Argideen Rangers last won the SW football championship 28 years ago at a rain-drenched Kilbrittain writes Tom Lyons
It’s hard to believe it’s all of 28 years since Argideen Rangers last captured the SW junior A football title.
We can still see the rain sheeting down in torrents, the Kilbrittain pitch slowly but surely becoming water-logged, players so covered in mud that they were almost unrecognisable.
Arthur Tobin going into a tackle and sliding 25m on his knees unable to stop himself. What should have been an unique ending to an amazing GAA year in Carbery, became a lottery between the referee, the weather, the pitch and the players.
Despite all that, we were served up a real thriller between two neighbours who had already met in the junior A hurling final.
In 1993, Argideen Rangers had won their first-ever SW junior A hurling title amid great excitement and, spurred on by that historic win, they decided to have a good lash off the football as well.
They were campaigning in B football at the time and the momentum carried them all the way to the county title, beating Killavullen in the final.
On top of their double duties, a number of their star players like Barry Harte, Mark Foley and Tony Crowley were involved with the Carbery senior hurling team that reached the county senior hurling final for the first time ever, agonisingly losing a replay by a single point to the Barr’s.
On to 1994 and what turned out to be the most amazing and successful year in the long history of the GAA in West Cork. For the only time ever, both senior titles came to the division as Castlehaven won the football in a double final for the ages against near neighbours O’Donovan Rossa, and the Carbery hurlers finally had their hour of glory, beating Midleton in the final.
Bantry Blues captured the county U21 football title, while Kilmacabea won the county junior B. And what of the SW junior A championships? The junior A football champions, Dohenys, had won the county title in 1993, so new champions would be crowned in 1994.
Argideen’s bid to retain their junior hurling title came unstuck in the final against arch-rivals Barryroe, who went on to contest the county final.
The Timoleague men were now campaigning in junior A, captained by Tadhg Crowley and containing no less than five Crowley brothers. Unfortunately, a series of draws and the success of the Carbery and Barryroe hurlers saw the championship brought to a shuddering halt.
Amazingly, just a year after huge controversy surrounded the nomination of a team to represent the division in the county championship, the Board was again unable to meet the county deadline and had to nominate a team to go forward.
By then Argideen had beaten an emerging Ilen Rovers in the first round, and then knocked out Clonakilty, Barry Harte kicking ten points.
In the semi-final, championship favourites, Tadhg MacCárthaigh, were beaten, young sub, Mikey Walsh, making the crucial difference.
Unfortunately, the other half of the draw was way behind schedule and Carbery again had to nominate a team to play in the county. Once more, there was controversy as the Board overlooked Argideen who were in the final and nominated Kilbrittain who had been the beaten finalists the previous season.
To their credit, despite their hurling commitments with Carbery, Kilbrittain reached the county semi-final, losing to Kiskeam. This again delayed the SW championship and when hurling champions, Barryroe, surprised Kilbrittain, holding them to a draw in the semi-final, visions of the SW final being played after the Christmas dinner were emerging.
The Barryroe men continued their amazing season when beating Kilbrittain in the replay and for the first time ever, the same two teams contested the junior A hurling and football finals in the one season. On the one side, you had Argideen Rangers striving to become the first team to win the SW junior B and junior A titles in successive years, with a mission to avenge their hurling defeat, and on the other, Barryroe, striving to achieve the rare double, football and hurling, in the one year.
The neighbouring clubs had developed a huge rivalry since the eighties when they featured in some classic minor hurling finals and there was huge interest in this unique final.
Manager of the Timoleague team was Peter Fleming and his co-selector was Victor Smith, with Mick Foley lending a hand with the training.
Chairperson, Joe Crowley, had five sons on the team, Declan and Séamus in the corner back positions, Ted in the half back line, Tony at midfield, and John in attack. Barryroe could boast the O’Regan, Tobin, McCarthy, Fleming, Walsh and Collins brothers.
And so dawned the fateful day at last, November 13. The rain lashed down from early morning and the wind howled. No way could the Kilbrittain pitch stand up to such a deluge but when the referee inspected the pitch a quarter of an hour before the game with the officers of the SW Board, to the amazement of all present, the match was declared on.
It wasn’t long before the waterlogged field, especially the top half, turned to a quagmire and how the players managed to play football, let alone serve up a thriller, beggared belief.
It was 0-3 to 0-2 in Barryroe’s favour at half time and level in the third quarter in a hectic, rain-drenched struggle. Two points from Batt Whelton seemed to swing the game in Barryroe’s favour but it was Argideen who finished stronger and, again, the introduction of young Mikey Walsh proved crucial as scorer supreme, Barry Harte, levelled the game with two frees.
Tony Crowley, play, and Harte, free, kicked the winning scores and it finished 0-7 to 0-5. History in the making and the heavens opening as chairman of the SW Board, Denis McCarthy, presented the famed “Little Norah” Cup to captain, Tadhg Crowley.
Years later we interviewed Argideen’s legendary warrior, Tony Crowley, about the famous win of 1994.
‘Being a small club, our panel of players was very tight and, in a way, that was an advantage as the players were expected to play both codes. We found it very easy to switch codes if we were beaten in one. Peter Fleming and Victor Smith were the men who were driving the football in the club at that time.
‘In 1993, we won our first hurling title and we also got a run in the junior B football and ended up winning the county. So, it was into junior A in 1994. Tadhg Crowley, no relation, was the captain and he was one of the few players who didn’t play hurling. The football championship was very dragged out that year because of Carbery hurlers and the fact that Barryroe and ourselves had also reached the hurling final. They took our hurling title off us that day and so, when we came face to face in the football final, we were determined to get our revenge’.
Argideen Rangers 1994 winning panel: Finbarr Walsh, Séamus Crowley, Mark Foley, Declan Crowley, Tadhg Crowley (capt.), Ted Crowley, John Dineen, Tony Crowley, Liam Harte, Noel Cashman, Barry Harte, Emmet Harrington, Niall Harte, Brendan O’Sullivan, John Crowley. Sub. Mikey Walsh. Also Michael Walsh, Seán Foley, Patrick Crowley, J.J. Deasy, Kevin Kelly, Gerad Lehane, Diarmuid Lawton, Niall Ryan, Martin Cunningham, Patrick Harte, Jim Foley, Aidan Harte, Michael Harte.