Can Kilmacabea end their wait for West Cork glory?

April 15th, 2017 1:00 PM

By Southern Star Team

Magic trick: St Colum's Alan O'Connor uses one hand to control the ball against Kilmacabea in their 2016 South West JAFC round one game. Both teams are among the front runners for this year's championship that throws in this week.

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Forget the Grand National, the most unpredictable race in sport is the South West JAFC. TOM LYONS gazes into his crystal ball and picks the top ten teams in the hunt for the Mick McCarthy Cup

Forget the Grand National, the most unpredictable race in sport is the South West JAFC. TOM LYONS gazes into his crystal ball and picks the top ten teams in the hunt for the Mick McCarthy Cup

FOR the second year in a row the champions are gone, the South West junior A football title is up for grabs and as the season gets underway there are no clear favourites in view for the Mick McCarthy Cup. 

For the past two seasons the South West champions, Bandon in 2015 and Gabriel Rangers in 2016, have won the county title and been promoted to intermediate. 

While this is a positive sign of the high standard in the junior A football in Carbery, it is also a great opportunity for all the other teams left in the championship. 

While there are no clear favourites for the title this season, half a dozen teams having realistic expectations of ultimate glory, we have attempted once again to name the top ten candidates for the Mick McCarthy Cup, from the 18 teams taking part.


1. KILMACABEA – They have never won the junior A football title, losing their only final to Bandon in 2015. Their present team is fully capable of breaking their duck in the championship, especially having won the U21B championship a couple of weeks ago.

Club colours: Green and gold.

Location: Leap, Glandore and Connonagh.

2016 season: Lost to eventual champions, Gabriel Rangers, in the semi-final.

Player to watch: Damien Gore, Cork minor.

Round 1 opponent: Diarmuid Ó Mathúna.

Prediction: They should have too much for Mathúnas in the first round and that will take them into July and the kind of dry pitches they like. This could definitely be the year they finally reach the Promised Land in junior A, having lost to the eventual champions for the past two years.


2. ST COLUM’S – They seem to be at the top forever, winning their sole title in 2013 and deserving more than one crown for their efforts. Their tough, no-nonsense football has been refined in recent seasons and they have probably the best defence in the championship. Having lost both finals, football and hurling, last season, they will be on a mission of atonement but their decision to again have a cut of both titles may not help their cause.

Club colours: Orange and black.

Location: Kealkil.

2016 season: Lost the final to Gabriel Rangers.

Player to watch: Eoin O’Sullivan, corner forward.

Round 1 opponent: St James’.

Prediction: They start each year with one hand on the Mick McCarthy Cup and are never far away when it’s being presented. They have a tough opener against an in-form St James’ but can again be expected to reach at least the semi-final. Potential champions.


3. TADHG MacCÁRTHAIGH – They have slipped somewhat in recent seasons but any team that contains three Cork senior footballers can’t be ignored. The overall balance of the team may be suspect and they still seem to be short of quality minors coming through, something they were never missing in the good days. If their fringe players can step up a gear, they will be close to the top again this season.

Club colours: Red and yellow.

Location: Parish of Caheragh.

2016 season: Lost the semi-final to St Colum’s.

Player to watch: Brian O’Driscoll.

Round 1 opponent: Ilen Rovers.

Prediction: Should get over Ilen’s second string in Round 1 and a semi-final berth is attainable. Will need to spread the team load if ultimate honours are to be achieved.


4 ST OLIVER PLUNKETT’S: One of the most established squads in the championship with many of their stars approaching veteran stage. But there is no substitute for experience and the Ahiohill lads have in spades. Never easily beaten, they are capable of beating any team on their good days but inconsistency and most of the players being also committed to hurling doesn’t help the small panel.

Club colours: Black and white.

Location: Ahiohill in the parish of Enniskeane

2016 season: Lost quarter-final to Kilmacabea.

Player to watch: Sean O’Donovan, corner forward.

Preliminary round opponent: Barryroe.

Prediction: If they fail to beat Barryroe, they will meet Muintir Bháire in Round 1 and will also be guaranteed a Round 2 game even if they lose that. It’s set up for them to get a good run, but, no doubt they would prefer to get to Round 3 by beating Barryroe. The quarter-final is the least they will expect.


