FOUNDED in 1888, the Drimoleague GAA Club went through long years of lack of success before finally climbing the winner’s rostrum in the early 1940s.
Sometimes it was a full parish effort with Drimoleague and Drinagh coming together to form a football team and sometimes they fielded separate teams but their name fails to appear in the winners’ list until the world was in the throes of a war and Ireland was going through the ‘Emergency’ in the early 1940s.
In 1941 both Drimoleague and Drinagh entered separate teams in the junior A championship, which makes the success of Drimoleague that season even more remarkable.
From 1937 to 1940 Carbery Rangers dominated junior football in West Cork, winning the first four-in-a-row since the South West division had been set up in 1925. But a big surprise ensued when St Mary’s, with young Denny Slyne of Mount Melleray College starring, beat the reigning champions in the first round. The title was up for grabs.
In the meantime, Drimoleague managed to get on a winning roll with wins over Skibbereen and Bantry juniors. Their tactic of first-time, ground football, not bothering to pick up the ball, was proving very effective.
The final rested between Drimoleague, in their first-ever final, and Bandon but before that Drimoleague were nominated to represent the division in the county championship, the South West championship running late because of a series of objections.
The ‘Scorchers’, as Drimoleague were called in memory of a legendary past player Jack O’Mahoney in the early years of the century, met Bere Island in the county in Bantry. Bere Island were strong favourites and they duly obliged with a 5-10 to 0-2 win over the inexperienced Drimoleague men. Bere Island later lost the county final to Millstreet by 1-2 to 0-3.
It was another eight weeks before the South West final took place on a bitterly cold, showery November 30th in Enniskeane. The terrible conditions led to a lot of ground play, which suited the heavier Drimoleague men against a favoured Bandon outfit. The lighter Bandon combination held the upper hand in the opening 20 minutes but great defending, particularly by Collins and Casey, prevented any scores. The game was won and lost in the ten minutes before half time when Drimoleague, after missing a number of chances, suddenly found their range. Five unanswered points by PJ Crowley, S. Hourihane, Sean Leary, K. O’Donovan and D. O’Connell gave the Scorchers a lead of 0-5 to nil at the break.
Bandon did a lot of pressing in the second half with goalkeeper ‘Sandy’ O’Driscoll, Red Crowley, L. Kelly, Jones and Sean Crowley fighting hard, but their only reward was a point from C. Deasy. K. O’Donovan and C. McCarthy for Drimoleague fought a great battle with Jack Lane and Jer Collins of Bandon. With both defences well on top no further scores were registered, Drimoleague winning by 0-5 to 0-1.
The referee was Gus Keohane, the divisional secretary, from Enniskeane, who served 26 years in that position.
Drimoleague: J Forde (goal), J Collins, W Dineen, John O’Donovan, V Collins, V Casey (captain), P Twomey, Kevin O’Donovan, C McCarthy, D O’Connell, S Hourihane, J Forbes, E Forbes, S Leary, PJ Crowley.
Bandon: A ‘Sandy’ O’Driscoll (goal), L Kelly, Red Crowley, Con Harrington, C O’Brien, Sean Crowley, J Jones, Jack Lane, Jer Collins, P Quinlan, C Deasy (captain), D Harrington, PJ Murray, Lawrence Cummins, Ted Gabriel.
Bandon later objected to the eligibility of some of the Drimoleague players but the objection was ruled out at the meeting of the South West Board.
Having made the big breakthrough, Drimoleague went on to retain the title in 1942, beating Carbery Rangers in the South West final with only a single score over the hour, 1-0 to 0-2. In 1943, known as Rock Rovers, Drimoleague completed three-in-a-row in Carbery when they again accounted for Carbery Rangers in a replayed final, 2-1 to 0-4. Amazingly, Drimoleague, under their present name, Clann na nGael, did not win the junior A football championship again until 1981, their only other title to date.