Courceys changed the hurling landscape in West Cork. 

One of their great stars Chris Corcoran is probably the record holder as regards South West junior hurling medals and should be present on Wednesday.

 

Dominated

Dohenys dominated the junior football scene in the second half of the 1950s, winning four South West titles in a row and re-entering the hurling lists by winning back-to-back titles in 1958 and 1959, preventing Courcies from winning a remarkable six in a row in 1958.

The 1960s saw the arrival of a new force in the South West when the Newcestown club was formed and they made a huge impact in both codes. 

In football in the first half of the 1960s, Clon being the only senior team in Carbery, it was re-graded, with Bandon, O’Donovan Rossa, Dohenys, Newcestown and unlucky Ballinascarthy vying for honours and producing some marvellous battles on the junior fields of West Cork. 

Denis O’Donovan, the O’Neill twins, Dermot O’Donovan, the Davises, Bob Evans, the Youngs, Johnny Carroll, John Crowley, the Kehilys and Collinses, Dan Murphy, etc, were the players who thrilled the crowds in those great years as the standard of junior football in the division was as high as the senior grade today.

In hurling, the Flyer Nyhan Cup was introduced in 1961 and Courceys, Newcestown, Clon and Dohenys spared no timber in search of glory. 

The Nyhans, Chris Corcoran, Liam Hurley, Jim O’Reilly, Sam Tanner, Connie O’Brien, Flor Hayes, Dermot Kehily, Mackey Collins, Jerry O’Callaghan, the Lyonses, Pat Cronin, Mick Farr and many more were fine hurlers, who would hold their own in any grade today.

The second half of the 1960s saw Bantry Blues emerge from a long slumber in junior football, powered by the great duo of Donal Hunt and Declan Barron, along with Dan Dineen and Tom Conway, while Dohenys and Newcestown, after some memorable battles, upgraded to intermediate. 

Ballinascarthy, with Dan Murphy and young Teddy Holland to the fore, were again the unlucky side in those years but earned everybody’s respect.

In hurling, Courcey Rovers and Newcestown were out on their own as they shared five titles to end a wonderful decade of hurling and football on the playing pitches of West Cork.

It is hoped that as many of the players who graced the playing fields of West Cork during those two decades will be in attendance in Ahamilla on Wednesday afternoon, at 3pm.

It is an open house for any supporters, who would like to shake the hands of those great players again.

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