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Bunratty United can’t wait for Premier Division return after terrific treble success

July 7th, 2022 11:30 AM

By Ger McCarthy

The Bunratty United team that defeated Drinagh Rangers 2-1 to claim the West Cork League Parkway Hotel/Maybury’s Coaches Cup.

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BUNRATTY United brought the curtain down on an amazing season by defeating Drinagh Rangers for the 2022 West Cork League Parkway Hotel/Maybury’s Coaches Cup.

A 3-1 defeat of Premier Division champions Drinagh recently was the icing on the cake for an emerging Bunratty team.

The Schull club was relegated from the Premier Division in 2020 when, struggling at the bottom of the table, they failed to fulfill all their fixtures and were demoted.

This past season has proven a welcome renaissance. Under long-serving Dan McSweeney’s management and injected with a crop of U19 WCL League winners, Bunratty claimed a terrific treble – the West Cork League Championship, Championship Cup and Parkway Hotel/Maybury’s Coaches trophies.

Bunratty’s latest triumph saw Conor Brosnan and Colm Cleary find the net in a 2-1 win over Drinagh. Keith Jagoe replied for the Canon Crowley Park club.

Make no mistake, United are back in the big time on the back of three richly-deserved trophy triumphs.

‘The whole thing folded in 2019 when results went against us and that’s just the way it goes in the West Cork League sometimes,’ Dan McSweeney told The Southern Star.

‘Interest was lost, we couldn’t field a team and we had to pull out. In terms of bouncing back, it was a simple case of interest in the club growing throughout the summer of 2020. Then, we played one league fixture at the start of the 2020-2021 season before Covid stopped everything.

‘A big part of getting things going once again was the U19 fellas coming through. Also, the West Cork League ran cup competitions during Covid. We managed to win the First Division Cup in Turner’s Cross and gave a great account of ourselves in the Beamish Cup as well.

‘That helped maintain interest. We had a big squad available this season, regularly getting 17 or 18 players to tog out. That makes a huge difference. We had enough to be competitive again.’

Bunratty claimed the WCL Championship Division trophy on the back of 16 wins from their 20 league fixtures, scoring 58 goals and edging runners-up Castletown Celtic by four points.

Most tellingly, United possessed the league’s best defence, conceding a paltry 11 goals. To underline the importance of that statistic, Bunratty did not concede a single goal when adding the Championship Cup to their trophy cabinet.

‘We had a strong defence throughout the season with Sean Kelleher’s return from Australia proving hugely important for us,’ the Bunratty manager commented.

‘It is hard to pick out one player though because everyone in the Bunratty squad has genuinely contributed to our promotion. As manager on the side-line, what made life easier for me was having three elder statesmen – Colm Cleary, Eoin Kelleher and Ger Sweeney – help organise the team. They were happy to give any young fella a chance but as it turned out, towards the end of the season especially, they were three of our most important players.

‘We last won the Championship back in the 2017-18 season. Colm Cleary played that year and it looked like it might have been his final season. He is now the other side of 40 but in 2022, had one of his best seasons for Bunratty United.’

But amidst the Schull club’s successful revival, there was also a heart-breaking loss. Dan McSweeney lost a great friend as well as one of United’s unsung heroes when Martin Briscoe passed away in October of 2021. 

There’s no doubt Bunratty would not be a functioning West Cork League club today without Briscoe’s heroic off-field efforts.

‘Martin Briscoe was the godfather of Bunratty United since it all started back in 1987,’ McSweeney said of his great friend.

‘Apart from being great friends with Martin, he was a huge club man. He lived for Bunratty United. All the trophies we have won over this past year are in his honour. Have no doubts about it, the club wouldn’t be where we are right now without Martin Briscoe and everything he did for us.’ Returning to the WCL Premier Division will not be easy but a new-look Bunratty side has been here before and is more than capable of holding its own.

‘If the panel of players that won us promotion sticks together and we add a couple more, of course we can hold our own,’ McSweeney said.

‘Bunratty has a couple of 17 and 18-year-olds amongst the squad who can flourish in the Premier Division, I’m convinced of that. James McKnight is one of those young players and he, like the other players who have joined the senior team, are a joy to watch.

‘Eighteen-year-old Conor Brosnan is another player who can do well for us this year too. Conor scored 23 goals and was a huge part in helping us win the Championship. His brother Mark is another to watch out for. I have to mention our shirt sponsors James Lyons O’Keefe Estate Agents and Gavin McCarthy Farm Machinery Sales, who have been brilliant to our club.’

Bunratty United will be a welcome addition to the WCL top tier when the action resumes later this year. One of the region’s most recognisable names have earned their spot following their triple trophy-haul.

Bunratty United 2022 squad: Lorcan O’Brien, Nick Cole, Sean Kelleher, Shane Bowen, Danny McSweeney, James McKnight, Darragh O’Shea, Conor Brosnan, Eoin Kelleher, Jake Coughlan (captain), Cathal Newman, Mark Brosnan, Finnian Hogan, Sean Evans, James O’Regan, Colm Cleary, Ger Sweeney, Martino Santandero, Shane McSweeney, James O’Reilly, Aidan McCarthy, Milan Vearncombe, Callum Howard, Pa Sheehan, Oisin O’Donovan, Daniel Newman, Conor O’Driscoll, Conor Newman, Damien Hegarty.

 

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