BY GER McCARTHY
BALLYDEHOB will face Dunmanway Town in a play-off on Sunday to decide the 2019 West Cork League PremierHiSpecCars.com Premier Division title following a dramatic conclusion to the season.
A fortnight ago, Dunmanway Town and Drinagh Rangers’ final league fixture ended in a thrilling 1-1 draw. That outcome prevented the latter from retaining their trophy and saw the Mohona club finish level on points with Ballydehob.
All Ballydehob could do was keep tabs on the Town versus Rangers local derby via phone and social media knowing a draw would keep them involved in the tightest of title races.
Mike Helen’s side got the result they needed, something Ballydehob’s title-chasing manager believed was the likeliest scenario considering how evenly matched the three contenders have been.
‘I honestly believed Ballydehob were still in with a shout of the title before Drinagh played Dunmanway in their final game,’ Helen admitted.
‘Looking through the previous league results, the top three teams throughout the whole year were Drinagh, Dunmanway and ourselves. Look at the results between all three, all bar one were draws, which shows you how closely matched we were.
‘I just felt with two full-strength teams going at it, that Drinagh and Dunmanway couldn’t be separated to be quite honest. We were playing Clonakilty Town in a cup match at the same time but told the players to treat our game as a warm-up for a league title play-off.
‘The way things panned out, Drinagh going up 1-0 with 15 minutes to go, I’d admit that we did think it was gone at one stage. I always knew there was a goal in Dunmanway so a draw wasn’t a big surprise to us in the end.’
Looking ahead, the play-off decider is too close to call and should deliver another dramatic game before new champions are decided. Whatever the outcome, this past season has proven one of the most important in Ballydehob’s history considering the club went out of existence not that long ago.
‘Our target at the start of the year was to win the league even though a lot of the lads looked at me like I had two heads when I said it!’ Helen noted.
‘People forget that our club folded only three or four years ago. We re-entered Division 2 and came straight back up to the Premier Division following successive promotions.
‘Ballydehob was never actually relegated from the Premier. Ballydehob has won every West Cork League honour bar this Premier Division trophy. So to win the title would mean the world to the likes of Mark Cronin and Joel Davis, a guy who has been playing for 20 years.
‘Same is true for the management team Paddy O’Donovan and Michael Leonard. They looked after the team coming up through the divisions and it would be a just reward for all the time and effort they have put in too.
‘Becoming champions would mean everything to us. It would be huge for everyone living in and around the village as well. It might get them to support us a bit more as we look to develop our own pitch. The dream is still alive and, with the help of God, we will achieve it.’
Ballydehob warmed up for this Sunday’s game with a 5-2 win against Clonakilty AFC in a semi-final of the Premier Division Cup last weekend. Aidan Coughlan and Ryan O’Neill both scored twice with Donal O’Sullivan also on target. Alan Ward and Ian O’Driscoll both scored for Clonakilty.