ALL-IRELAND winners were among those honoured at the recent Carbery GAA Awards’ presentations for the months of May, June and August, held at Ballinascarthy Community Hall.
Winner of the award for May was Moira Barrett of the Ballinascarthy Camogie Club who captained the Cork minor camogie team to the All-Ireland title, the first time that particular title was ever won by Cork.
Joint winners of the June award were Cork football development squad mentors Daniel Cronin of St Mary’s and Niall Twomey of Ballinascarthy, who led the Cork U15 and U16 squads to Munster and All-Ireland titles, unbeaten for the entire season.
Winner of the August award was Caroline Sugrue, also of the Ballinascarthy Camogie Club, who was a prominent member of the Cork intermediate camogie team which brought off a great double by winning the Division 2 league and the All-Ireland championship.
The July winners, Castlehaven GAA Club, and the September winners, Orla Cronin and Libby Coppinger, winners of All-Ireland senior camogie medals, will be presented with their awards at a later stage.
The Carbery GAA Monthly Awards are open to all branches of the GAA in West Cork, including football, hurling, camogie and ladies football. This year’s gala night is planned for December 8th. Nominations for October and November are welcome from clubs, members of the public, etc., and should be sent to the board secretary Donal McCarthy within a week of the end of the particular month.
Moira Barrett of the Ballinascarthy Camogie Club made history this year when she captained the first Cork minor team to win the All-Ireland title since that grade was changed from U16 to U18, way back in 2001.
‘I have been playing camogie with Ballinascarthy since I was nine or ten years old,’ Moira said.
‘We had our first big win when we won the county junior B title this season.
‘I have been playing with Cork squads since I was in sixth class. I actually dropped off the Cork scene when I was U14 but went back to play two years at U16 and two years at minor. So, it took four years to win this minor title. It was four nights a week with Cork before we won the final, so there’s no shortage of training and games.
‘We had a panel of 32 with the minors this season and we started in January. The final was in April, so the time seemed to fly by. There was no pressure on us to win just because Cork had never won at U18.
‘I’ll be concentrating on the Leaving Cert but the Cork intermediate team is the next step up from minor and that’s a big gap. I’ll keep playing with Bal and with Carbery and wait to see if Paudie (Murray, the Cork manager) wants me.’
For Caroline Sugrue, 2018 was the culmination of a dream come true, a dream that was almost turning into a nightmare. Caroline lives on the border of Bandon and Ballinascarthy, with cousin Mark being a star player on the Bandon GAA teams.
‘I’ve been involved with Ballinascarthy since I was U12, more years than I care to remember,’ Caroline said.
‘There was no underage camogie in Bandon back then, I used to play with the boys, so I fell with Ballinascarthy when they started an underage camogie club. I worked my way up through the grades with Cork and was part of the senior panel for a while. Over the last few seasons I’ve been involved with the intermediate team.
‘This was our third time reaching the All-Ireland intermediate final and it was becoming something of a nightmare as we lost the first two. You could say it was third time lucky this year. We went to a replay last year and lost so we were determined not to let that happen again.
‘This year it was the determination and the drive to make up for the past two seasons that finally carried us over the line. We were so sick of losing that it was not an option this year. We actually won the Division 2 league early in the year and Paudie (Murray) drove us on for the championship.
‘It was marvellous to win the senior and intermediate on the same day in Croke Park. You would never forget something like that. We only had a week to celebrate as we were all back with our clubs immediately. I was playing with Bal and with Carbery and Bal won the county B title, so it was a good finish to a great year.’
Both Niall Twomey of Ballinascarthy, a former Bantry Blue who won a county senior medal with Bantry in 1998, and Daniel Cronin of St Mary’s, former coaching officer of the South West Board, were managers of Cork football development squads this year.
Niall was in charge of the U15s who won the prestigious Humphrey Kelleher Tournament and the All-Ireland Adam Mangan tournament, remaining unbeaten for the season, while Daniel was manager of the U16 squad which was also unbeaten, winning the Munster and All-Ireland tournaments.
‘We started last October with regional trials and every player who came in got two or three chances to play on the new astro-pitch in Páirc Uí Chaoimh,’ Niall said.
‘In late February, early March, we selected a squad of 48 players and focused on improving their skills. We had fellas like Alan Quirke and Donagh Wiseman doing specialist coaching with them. The skills level was good from the start but we had to ensure that when they were playing matches, their basic skill level stayed good.
‘We had two squads, East and West, 24 players in each squad and each of them played 14 games against other counties. That’s where we saw the most improvement in the players, against lads just as good, as strong and as physical as themselves from other counties.
‘The great thing about these players is that have no fear now of playing any team, including Kerry. The West squad won the Humphrey Kelleher tournament and beat Kerry North and Kerry South in the process. The East squad was unlucky to lose the semi-final to Kerry North by a point.’
‘Our U16 squad was divided into two, the top 24 in the Whites and the other 24 in the Reds,’ said Daniel.
‘In the Munster tournament in Limerick, we were the only county to split our panel in two but the Whites still managed to win the tournament, our first time winning in six years, while the Reds reached the plate final.
‘Our biggest task is to get the mentality and the attitude of the players right so they are ready for the minor grade the following year. In former years, when minor was U18, there was little connection between the squads and the minor grade but that has been rectified now and most of the U16 squad have already moved up to minor, U17. Bobbie O’Dwyer, who was in charge of these lads at U15 level, will now be in charge of them at minor in 2019 and that guarantees great continuity.
‘Our biggest challenge now is to get a direct connection with the Cork U.20 squad so that we don’t have a big fall-out from 17 to 20. We had a great year with these lads, winning everything, so we will look forward to seeing how they progress next season at minor level.’