TOP of the OBrienWaterServices.com Championship, Baltimore FC are eyeing a return to the West Cork League’s top tier in 2023.
Affectionately known as ‘the Crabs’, Baltimore’s climb to the summit of the league standings culminated in a 4-2 win away to Mizen Hob FC B last Saturday evening.
Brian Leonard, Stephen Leonard, Dan MacEoin and Jason Minihane were on target during their club’s ninth WCL Championship win in 12 outings. It was an important result, not least because it helped eradicate the memory of Baltimore’s solitary league loss to Courtmacsherry, two days into the new year.
So, where has this impressive form come from? Why are Baltimore in the mix alongside fellow title contenders Sullane, Drinagh Rangers B and (with games in hand) Beara United? What has the Crabs scampering up the league table and within touching distance of promotion to the Premier Division?
‘Obviously, we were hoping for a good year when we started out and I’m not sure anyone, including ourselves, expected us to be where we are today sitting top of the table,’ Baltimore club captain Kieran Lynch told The Southern Star.
‘It’s my first year as captain and thankfully things are going well so far. Everyone enjoys it when you are out winning games.
‘Seán McCarthy ran the club for pretty much the last ten or 12 years on his own. He kept the whole thing going really. Seán decided to step away this season and so four other lads took over – Jason Minihane, Brian Leonard, Kieran O’Driscoll and Adam Cotter.’
The new backroom team’s organisation, building on Seán McCarthy’s Trojan efforts, and a new coach in Shane Hurley, has seen Baltimore surge up the West Cork League Championship table.
A concentrated push to involve more players from the surrounding area, regular training sessions plus an impressive start has the Crabs firmly involved in the 2023 Championship title-race.
‘Baltimore had been struggling for numbers over the last number of years,’ Kieran Lynch admitted.
‘Some days, we couldn’t even field 11 players. That’s why getting Shane Hurley in as our new coach has been hugely important. Shane has a big coaching background and has brought a lot of organisation to the way we play as well as picking the matchday team. He has proven a massive addition.
‘The squad trains every Friday night. There are always good numbers at training even when a few of the lads are unable to make it because of college or work. Having 18 to 20 fellas available on game days has been the big difference.’
All those positive changes have resulted in Baltimore climbing to the top of the West Cork League Championship table.
Maximum points from their eight of their first ten league outings ensured the Crabs were amongst the division’s contenders. A solitary loss to Courtmachserry notwithstanding, Baltimore are in the mix for both promotion and title glory.
There are six league games to go, including crucial home and away clashes with Sullane, and Baltimore are within touching distance of success.
‘Promotion was the aim at the start of the season but now it is looking like ourselves, Sullane and Beara are probably the three teams capable of winning it [Championship],’ Lynch added
‘The Courtmacsherry result was disappointing but we had a fair few lads out sick that day. That’s why it was very important to bounce back against Mizen Hob and, thankfully even in the middle of driving hailstone, we won.
‘It would be great to get back up to the Premier Division again. We were there a few years back and want to use all the momentum we currently have to make that happen.’
A revitalised Baltimore FC is one of the stories of the West Cork League season and one likely to have a happy ending if the Crabs can maintain their current form.