5. ST MARY’S – Quiet since winning their fifth title in 2014, they have regrouped well since losing their iconic chairman John Corcoran last year. A side with plenty of potential, they don’t always deliver what they promise but still have many of the players that lifted the title in 2014. A few good minors are also coming through but amalgamating at U21 level with neighbours Mathúna’s didn’t help this season, being well-beaten by Clonakilty.

Club colours: Black and amber.

Location: Ballineen/Enniskeane.

2016 season: Lost to St Oliver Plunkett’s in Round 3.

Player to watch: Brian Everard.

Round 1 opponent: Castlehaven.

Prediction: Too good a side not to figure strongly with the title up for grabs, if they can get properly organised off the pitch, then they will be a serious force on the pitch as well. Could make the semi-final where they would enjoy mixing it with the big guns.


6. ST JAMES’ – Top of the league for the second year in a row, St James’ are due a good run in the football championship as they look for their first junior A title. Injuries and players going abroad for the summer have repeatedly played havoc with their chances but there is a determination about them this season that we haven’t seen with a long time. 

Club colours: Green and gold.

Location: Ardfield/Rathbarry.

2016 season: Lost to St Oliver Plunkett’s in Round 2.

Player to watch: Aaron Hayes, forward.

Round 1 opponent: St Colum’s.

Prediction: A really tough opener against St Colum’s but using the backdoor is nothing new to the Mountain lads and they will be determined to make up for a disappointing 2016. A quarter-final spot could lead to something better this season.


7. KILMEEN – The dark horses for the title this season. Having won their first junior A hurling title last season, they may well turn their attention now to the football, hoping to build on the county junior B success of a couple of years ago. They have possibly the best young squad of players in the division.

Club colours: Blue and white.

Location: Rossmore/Ballygurteen.

2016 season: Lost to Kilmacabea in Round 3.

Player to Watch: Liam O’Brien, defender.

Round 1 opponent: Clann na nGael.

Prediction: Clann na nGael are an unknown quantity right now but developing Kilmeen should advance and if they get on a run, hurling aside, they are a good bet for at least a semi-final spot.


8. BALLINASCARTHY: After a few years in the football doldrums, Ballinascarthy have shown clear signs of improvement in recent seasons. A good group of talented U21s is coming through and if they are not side-tracked by hurling, they could be a threat this season. They haven’t won the title since 1983.

Club colours: Red and white.

Location: Ballinascarthy/Pedlar’s Cross.

2016 season: Lost to St Colum’s in the quarter-final.

Player to watch: Sean Ryan, midfielder.

Round 1 opponent: The loser of Carbery Rangers v O’Donovan Rossa.

Prediction: If they continue to improve and really put their minds to it, they can at least repeat last’s year’s performance by reaching the quarter-final. 


9. CARBERY RANGERS – At least one of the second teams has a good run in the championship every year and right now county senior champions Carbery Rangers look the best bet. They will have at least a dozen players who played senior last year available for the early rounds of the junior and have some fine underage talent coming through.

Club colours: Green, white and yellow.

Location: Rosscarbery.

2016 season: Lost to Ilen Rovers in Round 2.

Player to watch: Sean O’Neill, forward.

Round 1 opponent: The loser of Carbery Rangers v O’Donovan Rossa.

Prediction: Ross could cause a surprise or too and have what it takes to get to the last eight. 


10. BARRYROE – Have been putting a lot into football in recent seasons and getting some good results. Ibane’s county U21 success in 2016 should prove a big boost to football in the club. Another club trying to cater equally for football and hurling, which is never easy.

Club colours: Light blue and navy.

Location: Barryroe.

2016 season: Lost to Tadhg MacCárthaigh in the quarter-final.

Player to watch: David Kiely, defender.

Preliminary round opponents: St Oliver Plunkett’s.

Prediction: They have a tough opener against Plunkett’s but a loss there will see them facing Muintir Bháire, which they could win to get them going again this season.


• The eight other teams taking part in the South West JAFC, all capable of causing surprises on their day, are Clann na nGael, Muintir Bháire, O’Donovan Rossa, Dohenys, Kilbrittain, Castlehaven, Ilen Rovers and Diarmuid Ó Mathúna.  


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